MIKADO DEFENDERS in Review – Applying Sun Tzu’s Art of war to tower defence

With such an abundance of Tower Defense games on the App Store, it’s getting increasingly hard to stand out from the crowd. That said however, MIKADO DEFENDERS doesn’t have that problem – this latest title stands out on the publisher name alone. The legendary TAITO Corporation, previously known on the iDevice platform mostly for their reiterations of the classic franchises like SPACE INVADERS (TMA Review) and ARKANOID (TMA Review), has finally graced us with a title originally designed for the iPhone. Ooooh, I just can’t wait!

Mikado Defenders is a fixed-path tower defence game that distinguishes itself thanks to the original art style and quite thought-out game mechanics. The game is set in the Sengoku Era just after the infighting between the warlords;  this has weakened them to the point where they are easy prey and ripe for the picking. Capitalizing on this, demons have taken over most of Japan with only a few strongholds left untouched. Taking control of the last remaining forces you have to stand your ground before the onslaught.

The basic premise in Mikado Defenders will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever played TD games – the enemies come from fixed entry points and seek to destroy your castle. To stop them you have to deploy troops on the fixed spots, available on the map. The stronghold itself also has (upgradable) defences, including an additional wall surrounding a small courtyard with some troop placements spots, towers and the spirit defender. The enemies come in waves grouped into chapters (after the end of each, you receive a gold bonus depending on the amount you have left, which can then be used to upgrade your castle defences).

The defending troops offer a decent variety to choose from – we have the common footmen, archers, pikemen and cannons. Each type has its own perks and have to be used carefully, especially since the demons will not think twice before engaging your forces in hand-to-claw combat. Each type has 6 upgrade levels transforming into a much more powerful one on reaching level 4. In addition, you can use one of 3 commanders (chosen out of 16 unlockable ones before the start of the level) to further augment your defending troops. These warlords both strengthen the individual unit you assign it to and give additional bonuses to all forces. The game even offers a bit of an RPG element with the warlords gaining experience and leveling up as you use them successfully.

And of course there is always the last line of the defence – the spirit defender. You can choose one of 4 mythic creatures before the start of the level each with his own special power: quick charge/lower mass damage, slow charge/huge mass damage, slow enemies or make your troops temporarily invincible. These take a while to charge up, but the effect of using one is usually devastating.

The enemies also offer a reasonable variety, with some of them appearing only on higher difficulty levels. Some enemies cannot be harmed by specific troops/attacks, others can fly over obstacles, taking shortcuts through your defences. This makes surviving quite a challenge and requires careful planning before placing troops. And if you manage to build up your stronghold to the maximum level (Castle) you’ll see a giant demon after all the regular waves are over. If you manage to defeat it, you’ll have a chance of unlocking a new warlord to aid you in your battle.

The graphics style of Mikado Defenders is one of the features that make it stand out immediately. It almost feels like you’re playing an ancient Japanese manuscript that has magically come to life. The music score further strengthens this feeling, with iPod library available to choose from if you get tired of the eastern motifs. The controls work well, though the speed-up button is far too small to press comfortably. Speaking of which – the game has 3 speeds to choose from, though the difference is not as great as I would hope, with the enemies taking quite a bit of time to reach the defences on some levels even at max speed. The other gripe I have is that there are no quantitive indications of defender’s attack and hp, making it difficult to estimate the effect of upgrades and commander assignments.

Combining the classic fixed-path concept, Mikado Defenders invigorates the genre with more complex games mechanics, requiring one stop and think (preferably taking a peek at Sun Tzu’s Art of War), rather than simply placing troops all over the map randomly. This is an outstanding tower defence game – one of the most interesting and original ones I’ve seen on the platform – with excellent style and moody musical score to complement the gameplay.

With this I declare MIKADO DEFENDERS officially touched!

App Summary
Title: MIKADO DEFENDERS Developer: TAITO Corporation
Reviewed Ver: 1.0 Min OS Req: 3.0
Price: $2.99 App Size: 36.8 MB
  • Original game mechanics requiring tactical thinking to succeed
  • Stylish graphics and music
  • Addictive gameplay
  • Some buttons are too small
  • No unit stats make judging their effectiveness difficult


A project manager in a major telecommunications supplier, an iPhone junkie and lately - a TMA editor. Love long walks on the beach and my wife, who is the most beautiful girl on the face of this planet. You can also follow me on twitter for all things iPhone and project management (and some personal stuff as well): http://twitter.com/ChiffaNe

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