Should I Buy? – Advance Wars Dual Strike

The Wars series is like a secret workhorse of Nintendo. It’s been around since the original Famicom, but until Advance Wars for the GBA it’d never been seen outside of Japan. This is the third iteration of the franchise to reach the rest of the world and the first one on the Nintendo DS. And it’s a turn based strategy game. Yep, this isn’t a review for you action fans.

This is a fundamentally different experience from other turn based strategy types from Japan. Advance Wars isn’t about a ragtag bunch of fighters getting caught up in battles with empires and ancient demons. Instead the plot is a fairly light affair about the previously defeated army of bad guys (Black Hole) are under new management and causing huge ecological damage to the previously unseen and relatively unsettled continent of Omega Land.

You lead the Allied Nations on fending them off, slowly receiving backup from more COs of the four good nations. In battle, you can choose which of these COs leads your troops. Each has their own unique bonuses and penalties that they bring to the table, and the game introduces the concept of ‘Tag COs’. This system allows you to choose two COs and switch between them in battle to combine their powers, cover your weaknesses and pull of devastating combos. And oh, the enemy does it too.

As for the actual combat, there are no unique characters that you level up and carry through the campaign. Instead, in each battle you and the enemy gather gold from captured properties to buy different units. These come in varying flavours and the introductory levels make sure to teach you what particular nuance they serve in combat.

And all the old units do. The Anti-Airs are great for downing those nightmarish bombers, which in turn can take out the highly armoured tanks, which decimate lightly armoured vehicles etc. Unfortunately, the new units all feel redundant. The only ones that’s really interesting on a conceptual level are the Piperunner and the Oozium and aside from throwing up an interesting tactical challenge on their introduction, they add as little as the other units.

As for the COs I touched upon earlier, choosing the right one to suit your skills and the situations is a big part of the challenge. Theoretically, you can free-form any team you like, but there are a few combinations that break the game. Hint: Sasha & Colin. Most of the new characters suffer the same problem as the new units, adding nothing but an unfortunate feeling of flabbiness to the game.

Despite all that, this is still a great game. It has a much smoother difficulty curve than the previous two, and the series’ most annoying character doesn’t show up at all. As well as the largest collection of battle maps and most robust multiplayer system to date you can also now earn experience for your COs to give them additional bonuses in battle that can turn them into real powerhouses AND make your own custom maps to wage war on.

The combat flows well, the character designs (if not the sprites) look great and the soundtrack has some real catchy themes. This is one for fans of intellectual games as much as strategic fans. And if you’re not the type of person to get excited tactical games, I’d say it’s worth a try anyway. Hey, it’s cheap, so why not?

Price: £4 (CEX)


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