You start the game following Jorel, a youngster who rejected the brain implant given to all subjects of the Earth's alien rulers, the Arelians. After training you head out with a squad to take on your adversaries, and the game takes place in a series of small scale scenarios with tactical turn-based combat. You have a number of action points within which to move, fire, reload, take cover etc during your turn. Your characters also level up and increase skills and attributes, and you equip and deploying your squad on later levels. A two-player skirmish mode is played in turn on the same machine, rather than through a link cable.
Rebelstar is loosely based on a couple of games of the same name that designer Julian Gollop created for the ZX Spectrum in the early 80s - they pioneered the turn-based combat system at the time, and brought the world of board-game style strategy to a new audience. Tactical Command is a modern iteration of the gameplay style that Gollop used in those games and developed with Laser Squad and then X-Com. But Gollop publicly acknowledged that this game was highly influenced by other GBA combat and RPG strategy titles - Advance Wars, Tactics Ogre, Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics.