Hindsight : Advance Wars
Cart: Advance Wars
Coin: Intelligent Systems
2002 saw the release of Advance Wars to a little known device called the Gameboy Advance. Combining an engaging story, turn-based gameplay and many staples of the strategy genre, Advance Wars was a big hit, and has spawned numerous top class sequels.
Set in a world where every army has a colour (Blue Moon, Orange Star, Green Earth) the player is initially tasked with assisting (read: playing as) new recruit Andy as he attempts to repel an enemy invasion of his Orange Star territory (its more of a red really). Further into the campaign you’ll fight against (almost) all the colour of the rainbow, before you start to square off against the big bad, the Black Hole army (yep, the bad guys have the most ‘evil’ colour assigned to them, this is a Nintendo game after all). In truth, for a strategy game where the story is told entirely in text form, the story is pretty engaging, and provides a nice back drop to the real meat of the game, the battles.
Before every battle, the player selects a Commanding Officer, or CO, for their army. These characters provide bonuses to certain units, and also have a special abilities that is built-up as the battle goes on. For example, Andy’s special ability repairs all his units on the battlefield, while Max, another Orange Star CO, provides an attack bonus to all units. Choosing the right CO can sway the battle at a crucial point for the player, and adds am additional level of strategy. Its also one of the aspects that adds to the replayability of the game.
The battle system itself is a brilliant mix of strategy and turn-based combat. As the term suggests, the player and computer take it in turns to move their units and issue actions such as build or attack. Combining this with strategy staples such as fog of war really raps up the tension of some battles, especially when your best units suddenly stubble into an enemy ambush. It’s mechanics like this that make the game easy to learn but difficult to master, and will keep players coming back to missions, trying to improve on their previous rating.
I cannot recommend Advance Wars enough for players on the move who are looking for a solid strategy fix. Its sequels are arguably as good as the original, adding new elements and tactical depth, such as CO tag-teams to battles, that have kept the series feeling fresh in subsequent releases. Maybe avoid the Gamecube spin-off though.
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Hailing from 'The Grim North'; Joshua is about to graduate and enter the real world - and so has decided to throw himself into talking about the one thing he knows best: video games! As money is tight, he's ploughing through the plethora of retro games present in his student house. Just as soon as they pay the electricity bill.