As much as I like the Fire Emblem franchise, there’s always been a part of me that was mad that it blew up and took the attention away from Advance Wars. Advance Wars was the first of Intelligent Systems’ strategy games that I had played, and many lunch periods and study halls were spent passing a single Game Boy Advance around a table, taking turns in intense multiplayer matches. It did get a few sequels, but ever since Fire Emblem Awakening’s success, it’s seemed that Nintendo felt that Fire Emblem was enough for the turn-based strategy niche and turned its back on Advance Wars. But now, after a fifteen year gap from the previous entry, Days of Ruin on the Nintendo DS, we finally have a new Advance Wars release.
Well, “new” might be exaggerating a little bit. Advance Wars 1+2 Reboot Camp is a remake of the first and second games in the series. Much like Metroid Prime Remastered earlier this year, this one really stretches what the distinction between “remake” and “remaster” is. Reboot Camp is definitely not a Game Boy Advance game. It has polygonal models, slick anime style cutscenes, and a lot of voiced lines. But at the end of the day, this isn’t a different game. It is those two old games, just with entirely new assets on top of it. So, is that a remake or a remaster? I don’t quite know. We’ll see if I decide by the end of the year, since that will determine its eligibility for my game of the year awards, but I really don’t know just yet.
For the uninitiated, Advance Wars is a turn-based strategy game. As was probably clear from how I started this post, it has a lot of similarities to the Fire Emblem franchise, and both are made by Intelligent Systems, although this release was handled by Shantae developer, WayForward. The key thing that differentiates the two is that Advance Wars is a pure strategy game, where Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG. So while they look very similar if you just looked at screenshots, Advance Wars has none of the leveling up, relationship, or permanent death present in the Fire Emblem franchise. Soldiers are nameless grunts who you command and will likely end up dying in the line of fire.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any characters to get attached to here. The world, which is apparently called “Wars World”, I don’t remember that but it was probably true in the original, is divided into four countries, and each of those countries has characters called Commanding Officers, or COs. In the campaign, you fight for the Orange Star army, and during the opening tutorial missions, control the CO Nell, and then switch to Andy after getting into proper missions. Each CO has special properties, like how Sami has infantry units that can capture cities faster, as well as a power which you can unleash after a meter fills, such as Andy’s Hyper Repair, which repairs all current units. The COs are fun and goofy, and meeting new ones is always fun.
So, what do you actually do in this game? You’ll be fighting strategic battles against an opponent. You have units that you command to fight your opponent or capture cities or other structures. Capturing a city allows you to get more money, which you can use to build more units, which is something you can do from the various structures you capture. Cities can also heal units if they start the turn while in them. You win a match by either destroying all of your opponent’s units or by capturing their headquarters. You have to master what units are good against other units, what your opponent’s properties and powers can do to cause trouble, and spend your money intelligently.
The game has multiple modes. I’ve spent most of my time in the campaign, which has story missions focusing on the Orange Star army fighting off other countries. The campaign consists of several battles with predetermined conditions, such as what the map looks like, what CO you’re controlling, and who you’re up against. The story itself is very light, barely boiling down to an excuse for these people to be fighting, but it’s not a game that needs more than that. There’s also a War Room mode, where you take on other matches and try to get a high score. Then there’s a versus mode, where you can set all the parameters and fight either a real person or the computer. This is also available online, but only against friends, which is disappointing.
Finally, there’s a map editor. I only messed around with it for a little bit and made a very simple map, but it was fun and easy. You can lay down any of the structures from the rest of the game in any order you want. As long as the map has two headquarters and at least one starting unit for each side, you can take that map into versus mode. I tried mine and got stomped by the computer, but I really liked how easily I could make it happen.
While I do wish we were given an entirely new Advance Wars game, after such a long break, I’m more than happy with this. The campaign is great to jump back into, the visuals and sounds are fun, and I’m just happy to see the series back. Now hopefully the game does well enough to convince Nintendo to continue with a new one.