After numerous delays to an initial proposed launch date of December 2021 due to real-world events that Nintendo evidently felt made launching a light-hearted warfare game problematic, Wayforward's Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is finally almost here. Featuring the classic Game Boy Advance campaigns from both Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, there's enough turn-based tactical good times here to satiate even the hungriest of wannabe Sun Tzus, and the whole thing has had a right old spruce up in the graphics department.
We've been busy getting to grips with the first 13 missions from the Advance Wars campaign and it's been an absolute blast so far. There's been no great shakeup of the core gameplay here — these are genuinely timeless strategy classics we're talking about after all, a pair of almost flawless experiences and the sorts of games that don't really need to be messed with. However, some excellent new modes and a few modern bells and whistles have been introduced, making for an even slicker and more streamlined experience than the one you'll remember from back in ye olden days.
For those who are new to the series, Advance Wars' brand of turn-based warfare is all about facing off against enemy armies with a view to either wiping out all of their units or capturing their HQ. In order to do so, you'll need to capture cities dotted around the map, with each city you control giving you more funds which you use to spawn all manner of vehicles and troops onto the battlefield from your bases.
Captured cities also allow you to heal and repair by simply stationing the affected unit there for a few turns. Maps are dinky little grids with plenty of chokepoints such as bridges to consider, and from this very simple setup these games manage to produce gloriously strategic confrontations.
New unit types are introduced at a nice pace to up the ante as you progress through the campaign. You'll start out with some basic infantry and a small tank, but before long you'll be using bombers and helicopters, blasting enemy planes out of the sky with anti-air missiles, slinking around the sea in submarines, engaging battleships and having great big tank battles to control and/or push through all-important chokepoints.
Further to this, the CO (commanding officer) you are currently using will have a special CO skill that can be utilised as you fight and fill up a gauge. Once unleashed, these skills have the power to turn the tide of battle. For example, Andy can miraculously repair units across the entire battlefield, Olaf covers the map in snow, making movement harder for his foes, Max can boost his army's firepower and defensive capabilities and Grit can employ his sniping abilities to extend the distance at which his units may attack. CO skills also come in a super variant too, so there's no shortage of tools to employ here overall.
Kicking off the campaign from the first game in this reboot, fans of the series will immediately feel at home, as it's an almost scene-for-scene reproduction of the early stages of the original, with a now super-sassy Nell running you through tutorials to get you up to speed on how to pound your enemies into dust. The tutorial here has certainly been condensed from how we remember it back in 2001, with just a few missions to teach you the basics of movement, healing units, mending busted vehicles, and capturing those all-important cities before you launch into the story-driven campaign proper.
It's a nice shakeup, doing away with the extended (and mandatory) tutorial section of the GBA version in favour of incorporating advanced lessons into the campaign battles themselves. You'll learn the ins and outs of APCs, helicopters, submarines, battleships, various tank types, surface-to-air defences, and so on as you need them. If you feel like you already know best, you can skip a lot of this stuff and plough on.
Of course, anyone needing extra help or wanting to take it a little easier/slower is also catered to, with extensive tips from Nell herself, plenty of information on every aspect of battle to read through at your leisure, and a casual mode that allows newcomers to find their feet in fights that can be delightfully drawn out and challenging affairs. Indeed, it may look cute, but Advance Wars provides a stern test of your strategic skills once it really gets going on harder modes, and a finely tuned turn-based beast awaits those who want to up the difficulty and really push themselves.
Speaking of those cute looks, the graphical overhaul here is a noticeable one, replacing the chunky pixel look of the original games with a wonderfully clean, clear, and super sharp style that's full of nice little details and animations. We'll admit, it took us a little while to warm it — we're big fans of those thick and chunky early-noughties features — but, a few missions in, and we can see the benefits.
There are some very nicely animated cutscenes, CO powers are accompanied by plenty of flashy fanfare, all of the original characters look and sound great (that's right, there's full voice acting this time out) and the battlefields just feel easier to read now with everything that's taking place presented with pin-sharp clarity. The voice acting and new animations really do add a ton of personality too, with the likes of Andy, Max, Sami, Olaf, and all the rest of the COs brought to life like never before.
Away from the jazzed-up graphics, pumping new rendition of the soundtrack, and all the rest of the aesthetic improvements, the real meat in terms of changes here comes in the form of some brand-new ways to play. Not only can you settle in for four-player fun on one Switch console or via four separate consoles in local play, but online is also now an option, allowing you to jump into matches against your pals over the intertubes. You've even got an ID Tag this time around that's emblazoned with your military achievements so you can show off to your pals before giving them what for on the battlefield. Hooray! Of course, we haven't had a chance to try out online play just yet, and the whole thing will depend on how well the performance holds up, but we're hopeful the slow style of matches will mean that it works out just fine.
The Design Room gives you access to a pimped-up map editor allowing you to create your own maps to battle on or to share online for other users to enjoy. There's also a new War Room mode that allows you to select from a whole bunch of maps, with more available to purchase from Hachi's shop with your hard-earned winnings. The War Room's battles are score-based affairs that see you settle in to earn your S+ rankings, whilst Versus allows you to take on other players or the CPU in order to hone your skills and commit map tactics to memory.
There are lots of ways to play, in short, and it's amazing just how little the core of these games has aged over the past 22 years, the strategic fun here really is just as massively engrossing as ever. Seriously, if you've never played Advance Wars, you're in for such a huge treat. There are a handful of nice little touches added to make things feel that little bit zippier, such as the ability to fast-forward through enemy turns and battle animations, or even rewind and reset to your previous turn, and you can now hover over an enemy unit to choose attack right from the get-go rather than moving first and then attacking. It's still the same Advance Wars fans we all know and love, just slicker, shinier, and with all the bells and whistles you'd expect from a more modern release.
We've already had lots of tense tank battles, naval skirmishes, and aerial face-offs against Olaf and a bunch of other baddies in our short time playing this one so far, with the game wasting absolutely no time in putting up a challenge that results in tense confrontations that are always a sweaty joy to engage with. We're looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of the first game's campaign before moving on to Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising — although you can choose to jump straight into the second game if you wish — and we'll be sure to report directly back to Nintendo Life HQ with our full thoughts on the entire package a little closer to launch.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp releases on 21st April. Will you be enlisting? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
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