Almost 13 years have passed since the release of Advance Wars for the Gameboy Advance, but it’s still the classic game that it always was. Not much can age a game that was strategically designed to be replayed over and over again, and this re-release proves its longevity.
There’s not a lot I can say about the story without giving it all away, so I’ll try to be as detailed as I can be. You are a tactical adviser for the Orange Star Nation, who is suddenly under attack by the Blue Moon Nation. Later on you’ll face-off with other nations, such as Green Earth and Yellow Comet. As their adviser, it’s your job to assist your Commanding Officer (CO) and win the fight against the other nations. Your CO’s in the game are Andy, Max and Sami. Together you must find out why the Blue Moon Nation waged war, and why the other nations were just as prepared to fight against the Orange Star Nation.
As a newbie to the Orange Star army, you’re expected to undergo rigorous training under the stern guidance of Nell, the leader of all the CO’s. This section is basically the tutorial section of the game, and it’s very long – a little too long, given that you’ll continue to discover new things later on. The tutorial is also compulsory, so there’s no dodging it either. Fortunately, there is a bright side to the long-winded tutorials – you’ll get accustomed to the various field units and have a pretty decent understanding of the terrain.
Once the tutorial is over, you’ll be thrown into the deep-end and expected to knock-out victories like theirs no tomorrow. In many respects, Advance Wars is the turn-based tactical war game many people would want, but just dressed in some cartoon shoes. Though the initial battles are simple, they aren’t particularly easy wins. Rushing in an stage and haphazardly attacking your enemy will get your ass handed to you. Even in the early stages, you need to maximize your attack strength and use all your units to the best of their abilities. Basically, applying the correct tactic is the ONLY way to win this game.
Applying the right tactic is a little easier said than done. The battlefield is basically a big map where you control each of your combat units, similar to a game of chess. In some cases, you’ll be able to see your enemy and predict their movements, but sometimes, when Fog of War is activated, you’ll be blind for most of the battle. Fighting is also about using the right unit against the right enemy at the right time. Each combat unit has their own strength and weakness. For example, rockets have a far reach and are very destructive, but they don’t have much defense, nor can they defend themselves against direct attack. Infantry units are great for capturing cities, and fighting against mech and infantry units, but are cannon-fodder when fighting against anything else. Essentially, understanding each unit is critical to winning, especially in skirmishes that don’t allow you to build new units. Sometimes a win or a fail will fall solely on who you select as your CO.
Since you’re part of Orange Star, you get to choose one of three CO’s. Andy, the first CO, has no weaknesses, but no real strength either, but his CO power can heal your combat units. Max, the second CO, is an expert in direct combat, but sucks at in-direct (or long distance) fighting. Sami, the final CO, is the best when it comes to utilizing your infantry and mech units (just another type of soldier, not cyborgs or robots). After selecting your CO, you’ll be sent into the fight with little to no extra information. This is where the Wii U restore point function works wonders. If you’re not doing so hot within the first 3-4 game days, then you can just switch COs or workout a new tactic.
Every map is a challenge, and each one, depending on how good you are, can take you a fair amount to time to complete. Getting cocky in any mission may be your downfall and possibly force you to redo that mission. The good news is, not all missions require you to obliterate your enemy. In most cases, the victory condition is to either destroy all enemy units, or convert their enemy homebase. Another victory condition is to capture a set amount of cities. So if you’ve messed up, trying to kill everyone, try to salvage the mission by reaching the goal or capturing the enemy base.
Other than the main campaign, the game also includes: a Vs. Mode, where you can fight a friend or the CPU; Link mode, which is multiplayer and also unavailable; Design Maps, where you can custom create your own maps; War room, a great place to find new maps and hone your skills; and Battle Maps, a map shop.
All in all, if you think you’re a good tactical gamer, a milkshake and a bag of chips, then this game is designed just for you. It’s simple, yet complex and will definitely challenge you, especially if you’re going for the S rank. It might be tough, but if you can crack this nut, then you’ll be ready for any turn-based tactics game, ever.