Advance Wars is a poster-child franchise for Nintendo. After tough turn-based campaigns on Gameboy Advance, it’s rebuilt now for the Switch. There is no mistaking the franchise has the Hearts and Minds of older gamers.
So now would be a good time to get it into the hands of today’s Nintendo faithful. Wouldn’t it?
Back when Advance Wars was popular
At the time there weren’t a lot of turn based strategy games that were accessible and fun. The character driven missions of Advance Wars appealed to the Gameboy masses and history was made. Personally I alway felt and still do, that Advance Wars rode the coattails of a game I played on the Amiga. That game was Battle Isles.
Battle Isles was a no-nonsense approach, colourful, hex-based tiles and a wider range of units. The based strategy was the same, but the maps were often epic in comparison to Advance Wars. Many a Sunday afternoon was lost to huge battles in fierce hotseat games with friends.
It’s true however Advance Wars has that Anime charm. The art style is very particular and ticks the boxes of many Manga/JRPG fans. That said, being forced to listen to the nonsense a pouty teenager spouts while my digital troops are dying by the handful doesn’t sit well.
Visually the game has been rebuilt and it looks great, bright and colourful. The skirmish screens are varied enough, there’s often something going on in the background and its fun to watch troopers wading across a river. You can speed up the encounters by holding down the shoulder buttons if you wish.
The Advance Wars premise doesn’t get old
The base game is a classic take, that has to be said. Attrition is inevitable and the wrong move can leave your best troops decimated. A wily commander will know when to sacrifice units and when to bolster them.
The map being squares rather than Hexagons in Advance Wars often leaves me frustrated with the movement and attack possibilities. Especially when you stumble onto a hidden unit that ends your turn. It also falls down when you are forced to play a rush game, capturing cities rather than fighting it out. Strategy should be about planning, pace and execution. Scrambling to grab cities and leaving yourself open doesn’t sit well.
The game spins it up with a Fog of War and enemy CO’s that see you when you can’t see them. Not an exercise in playing better, just frustration and repeat as you learn where they hide.
Overblown dialogue and enemy Commanding Officer skills are annoying.
The Commanding Officers are really just waffle and dressing these days. Having to skip through their pointless jolly dialogue gets tiring, especially on a replay when you’ve failed a mission. Needless to say the Skip button gets a smashing.
They all come with a Special Power that has to be charged up before use. The game would be cleaner without this advantage, it’s annoying more than helpful. Basically stick with Andy’s “Repair Skill” to save your skin with numbers, rather than Morale Boosts. Even more irritating is the painful little intro scene they play multiple times per map as they unleash their power.
You have to wonder again, why the Switch is lacking in touchscreen use. Here we are with another Switch title perfect for touchscreen, but…. One saving grace for Advance Wars could be the that addition, but no.
Plenty to get your teeth into, along with online battles.
With the addition of Online play, Advance Wars 1 and 2, and a bunch of skirmish maps in the War Room. There is plenty to be getting on with.
Winning battles earns you coins which you can spend at the store on more characters, music etc. Not much of a motivator. Ultimately Advance Wars just makes me wish Battle Isles was available for Switch. With no silly characters, bigger battles and a decent experience system. Take me back.
Advance Wars has been polished enough to make it a charming timesink, but the strategy gets repetitive and the characters just never needed to be there.