Advance Wars

February 12, 2006

Turn-based strategy games on the Game Boy Advance have a lot in common with role-playing games for the Gamecube. Both have very few titles on each system, but while there isn’t a whole lot to choose from, the few choices there are excellent titles. This is where [i]Advance Wars[/i] on the Game Boy Advance comes into play. With it’s unique graphics style, great game play, and helpful tutorial systems, [i]Advance Wars[/i] is not only a great turn-based strategy game, but it’s probably one of the best titles to own for the Game Boy Advance itself.

[i]Advance Wars[/i] is really a great title all around, especially for one who likes turn-based strategy games, although people who aren’t even familiar with the genre may enjoy the game as well. While the graphic style may have you thinking it is a simplistic game, there is a lot of depth to [i]Advance Wars[/i], ranging from the different commanding officers to the strategic locations on maps, such as cities and mountaintops. To add to that, the game even boasts a great multiplayer mode, as well as many other ways to keep the player busy. [i]Advance Wars[/i] is probably one of the most comprehensive Game Boy Advance games out right now.

When you first put [i]Advance Wars[/i] into your Game Boy Advance, the game forces you through a tutorial before anything else. While this may seem tedious, the tutorial is actually very helpful in familiarizing the player with the workings of [i]Advance Wars[/i]. The whopping 14-mission tutorial does a good job of teaching the player basic movement, deployment, ground, air, and sea combat, and more. Once the initial training is over, five new modes open for you (before completion, training, versus, and link are the only modes available), which include campaign, war room, stats, battle maps, and design maps.

The campaign mode is the first mode most people will go to before anything else, as in order to access much of the game’s content, you must progress through the campaign mode. The campaign mode follows the Orange Star Army and its C.O.s Andy, Max, and Sami. You progress through the nation of Alara, battling Blue Moon, Green Earth, and Yellow Comet armies along the way. There are a total of 30 different missions in the single player mode, all of which can be accessed in the war room mode after completion. Every time you win a map in campaign mode, you are awarded AW coins, which you can put towards new maps and options in the battle maps room.

[i]Advance Wars[/i] seems like a pretty simple game, and in reality, it is pretty straightforward. Anyone who has observed the tutorial can easily pick up on the game mechanics and different strategic elements in the game. There are a total of 18 different units in the game, ranging from infantry units to air bombers. Each unit has advantages over other units. For instance, artillery units have a wide attack radius, but can’t attack up close and will succumb to enemy tanks easily. Meanwhile, a bomber dominates almost any ground unit, but counter it with jet fighters and they are completely helpless. Each one of your units starts out with 10 hit points. As you attack enemy units, a percentage will show up. If the percentage is at 80, then after the attack is over, the enemy will only have two hit points.

Aside from the enemy, you also have to take the terrain into effect. Mountains, cities, oceans, rivers and more can be placed on a map, and can hurt your advance on some places. For instance, only infantry units can cross rivers and mountains, so your tanks will have to find another way around. Of course, these effects can also help you. By placing an infantry unit atop a mountaintop or inside a city, you gain a huge defense bonus, as indicated by the number of stars when attacking. Besides making for defense, you can also capture cities with infantry units, which in turn, adds more funds into your bank account. Aside from cities, there are also different bases, including land, sea, and air bases, and the funds you receive from your cities can be put towards new units. Lastly, there is also what is known as “fog of war”, which essentially prevents you from seeing the entire map, and has you relying on your units’ line of sight to see things.

As mentioned before, there are four different armies in [i]Advance Wars[/i], but there is really no difference between the nations, aside from the drawing style of units and color. [i]Advance Wars[/i] takes a different option on variety, rather than having different nations with different abilities. Instead, [i]Advance Wars[/i] has a number of different C.O.s which have different advantages, disadvantages, and powers. Aside from Andy, who is a pretty average C.O., every C.O. has its own specialty. For instance, Eagle of Green Earth dominates with air units, but he lacks with ground units, and Grit of Blue Moon has a larger range with his indirect fire units, but isn’t as good with direct combat units. In addition, each C.O. has a special C.O. power. Andy has the power to heal his units, while Drake of Green Earth’s power damages all enemy units on the map.

The graphic style of [i]Advance Wars[/i] is probably what makes the game stand out the most. All units in your army are color coded, as are units in the other armies. On the map, units appear somewhat cartoonish and are pretty small. When you enter combat with another unit, a split-screen comes up and the armies exchange fire. The COs are drawn anime-style, and you’ll usually get a small cut-scene during campaign mode with the CO on screen, although they don’t really do a whole lot of moving. Even so, the COs and their drawing style make things very enjoyable, even if they are still images.

There a total of 150 different maps to play in [i]Advance Wars[/i]. Most of these are unlocked in the battle maps room by purchasing them with A.W. coins, and the rest are either available to you from the start or you have to unlock from the single-player mode. In addition to maps, you can also unlock and buy C.O.s later in the game after the single-player is complete. If 150 maps isn’t enough for you (in which case, you’re too demanding), then you can even create your own maps with the simple-to-use design maps room. To top things off, you can even compete in the war room against computers to achieve rankings and extra pocket cash.

Even then, you can go further by linking up to other Game Boy Advances and battle against your friends. The game even lets you use a single cartridge to link up, although it’s not too enjoyable since the cartridge can’t hold much memory, so you’re only limited to a certain number of units, and even then, you don’t get the battle scenes that you get in the game itself, so in the end, it’s much more rewarding to link up to several cartridges. Even if you don’t have a link cable, you can still pay “pass the GBA” by setting up a versus match and make your friend control the other army.

Overall, [i]Advance Wars[/i] is probably one of the best games you can buy on the Game Boy Advance. For a GBA title, is has an insane amount of content, options, and some great multiplayer gaming, even if you only have one GBA and one copy of the game. The great graphic style and complex yet easy to learn battle system makes it incredibly addictive. While there are those people out there that don’t particularly care for turn-based strategy, they might like [i]Advance Wars[/i] just as much as fans of the genre. [i]Advance Wars[/i] is really one of the GBA’s triple A titles, and in truth, should be owned by anyone who has a GBA.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.