After a massive delay, the highly anticipated Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is finally available to budding Sun-Tzus across the world. Was it worth the extra wait? Or did the delay advance the aging process?
War Never Changes
Advance Wars 1 follows the events of Macro Land where the Orange Star Army is currently at war with the Blue Moon Army. Andy, a new commanding officer appears. This triggers events that not only shake the war up but pull other nations into the skirmish. It soon turns into an all-out world war.
Advance Wars 2 naturally follows on from the events that took place in the previous game. I’ll be vague to avoid spoilers from the first game, but the war is just the tip of the iceberg. The stakes are even higher for Andy and Co in this sequel.
The Commanding Officers are the stars of the show here. The ever-cheerful Andy and Nell head up the “heroes” of the Orange Star Army. Grumpy Olaf and the laid-back Grif are at odds with each other over in the Blue Moon Army. These are just the start of a fun and colorful cast.
The narrative starts rather quickly, presenting you with a mystery very early on that slowly unveils itself. It isn’t quite on par with Fire Emblem in terms of twists and turns, but for first-timers, it’ll keep you chipping away at the two massive campaigns on offer.
Swords and Horses, Guns and Tanks
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is the latest title in the long-running “Famicom Wars” series. though we sadly didn’t get any of the earlier titles under that name in the West. Recent titles have been scarce too, with none since the 2008 Advance Wars: Days of Ruin (NA) / Dark Conflict (EU) for the Nintendo DS. The series has long been known for fusing turn-based mechanics with an easy-to-pick-up Rock, Paper, Scissors style of combat.
The game is a grid, turn-based game where up to 4 Commanding Officers at a time wage war across a battlefield. The winner is the one who either captures the others’ Headquarters or destroys every unit. This is what you’ll spend most of Advance Wars 1 doing, but rest assured that Advance Wars 2 does mix up the formula a little bit with different objectives.
You can move each of your troops a certain amount of squares, which is affected by the environment. For example, mountains reduce your movement, whereas roads increase it for wheel-based units such as Recon Jeeps. Some units require fuel such as Helicopters and if you can’t get them resupplied in time they tend to crash. Some units are restricted to certain environments too, so you do need to think about where you send them out.
Combat revolves around exploiting each unit’s weakness. For example, infantry is good for capturing cities but folds under pressure from tanks. However, tanks can’t defend or retaliate from air attacks. Keeping all this in consideration can be the difference between a loss and a victory. I found more than enough times that units I thought wouldn’t have been as helpful were the key to turning the tide.
Again, the environment comes into play. Cities, mountains, and forests make excellent cover when enemy troops are bearing down on you. The cities also help fund your battles should you capture them. Later on in the game, you can get factories, docks, and airfields where you can build additional units with the in-game currency gained from the cities you currently occupy.
One final specific I’d like to mention is the Commanding Officer Powers. Slowly during a battle, a meter will build. Once yours is full, you can use a power specific to your CO. Andy, for example, heals all his units, and enhances attack power for a round, whereas Eagle allows certain units to attack twice in one round. Nothing derails a victory quicker than a well-used CO Power!
You Wouldn’t Believe How Much We Can Fit In This
As the title states, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp contains both Advance Wars 1 & 2 to play through in their entirety. Advance Wars 2 is locked at the start of the game, but if you just want to play that, you can. You just need to confirm that you’re okay with the story of 1 being spoilt. I’d recommend you play through the complete package in order though. Otherwise, Advance Wars 1 can feel even more dated when compared to its bigger and better sequel.
There are 2 default difficulty modes but don’t let that “Casual” mode fool you. This series can be insanely punishing. Some of the conflicts you play almost border on puzzles with how specific the steps required are to get that sweet victory screen.
After each stage, you are rated on the time it took, your power, and your technique with the goal being to S Rank every stage. Achieve this, and you’ll receive extra currency to spend in the in-game shop and other unlocks to discover; quite the incentive for playing well.
Other modes include Skirmish which are just single battles you can chip away at. If you buy all the maps from the store, you’ll have hundreds of these to keep you going. Online multiplayer is a big bonus and makes the experience much more personal when you know it’s your friends’ units you have just retired. Finally, there is a map creator because why just settle with a lifetime supply of maps when you can have an unlimited amount?
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp has not only 2 massive campaigns but enough single and multiplayer content to keep you going, enough stuff to unlock in the in-game score, and a pick-up-and-play, easy-to-learn, hard-to-master attitude. It’s enough that you could play this title exclusively for the next 15 years.
All Fall Down Like Toy Soldiers
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp has seen a dramatic graphical “upgrade” to match the hardware it’s running on. Sadly not all of this is for the better, but it does have some unique charm that the original titles didn’t.
First off the Commanding Officer art is much more lively than it was back on the old GBA and features more animation that is quite smooth. This is especially apparent when activating a Commanding Officer’s Power, giving them a larger sense of grandeur.
Fields of battle are all placed on cardboard boxes or game boards now making it look like a game of toy soldiers. This works wonderfully with the art direction and leans into that cheeky Nintendo fun. It’s a far cry from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin’s dark and “gritty” art direction.
Unfortunately, the in-game combat and units have a cheap look to them and don’t quite have the same appeal that the sprite-based graphics of the older titles had. While it’s only a minor issue, I didn’t gel well with this at all and feel it took a lot of the character out of the game that initially drew me to it in the GBA versions of the titles.
There is now voice acting for some of the lines bringing the characters to life. Not every line is voice acted though and you won’t exactly be swept away with emotion due to the performances, but it’s a nice enough addition.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a hefty and fun title. It’s not only an essential purchase for gamers who have been dreaming of the series coming back, but also works extremely well as an introduction to gamers who may have missed out originally.
If you’ve already had your fill of Fire Emblem and crave something similar or like the idea of the series but not its fantasy theme, Advance Wars has you covered. It has all the addictive charm of a Nintendo title with some great strategy gameplay. Sadly there isn’t anything in terms of “new” content for returning die-hards and the graphics can be a little deceptive, but delay or not, this is another great experience.
ADVANCE WARS 1+2: RE-BOOT CAMP IS RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.
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