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Mikado Defenders Review: A Disappointing Tower Defense Game from Developers Who Ought to Know Better

Tower defense games are to the app store as porn sites are to search engines. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for; you’re going to find one. I’d say they’re a dime-a-dozen, but nothing on the app store sells for under ninety-nine cents. Mikado Defenders isn’t a completely terrible game, it’s just a mostly terrible one. And with so many better tower defense games on the app store, I wouldn’t buy this game if it were free. With a long legacy of games behind them, TAITO Corporation ought to know better than to release a game as shoddy as this one.

The premise is a combination of the PlayStation 2 games Onimusha and Samurai Warriors, tied up in the trappings of a tower defense game. In feudal Japan, players must defend their castles against demonic invaders by deploying various types of soldiers to fend off waves of enemies. Standard unit types may be bolstered by deploying heroes from Japanese history such as Hattori Hanzo, Oda Nobunaga, Sanada Yukimura and other likely suspects. As with most tower defense games, enemies come in various types. There are the standard light and heavy troops, aerial troops that can only be attacked by archers, etc. Your own soldiers can be upgraded by spending gold acquired during play, and your castle fortifications and defenses can also be improved. Slaying foes causes your castle to absorb souls, which can be used to unleash Guardian Spirits when your soul gauge is full. Guardian Spirits invoke massive attacks affecting the entire battlefield.

Likes:

Feudal Japan: As an unabashed ninja fanatic, and having played through the entire Onimusha series and several Samurai Warriors games, Feudal Japan is obviously a setting that appeals to me. Based on these facts, Mikado Defenders immediately demanded my attention when first I encountered it, and it pretty well nails its atmosphere. The game wears Feudal Japan comfortably. I only wish it had more going for it.

Dislikes:

Graphics: Pretty from afar, Mikado Defenders reveals itself to be fairly repulsive up-close. A game best played through beer-goggles, I suppose. Low-resolution backdrops, art pieces and sprites are the order of the day. The game seems almost as if it were designed to be played on an EGA monitor, and would have been beautiful in 1984 when 16-color displays were all the rage. Stylistically, the artwork is very cool, but it flops in technical execution.

Interface: The interface is just as ugly as everything else; just look at the pause button, will ya? But it’s the deployment locations I take real issue with here. On each map, green circles represent locations to which soldiers may be deployed. While it’s certainly not impossible to place your troops on the board, there is a certain feeling of imprecision involved. But it gets worse, because the green circles — which greatly resemble muddy, green blobs — are also used to denote the current level of the soldiers placed atop it. But with the level indicator usually covered by soldiers, and difficult to read even when your soldiers step off of it, it’s extremely difficult to keep your troop levels straight. The game speed button is also bizarre; it has four settings, but always shows the next state rather than the active state of the speed setting.

Loading: No fewer than five loading screens stand between your icon and actually playing the game. Between loads, you’ll be asked to make one or two selections from menus before being dumped into the next load. On my iPhone 3G, it took nearly a minute-and-a-half from executing the game from my home screen and sitting through the loading screens and menus, to finally getting to play the first stage. I know the game isn’t loading high-resolution artwork or CD-quality audio, so I’m quite at a loss to imagine what it’s doing for all that time. At the very least, you’ll be able to catch up on your magazine reading while you wait to play. There’s even an invisible load when you invoke your Guardian Spirits; you won’t see the word “Loading” on the screen, but you will have to wait for the game to launch its low-res attack.

Derivative: Derivative of Onimusha and Samurai Warriors, derivative of games that take forever to load, and derivative of every other tower defense game out there, Mikado Warriors does very little (perhaps nothing) to set itself apart from its competition.

Slow: Not only does the game take forever to get started, but you’ll swear it’s loading even as you play. Even with the speed cranked up, the game just feels sluggish.

With so many excellent tower defense games on the app store, I feel like an ass for spending my time and money on Mikado Defenders. Like a ripe fool, I was lured in by its feudal Japanese setting, only to be set upon by its atrocious gameplay and painfully low-resolution visuals. The game is one of the stodgiest, ugliest and poorest excuses for tower defense gaming I’ve yet seen. There are one-man indie developers making better games than this, and so it’s all the more baffling that Mikado Defenders comes from TAITO, a company that has been making games since 1973, the company responsible for Space Invaders, one of the most legendary titles in video game history, and a company wholly owned by Square Enix, developers of the legendary Final Fantasy franchise and the recent Chaos Rings on the iPhone. Coming from such pedigree, Mikado Defenders seems an inbred, genetic fluke.

If you’re desperate to indulge in the feudal Japanese setting, then Mikado Defenders may be well enough to hold your interest. But if you’re looking for a good tower defense game, there are probably a hundred better options on the app store, and many of them available as free downloads. Play something else; this one’s a stinker. Or, if you don’t believe me, at the very least, play the lite version before throwing cash down on this one.

Mikado Defenders ($2.99 / Free) is inconceivably born from TAITO Corporation, and was reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 3G.



  1. Brian on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Is this review a joke? Avoid? The game is fantastic.

  2. Matt on Tuesday 4, 2010

    No joke. I hate this game. The graphics are piss poor, the interface is lousy, the gameplay is unoriginal and sluggish, and I can think of at least ten more worthwhile tower defense games just off the top of my head. As one of the oldest surviving video game developers in the world, Taito should be held to higher standards than this. I’ve seen better games than this come out of basements.

  3. Bill on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Someone is pissed that they did not get the payoff from TAITO it seems. rofl.
    We gave the game a 4.

    You just have sour grapes. Loser.

  4. Matt on Tuesday 4, 2010

    No sour grapes at all. I just like to play good games, and this isn’t one of them. Jolly for you to give the game a four. I’d give it a 4 too, out of 10. And I’m not the one trolling peer sites, calling their reviewers losers. So glad to see professional courtesy is alive and well amongst iPhone review sites.

  5. Matt on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Nor can you even get your own facts straight. I just read the Slide-to-Play review, and you gave it a 3, not a 4. Not only are you unprofessional, but you struggle to formulate sound arguments. Speaking of why I don’t read your site …

  6. Ravenblack on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Interesting. “Bill” links to Slide to Play. Sh*t stirrer — epic fail.

  7. Daniel on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Highly doubt “Bill” is from Slidetoplay. Only here to stir some trouble.

  8. Travis on Tuesday 4, 2010

    I just read the review and the complaints Matt presented seem perfectly reasonable. I don’t understand the attacks on the review. If Bill is indeed from Slidetoplay I am very disheartened to see someone who I would think is trying to be as professional as possible start slinging dirt over a disagreement on review scores.

  9. Jae on Tuesday 4, 2010

    It’s naive to believe Bill is from slidetoplay simply because he says he is so avoiding the site because of that is poor reasoning. At any rate, I see where you’re coming from with most of your criticisms of this game except for the graphics. I feel that the “minimal graphics” is simply a style choice and fits with the Japanese painting feel. As for the loading time, it took me a minute and a half from clicking the icon to starting a battle on my 1st gen itouch. I find it hard to believe that your iPhone 3G took the same amount of time.

    Overall I agree with your review. The gameplay, which is the most important aspect is derivative. Number of towers is limited compared to other games as are the enemies making for a lacking experience. I just felt that your review was a little too critical, but to each his own.

  10. Matt on Tuesday 4, 2010

    I liked the intention of the art. The minimalism and style were actually one of the coolest things about the game. The problem is that they were just poorly rendered from a technical standpoint. The graphics felt soft, as if they’d be up-scaled from a smaller image, and losing resolution in the process. The artwork just wasn’t crisp at all, and when so much of your game depends upon the art direction, that lack of detail hurts. Looking at the game is like needing glasses in the classroom, but trying to take notes from the board without them.

    And the load times were ludicrous, even on my iPhone 3G. I actually timed it using a counter; it actually took that long.

    As for being overly critical, I think not at all. There are a thousand tower defense games on the app store, and it’s not hard to rattle off a long list of better entries than this. Plus the game comes from Taito — not some nobody developer in a third-world country — which should count for more.

  11. ricexx on Tuesday 4, 2010

    I doubt howmany ppl out there can even get pass normal mode stage 1.

    no joke this game worth it

  12. Matt on Tuesday 4, 2010

    Are you serious? I finished stage one on my first go without even trying. Mikado Defenders is one of the least strategic TD games I’ve seen; it’s all numbers. You just field as many troops as you can, level them up and try to overwhelm the waves of enemies before they overwhelm you.

    If you want a challenging game, try geoDefense. It’s a buck cheaper, seriously well designed, plays like a dream, and requires actual thought to progress.