OK, SNK. You got this bit of the story right. Well done.

(I'm certain this is based on a real photo, but I couldn't find any exactly like this at the signing of the Instrument of Surrender...)

Having a look at the credits, there's not much to really expand upon... Here's a few tidbits, though. In Music Effect, there's Toshikazu Tanaka who's also known as Dencyu- judging from his future game credits he worked for Atlus (Power Instinct, Princess Crown) then moved on to Noise Factory who provided a lot of later Neo-Geo soundtracks including Metal Slug 5 (hence why remixed songs in that game have 'Dencyu Arrange Version' tacked on the end of their titles) and Sengoku 3. In Special Thanks, Jim Hernandez is credited, and I found his LinkedIn page- he worked on the game's localisation (I'd like to personally thank him for "NO WAY YOU CAN WIN!" which I now use in polite conversation on a regular basis), went on to localise Dance Dance Revolution for Konami, and worked for Global VR, specifically on their Global Arcade Classics line.

Whichever route you took to get here, Iron Tank's been beaten.

Now, this is an interesting one. A bit like City Connection, you have to ask, why do I like this one so much?

I'll start with my criticisms- first, the game's quite reliant on its forest stages, so you'll eventually get sick of those trees. Again, like P.O.W. - Prisoners of War, the military setting doesn't lend itself too well to vibrant colours, but it can start to feel a bit samey environment-wise. This is something slightly less obvious on real hardware- for some reason, the colours stand out a bit more than when played on an emulator. Secondly, although when first playing the game can seem quite tough, you'll often notice that enemies are far more likely to run away from you than actually stick around and fight. This becomes less common as the game goes on, but if you play it a bit too much, you'll find that some areas can easily be run through without destroying anything. Just an odd observation. Also, the password system really doesn't work very well, so you basically have to beat this one in one go. Finally, in all my playthroughs of the game I never found any real use for the machine-gun, as it doesn't damage enemy vehicles that much, and running over infantry is much more useful.

With that out of the way, it's the way the game feels that makes it one of my all-time favourites. The rotary joystick system is not the easiest thing to replicate on home console controllers, but the solution used by SNK here works really well. 'Flicking' the turret by tapping B and the D-Pad at the same time is as good a solution as any (and far better than what Micronics came up for in their Ikari Warriors ports) and this combines with the level design- not from a graphical point of view, but the layout itself. There's a good mix of fairly open spaces where it's a bit of a free-for-all, and confined areas that make you use your turret-moving skills to their fullest to survive, and the selectable weapons give you further options, although at some points you'll need to use them sparingly. The multiple routes throughout, while not that different from each other initially, are a nice incentive to play the game again, especially when the significance of the P.O.W. in Section 3B finally hits you, and the vast differences between Sections 5A, 5B and 5C in terms of difficulty. It's one of those games that I could run through over and over again- in fact, I have run through it over and over again, for this guide- and not get bored with it. It's also better than its immediate competition on the NES- after playing this so long, other top-down shooters like Commando and Gremlins 2 (which I really like, honest!) feel a bit imprecise, especially aiming diagonally. Iron Tank doesn't have that problem- the only time you ever struggle to hit a target is if they're behind you, and you can still swivel the turret around to get 'em.

Overall, Iron Tank's a bit different from other topd-won shooters. It's quite a bit slower, slightly more methodical (unless you're good enough to run straight through), and combined with the intense battles and satisfying feel of the game, it makes it one of my favourite in the genre from this time period (up there with Jackal, if you ask me) and, as such, it earns 5 stars from me. Most people don't really care about Iron Tank- other reviews I've seen for it are a resounding 'eh'- but I guess it's one of those games like City Connection and The Fairyland Story that I just clicked with instantly. You know how it is, right? When you just 'get' a game instantly? That's the deal here.

Try it for yourself... Just be sure to take the right route, OK?

And now, it's that time, folks!

First, differences between the US/EU and Japanese versions- not many, but they're there.

For a start, the game's called Great Tank in Japan. Also, there's a redesigned logo and less legal stuff on the title screen.

Second, many of the names in the credits are amusing pseudonyms, such as CRAZY GON GON GON, rather than proper names.

Finally, the Japanese version has swastikas on the flags in the Heart Base areas and on the enemy HQ, and a more accurate cross on the bomber planes (at a total guess they're supposed to be Focke-Wulf FW 190s considering where the cross is and their use in-game) and all three versions of the Think Tank boss. Obviously, all of these were removed from all other versions- the flags have been changed to green ones with white circles, the curtains at enemy HQ have been recoloured blue with another white circle design, and all the crosses have been replaced with diagonal Xs (which is oddly similar to the symbol used for General Mordern's army in the Metal Slug series). Hover your mouse over the images above to see how these parts appeared in Iron Tank.

They didn't spot all of them, though- these two crosses are still in the ending credits of both versions.

(As far as I can tell, besides running in 50hz and less text on the title screen, the EU version's the same as the US one.)

Next, an annoyed programmer.

The Cutting Room Floor has what they describe as 'a rather colourful rant' hidden in the game's code.

It's attributed to KNT, credited in Great Tank as KNT NO KINCHAN DEATH.

He's not a fan of the Famicom, apparently.

Visit TCRF to see what he has to say! Still unsure who the Mr. T he mentions in it is supposed to be...

Next, statistics about our friends, the P.O.W.s.

Presented below is the number of P.O.W.S in each area of the game:

Area P.O.W. Count Note
Section 1: Landing Zone
Section 2A: Railway Fight
Includes TOMMY J
Section 2B: Ichiban, the Puma and the Fort
Includes Ichiban and TOMMY J
Section 3A: The Long-Range Weapon
Includes Ichiban
Section 3B: Canyon Battle
Includes the Last Survivor
Section 3C: The Long-Range Weapon
Section 4A: The Ruined Highway
Section 4B: The Power Plant
Section 5A: Long Road Ver. A
Section 5B: Long Road Ver. B
Section 5C: Long Road Ver. C
Section 6: Enemy Headquarters

Obviously, you can't save them all, so here's the routes to save the most and least:

Most: 1-2B-3B (Total: 9)
Least: 1-2B-3C-5B/5C (Total: 5)

Additionally, if you want to leave every P.O.W. behind, take Route 2A, as on Route 2B you must save Ichiban
(You won't have the Reserve fuel tank on 2B when you meet him, so you can't cross over the landmines that block your path to skip him).

Next, scans.

Specifically, scans of my copy of Iron Tank.

You will notice it's an American copy, because it's a pain in the ass to find the European copy, as noted.

Click to embiggen. First, the box

Then, the manual:

Beyond the list of enemies (which is incomplete, but does give you most of their names), there's a few tidbits of interest here and there in these scans. In the manual itself, it says the game has a co-op feature letting two players play at the same time- either this was a removed feature (SNK's next top-down NES shooter by the same programmer, Guerrilla War, had this feature, as did the Micronics-developed Ikari ports) or it's just a mistake (most likely). Also, the back of the box has two odd screenshots. The one in the air base appears to be upside-down, as you never encounter any stationary planes facing that way. The more interesting one is that of enemy headquarters- like the Japanese version, the curtains, roof and carpet are red, but the symbol has changed from a white circle in the final international version to a flower-like symbol. Here's a closer look for comparison:

Obviously, this was going to be the original alteration for the curtains in the international version of the game, but perhaps they felt that the red colour was still too close to its Nazi origins.

.... But what's this? Two copies of Iron Tank?

As kindly acquired for me by my brother, I also have a Japanese Famicom copy of the game, Great Tank.

Scans to follow. First, the box:

Then, the manual:

(Thanks to Vladimir Ivanukovich for pointing out one of the pages was missing!)

A relatively plain manual, but the illustrations of the enemies is a nice addition over the US manual, and there's also the final page- we can't read it, but it specifically mentions the arcade game T.A.N.K. / T.N.K. III! Tying everything up rather nicely on the final page, no?

Next, the only reissue of the game, and it only took... 30 years.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection for the Switch and PS4 is the first time Iron Tank's been rereleased properly! That's wild! This set includes both Iron Tank and Great Tank (with the swastikas in Great Tank being removed, using the assets from Iron Tank with the colour palette from Great Tank), and an extensive history page on the game that includes some trivia and artwork. Considering the rarity of Iron Tank nowadays, this is absolutely the way to go, and you even get rewinds and a single save state to use! You can learn more about the set over here if you like.

Next, a little nod to SNK's best NES game in one of their fighting games!

NeoGeo Battle Coliseum is a gem of a game, which we talked about in the King of the Monsters 2 article, so to just quickly sum up, 40 characters from 10 SNK franchises (and ADK ones too, so yes Kisarah 'I'm the Best' Westfield shows up for this fight) duke it out in tag-team matches for supremacy. However, when we talked about it in that article, it was all about the PS2 version which had 2D backgrounds. When the game was rereleased on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010, all of these were replaced with 3D ones (and all the character select screen/victory art was redrawn too, which is mostly an improvement but I miss Athena's art), which were all new and had more references to games not represented by characters such as League Bowling and- see, this is where it all ties in- Iron Tank.

(Screenshot kindly provided by Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell, HokutoNoShock)

One of the new backgrounds- which comes in day and night variations- is based on Iron Tank!

In the Training menu, this is listed as STG_G1 (day) and STG_G2 (night), it would be a pretty generic warzone which happens to have a trashed tank on it, were it not for the fact that one of the flags tied to the lamppost actually reads 'GREAT TANK', the Japanese title of the game. You're going to have to click that image to embiggen it and see the flag (it's just right of Athena) but it's there! The stage itself does have a helicopter show up, which of course wasn't in Iron Tank at all... But hey, it's something isn't it?

Finally, er... A map.

I made this while making this guide.

This is the first time you've seen my handwriting, isn't it? I do apologise.

Well, that ends that.

See you next game.

Didn't you hear? Iron Tank's the strongest tank in the world, dweebenheimer!

© Copyright , Ant Cooke