[i]Advance Wars[/i] was a killer app for the Game Boy Advance back in 2001. Sadly enough, it didn’t receive much attention from many people, and became what is well known throughout the gaming community as a sleeper hit. [i]Advance Wars[/i] is back for a second run though in [i]Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising[/i]. The second installment contains all of the things that made the first one great, including a wide assortment of units, easy to use interface, and complex challenges in the war room and campaign. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a sequel if they didn’t add something new into the mix. [i]Advance Wars 2[/i] delivers, and hard at that.
[i]Advance Wars 2[/i] contains all of the game modes included into the previous game, including the war room, battle maps, and the design room. The campaign returns as well, and is probably the most significant update from [i]Advance Wars[/i]. In [i]Advance Wars[/i], you would play through the entire campaign as Andy, Sami, or Max, Commanding Officers in the Orange Star Army. There were other C.O.s like Eagle and Kanbei, but they could only be accessed after unlocking, and then only be used in the other battle modes. This time around, you play through four different campaigns, each one being under the four armies in the game. This allows the player to play under every army and C.O. at one point in the campaign (save for the enemy C.O.s and a few unlockables), and makes the campaign much more enjoyable this time around with a wider range of C.O.s to play as.
The story unfolds after Sturm ([i]dvance Wars[/i] veterans will remember him from the final battle in [i]Advance Wars[/i]), cuts his losses from his first defeat and rebuilds his army (the Black Hole Army), complete with four new Commanding Officers. Together with his army, they begin to invade the four continents of Wars World, including Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth territories. Through the campaign, you progress through each continent, and as you defeat the Black Hole Armies in one country, you will move to the next. You are also able to choose from many different missions at a time, which improves from the progressive line of missions [i]Advance Wars[/i] made you go through.
[i]Advance Wars 2[/i] adds in a good number of new C.O.s to choose from. You still have Andy the mechanical wizard; Eagle the aerial ace, and all the other C.O.s from the previous [i]Advance Wars[/i]. In fact, some of them like Kanbei have received a different look. In addition to the already hefty 11 C.O.s, the game adds in eight new C.O.s, like Sensei, the expert on copters, and Colin, whose units cost much less than usual. Each new C.O. fits into the game well, and their powers each balance out well with the existing C.O.s. Another new feature is an updated C.O. Power system. In addition to the normal C.O. Power, which many might remember being special powers individual C.O.s could use once their meter charged, you can now use Super Powers, which take longer to build up than normal C.O. Powers, but have a much more devastating effect. Meanwhile, some C.O.s have been downgraded a bit, the most apparent being Eagle, whose C.O. Power has been upgraded to a Super Power and replaced with a less devastating power.
One might think that in addition to new C.O.s, the game would add in some new units to play around with. The truth is though, there is only one new unit in the entire game; the Neotank, which is essentially a heavy tank. Some may be turned off by the fact that there are no new units, but in reality, the original units from [i]Advance Wars[/i] were so balanced that there isn’t much room to add anything else. While there are no new units, there are plenty of new spots on the battlefield. One such is a pipe, which is impossible to penetrate and can only be passed by breaking the pipe’s seam. Other things include missiles which target and damage units in its radius, and then in campaign mode, there are different defensive units to get past like cannons, lasers, and black cannons. Everything from [i]Advance Wars[/i] returns to the battlefield as well, including forest and mountains that give units defense, and the various bases that allow you to deploy air, sea, and land units.
Some of the various game modes have been spiced up a bit, but for the most part, they remain the same. The challenging war room returns, with new maps as well as old ones introduced in [i]Advance Wars[/i]. The design maps mode also returns, but this time, you have the option to color the various C.O.s to your liking as well. Each C.O. has eight different color schemes, so it’s not fully customizable, but it’s a nice feature to spice up your favorite C.O. [i]Advance Wars 2[/i] still has all the great multiplayer options the first one had, including the single game link up, and the “pass the GBA” while assigning the different players to the same GBA.
The graphics are similar to the ones seen in [i]Advance Wars[/i]. In fact, most of the graphics and backgrounds are recycled from [i]Advance Wars[/i]. As in the old [i]Advance Wars[/i], each army has a different look to their units, and all the previous countries have their look from the previous installment. The Black Hole army has a new units style, which seems to be a futuristic look, and adds to the variety in the art style of the game. As mentioned earlier, some of the C.O.s have gotten a complete overhaul in the looks department, but in reality, all the units have been redrawn. Most of the poses are strikingly similar to the ones from [i]Advance Wars[/i], although some have gotten a few changes to them. One thing that is disappointing about the graphics in [i]Advance Wars 2[/i] is that, when in combat, the avatars no longer show expression when their units lose or win a battle. Still, the graphics are quaint and fit the style of the game very well.
Overall, [i]Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising[/i] feels very much like [i]Advance Wars[/i], although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People expecting a huge overhaul from the first may be disappointed, but [i]Advance Wars 2[/i] is a worthy sequel to one of the GBA’s best games. It’s additions like the new C.O.s, the vamped up campaign mode, and the various new maps and challenges that make this game great. Even though there are probably some who feel it may be a little cheap since it is almost the same game as [i]Advance Wars[/i], most owners of the original will definitely want to pick this up.