Now this is a franchise that needs to come back. After a rather odd gritty reboot for the DS, Advance Wars has slipped off the radar slightly. I realised recently that I’d never actually played the first one, so I decided to give it a go.
Advance Wars picks up during the war between the Orange Star and Blue Moon nations. The player is the commander of the Orange Star COs, mostly teenagers inexplicably, to defend from the Blue Moon invasion. As a whole bunch of other nations are caught up in the conflict it quickly turns out that things aren’t quite as they seem. It’s not much of a plot, particularly compared to something like Fire Emblem, but its fine. It doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay.
Advance Wars is a turn based strategy game, where the player commands an army made up of infantry, vehicular, sea and air units to either obliterate the enemy or capture their base with infantry. Different units have advantages over others, with some ground units being very effective against air and some units which can only fire if they haven’t moved in the same turn. Managing this wide variety of units is where Advance Wars really finds its challenge. Unlike in something like Fire Emblem, you can create new units at factories, and determining which would be most useful for any given situation adds another layer of strategy. Money for new units is gained by capturing cities with your infantry, but your opponents will have the same idea. Advance Wars is tough, probably more so than Fire Emblem, with that classic mantra of ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ which runs through many of the best strategy games.
In different missions you can use different COs with abilities which can be activated when enough enemy troops have been taken down. The CO power for Andy, the protagonist, heals his troops and gives them a power boost in the next turn. Different COs also have passive advantages and disadvantages, such as Max whose troops are less mobile but hit much harder. You don’t have much control over the COs in the main game, but the side maps allow a fair bit of experimentation. This is a massive game, with a lengthy campaign and a whole bunch of unlockable extra maps to play as well. Advance Wars has a great soundtrack and a clean and stylish look. The battles look cool and it’s all very satisfying when you blow up an enemy’s troops.