There'd Be No Fictional Independence Without G.I. Joe

He fights for freedom wherever there's trouble, G.I. Joe is here, on iOS and soon Android devices. Without the support of this top secret fighting force, multiple fictional universes would have been crushed under Cobra's fashionable heels, so I celebrate our U.S. Independence Day by playing a game released by a Japanese company that hopes we're so heavily invested in nostalgia that we'll heavily invest in virtual currency.

G.I. Joe: Battleground is developed by the folks at Mobage, owned by Japan's DeNA, the same company that brought us Rage of Bahamut, one of the highest grossing free-to-play mobile games of all time. Whenever I write about a Mobage game, readers recoil at the mention of the name, as if in fear of their very wallets.

It's quite possible to play and enjoy a Mobage game without spending a single dime. The aversion, I think, comes mainly from the more competitive gamers, who realize the only way to top the leaderboards is to top-off your in-game currency.

It's no different with G.I. Joe: Battleground. I've been playing regularly since the game appeared in iTunes early Wednesday morning, and I've not dropped a dime. I've only collected 49 of the 275 characters included in the game at launch, and very few of those are rare, and when I get into a PVP battle against a player who has invested, I am demolished. But PVP is a mere sliver of what's going on in the game. I can handle a little failure.

What kind fo game is Battleground? Anyone who has played Mobage's popular Blood Brothers, will be instantly familiar with it, as it's pretty much the same game with a G.I. Joe makeover. It's a variant of the collectible card genre, where instead of tapping on a static screen to complete missions, players' Cobra or G.I. Joe squads actually traverse levels laid out like a board game.

There'd Be No Fictional Independence Without G.I. Joe

There's a stamina meter, which dictates how many moves the player can make. Should the step into the same spot with an enemy, a battle ensues.

There'd Be No Fictional Independence Without G.I. Joe

Characters in the player's party attack and unleash special attacks automatically — there is no direct control during battle. Once a battle is won (knowing factors heavily), each character in the party earns experience points, as does the player. Sometimes they'll be given the chance to capture enemy units, adding them to their collection.

Missions are a means of collecting loot — money, consumable items, and objects used to recruit new characters. Collecting these characters, culled from multiple series starting with the original Real American Hero cartoon, are the prime reason for playing the game.

Or at least that's the case for me. I don't care much about player rankings. I'm not too worried about merging cards to power-up my characters, or sacrificing lesser units to increase the special skills of more powerful ones. I understand the allure, but I'm really in this for the nostalgia. I want a collection of G.I. Joe biographies at my fingertips. Sure, they're are plenty of online databases filled with such things, but where's the collectible fun in that?

There'd Be No Fictional Independence Without G.I. Joe

Again, this is a Mobage game, which means I'm not going to complete my collection unless I spend money on acquiring rare cards. It also means frequent updates packed with fresh(ish) characters, new adventures, and special events that really drive the nostalgia home. I think I've got the self-control to stick with this without terrorizing my wallet.

I leave you all with the unmistakable, inspiring battle cry of the finest fighting force ever assembled. COBRA-LALALALALALALALALALALALA!

G.I. Joe Battleground

Genre: Collectible Card RPG

Developer: Mobage

Platform: iOS, Android (Coming Soon)

Price: Free

Get G.I. Joe Battleground on iOS