It is easy to imagine that Nintendo’s two tactical series Advance Wars of Fire Emblem are two sides of the same coin and actually do not differ from each other in much more than setting. So mistakes can be made. Although Fire Emblem and Advance Wars have a lot in common, they are also two wildly different beasts, and if Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp makes one thing resoundingly clear, it’s that it’s sad that it’s been 15 years since the last time Nintendo released a title in the Advance Wars series.
The Advance Wars series, like Fire Emblem, is a tactical series. You get control over a wide range of different soldiers, and unleash on the enemy army with everything you have. If you don’t use your head, things will quickly go crazy, and with a degree of difficulty that can suddenly find itself taking sadistic jumps, you can quickly end up spending hours on one and the same map, before you suddenly find the way out and stick your head in the wall for a while in frustration at how stupid one was.
That one holds out for so long. That you can keep going with something, even if you grit your teeth until you feel the taste of blood in your mouth, is a testament to how insanely engaging these games are. You know it can happen, and you are so close so many times that there must be a way out. It’s quick, it’s easy to try again, and it’s terribly difficult to let go.
Old heroes in new clothes
Commander Andy to the rescue.
In Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp we get, as the name suggests, a reboot of Advance Wars 1 and 2. These are the first two games in the Japanese Wars series that were allowed to travel outside the Japanese borders. The first game in the series, Famicom Wars, was launched on Nes as far back as 1988. For those who played the GameBoy Advance originals from the early 2000s, the whole thing will be immediately recognisable. Yes, the game has received a bit of a new measurement and a facelift here, as well as a bit of tightening there, but the game is, on the whole, exactly as you remember them.
We get the same story about Orange Star, Blue Moon, Green Earth and several continents fighting for power, and we meet the same well-known figures who take us into this light-hearted war game. Because it’s a game. The new visual suit makes this very clear. The soldiers now mostly look like place figures, while the map has a visible frame as if we were talking about a terrain made for war games of the miniature variety.
The gameplay is a classic tactical recipe, but the differences between this and games like Fire Emblem or other similar games are big. There you can play with a number of heroes who actively participated in battle, and can die permanently if you are not careful. Advance Wars works in a completely different way. The heroes you meet here are commanders who oversee the battle, and can use special properties when the temperature gets high enough. Some make a particular group of soldiers stronger, while others can repair those that need a wrench.
The soldiers themselves reflect that this is a different form of war, and is to the highest degree a consumer product. In addition, they cost money. Via bazaars found on most boards you can buy new soldiers and tanks. Some of them go on foot, others sit in different tanks, all of which have their own specialities. Some only go for direct attacks, others keep a little distance, while others lie far away and shoot rockets over longer distances. We have machinery on land, at sea and in the air, and it gradually becomes a solid arsenal at one’s disposal.
If you have good advice, you can just pump out new and stronger soldiers, but the battle can easily turn. The money from you comes from buildings you take over, and if the enemy manages to push you back and get his claws into these, he could suddenly be the one sitting there with all the money. It’s a constant tug of war that forces you to focus. Some maps, however, go completely away from this, and give you a fixed amount of soldiers that you have to manage all the way to the finish line.
To the point
The attack animations are nice enough, but you can turn them off for a faster experience.
Some of what I like best about the Advance Wars game in this package is how it firmly states that, yes, certain things were much better before. Take Fire Emblem: Engage from earlier this year as a comparison. It is a game that has similar origins to Advance Wars, but has gone in the wrong direction. The developers have crammed it full of so much meaningless rubbish that you almost have to spend more things on social piss and a story not worth the paper it was once written on, instead of just letting us do what we are here for; challenge us with tactical battles.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is very easy. We get a bit of history before each battle, and maybe a few words along the way, but in an amount that is no greater than that we understand what is happening before we have to prepare for the next challenge. That’s how it should be. The Advance Wars game offers fantastic tactical battles, and I am heartened that the developers behind this edition have not been tempted to expand and expand on something that was not trending in the first place.
What they have done is give the game a very sensible visual boost. All the figures are easy to recognise, and even if the original illustrations had more sting than these well-rounded and featureless illusion expressions, it works. The menus are nice, everything is clear and easy to find, but most importantly the campaigns are easy to understand. The various soldiers and machines are easy to distinguish, and all terrain is clear. It is not exactly pretty, but it is clear and primarily functional.
Submarines can dive to hide.
Far more diligence has been put into the music. The music from the originals has been re-recorded and with such enthusiasm that I can almost hear how much fun the organizers had. There is something wrong with this music, and compared to the originals, it is almost a little difficult to see how it could have been done better.
In addition to this, the game offers modes where you can play against the machine on a number of different maps, as well as against friends online or locally. Otherwise, there is no lobby for this game, and if you are going to play against someone, you have to have them on your friends list, which narrows down the potential quite a bit. This is quite a shame, because the game deserved a more robust mode if online play is to be included first. It is still not a big minus, everything does not need to be played with others.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a sparkling new version of two classic tactics games. They offer something completely different from many other games in the same genre, and as a result of the constant focus on economy in the middle of the war games, the game gets a stress factor that makes it unique. If you let the enemy get too close, it can suddenly become very difficult to gain the upper hand, but if you take the risk and send a soldier forward early, the battle can be won.
Flak never thinks of anything good.
The campaigns can be both complex and challenging, and the design of the various maps is always very well thought out, and there are many ways to solve the problems. Both Advance Wars 1 and 2 are over 20 years old now, and the fact that they still engage so much just shows how timeless some games can be.
If you like tactics, or are just a little curious about the genre, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is essential. It is both challenging and engaging for the experienced, but welcoming enough for the newcomer.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp er ute til Nintendo Switch.