The original Advance Wars was released for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance (I see what was done there) in 2001 and was followed by its sequel in Black Hole Rising in 2003. While the Gameboy Advance was a popular platform, most users would most likely have never played the original but thankfully Nintendo has gone ahead and released a full remaster of the games in the form of Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp.
The game allows you to play both campaigns, various multiplayer modes that include local and online modes or challenge AI enemies in the War Room to get the highest score. It also allows you to create your own maps with the Design Room and you can also download other custom maps created by other players. It features quite a lot of content in small package which can take a while to complete.
The campaign starts you off as Andy, a new Commanding Officer (CO), in the Orange Star army that is being trained when a rival faction called the Blue Moon invades under the control of Olaf. As you push back the invading army, you have other skirmishes with other COs from the 2 other factions of Green Earth and Yellow Comet. Each faction accusing Andy of hostilities against them. As you fend off the opposing factions you need to find out who has been attacking the other factions to try and clear your name. The second game follows on directly from the first but revealing anything further would spoil a large section of the games and unless you have already played the originals, it’s much more fun to follow the plot on your own.
The gameplay consists of players picking a CO which has various Powers that can be used to gain an advantage over your opponent. Each CO also has strengths and weaknesses that effect your units that you would need to use or exploit to get an upper hand over the opposing CO. Certain COs like Max are focused on direct attack units so all tanks get bonuses but this means his indirect attack units do suffer a bit, while the CO Grit is the exact opposite with his indirect units getting attack and range boosts. The Powers tend to also increase the strengths of the units further like more defence and attack with Max’s or even bigger range for Grit. These Powers take time to full up and only last for one turn so better use them effectively otherwise it could be a wasted opportunity to turn the tide or even crush the opposing side completely.
The units are broken up into different divisions like infantry and land, sea and air vehicles with each unit having an advantage over other units. Your basic infantry cannot do much damage to a tank but the Mech troopers, who are equipped with anti-tank weaponry, on the other hand can deal a lot more damage and this would result in less damage being taken. It is much like a game of rock-paper-scissors as you try and engage with the most advantageous unit that can deal the most damage or take the unit out completely. This does mean strategy is important as throwing units at an enemy might take it down, but you will end up losing quite of bit strength.
Scattered through out the maps are various buildings that you can capture using infantry that either increase your income per round or allows you to recruit new units. You cannot create all the units in a single place as sea units require docs and air units require airfields. You normally start with a few buildings and a Warehouse to train units, but this does differ as maps can have different objectives for victory. Majority of the maps can be won by either defeating all enemy units or by taking control of the enemy headquarters while other maps require you to have control over a certain about of towns or other buildings.
Units can only move a certain amount of tiles each round and not all units can move and attack in the same round. Most of your vehicles can move and attack if they are close to enemy units but artily and missile units can only move or attack each turn, so you are required to move them carefully while protecting them with other units. The terrain also affects movement as only infantry can travel over mountains and rivers and all land vehicles need to use bridges to cross water and cannot travel over mountains at all. Certain terrain tiles can even be used to hide units for sneak attacks as they only become visible when a unit is right next to a forest tile. This becomes even more effective when the map has a fog of war enabled.
Along with the limitations of movement, all units have ammunition and fuel requirements. When ammunition is depleted, they cannot engage in combat with their primary weapons or at all and the when the fuel is depleted, land units cannot move but air and sea vehicles are destroyed as they cannot function anymore. These can be replenished by having the unit stay in a friendly building for a round. If the unit has taken some damage, this can also heal them back to full fighting force. There are also certain vehicles that can be used to resupply on the move if you are too far away from a friendly building. Thankfully, while this info is present when viewing the unit, there is a small pop up from a unit also indicating that ammo or fuel is running low with the icon being half full or completely grey when fully depleted.
While the Advance Wars 2 does not change the formula at all, it does have a few additions like CO Super Powers. These tend to be stronger versions of the normal Powers but take longer to build up and require 3 stars to be filled to used. The change here is that you can still use the weaker Power but this will only use a single star so any additional gauge will remain so you can build it up again but not from the start. This does mean that the player needs to make a decision of using the weaker Powers more often or using the more powerful Super Power less during a round. It also introduces a few new COs but only one new unit to each faction and furthers the story. While you can start with the second game almost immediately, it does warn you that it would be better to start with the first to get the full experience.
Each of these aspects are required to win and mastering of them becomes essential later in the campaign as the missions can suffer from a rather high difficulty spike. These are not present in all the missions from then onwards but pop up randomly on the win conditions per the map. This can make the game a bit frustrating to the newcomers and until you can master the CO Powers and strengths and weaknesses of the units and COs, you could end up getting stuck on a level and while there is a round reset option, this only applies to your current round so ending it can lock your mistake in place. The only way to get around this would be to hope that the enemy is lenient, which is never the case, or restarting the entire map which means you lose any progress you have made. This does mean that the smallest of mistakes normally means that the enemy can punish you very severely with little chance to recover from it.
Each faction does have the same units, but their designs differ, so it becomes very easy to tell them apart. If you are familiar with the uniforms and vehicles used during the Second World War, you can easily see where the units’ designs are taken from. The Orange Star is basically the Western Allies taking inspiration from the American and British designs. The Blue Moon uses Russian influence, Green Earth uses the German influence, and the Yellow Comet is taken from the Japanese influence. This makes each combat scenario at least feel different and makes the small videos that are shown when the units engage each other different, even if the outcome is the same.
There is a lot of content packed into this remaster and can keep you busy for a long time. Completing the campaign, earning points, and unlocking all the items in Hachi’s shop, getting high scores in the War Rooms, or even just challenging your friends, there is something for everyone. The games are tons of fun and the amount of content is well worth the price. There are issues, there is nothing that can cause you to stop playing, just ruin the fun at that time. Taking a breaking or re-evaluating how you tackle the issues can help get past these and the sense of accomplishments is a great feeling.