Advance Wars is a grid based strategy game that mixes Civilization’s turned based style with the mech units of an RTS. Game play is based on building characters to take over enemies while capturing cities. Advance Wars slogan should be “A lotta game for a little cart” as this game offers so much in every department. You can play this game for months and still not unlock everything. Advance Wars is not only one the best strategy games for a hand held system, but also it is one of the best turn based strategy games ever made. It offers more game play elements than some PC strategy games. If you own a GBA, you should be playing this game.
Before the game lets you take part in the Campaign, you must first go through a tutorial. This tutorial took me a few hours complete, but strangely enough, I loved every minute of it. More often than not, games will offer a tutorial that is either to short, to long, or doesn’t explain well. This is not the case here. The more you play, the more you want to know. As you play, you uncover what this game has to offer. The rules of this game separate it from any other strategy game. The tutorial is a perfect place to start because it is not boring or bogged down and it may seem overwhelming at first, but once you see how the game play mechanics work, you won’t put down your system.
Advance Wars pits two or more armies against each other at the same time. Each army has a leader commanding them called the CO (commanding officer). Every CO has a different and unique power. Before each battle, you decide which CO you want to battle with. For example, Andy can repair some damage to his units while giving his army a boost of power for one turn. Max, on the other hand, has plus one attack power to all of his tanks. Grit is a sniper and gets extra range and power to all of his ranged units. These are just some of the many COs that you can take control of. Many other COs will be unlocked as the game progresses. After the player has chosen his CO, the battle begins. The game starts with both sides in control of a HQ (headquarters), bases, and cities. The object of each battle is to capture your opponent’s HQ or destroy all of his units. Neutral cities and your opponent’s cities need to be captured in order to make money to produce units. Bases are used to spawn character units such as tanks, planes, and foot soldiers. To sum up, the more cities you own, the more money you make, hence the more units you can make to clean out the enemy.
Think of each unit as a part of one big game of rock/paper/scissors. Cities, HQ, and bases can only be captured by foot soldiers. However foot soldiers are weak and can only travel a few squares at a time. To make travel easier for foot soldiers, a carrier unit can be made to store soldiers and move them great distances in one turn. However, these units are weak defensively and if destroyed with men inside, all is lost. Tanks are made for heavy offensive power. Rockets are useful, but can only shoot or move in on turn. They can’t do both in the same turn. Anti-aircraft units are wonderful for taking down planes, but have weak defenses. Submarines can stay hidden from site if they submerge under water, but doing so will consume a great amount of fuel. There are three types of units: ground, air, and sea; each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
There are many other elements that you must take in consideration when preparing for battle. The ground that the unit stands on is a huge factor in the defense department. If a unit is being attacked on a bridge, road, or grass, his defense will suffer. However, if you fight from the cover of forests or mountains, you defense increases greatly. But keep in mine, not all units can travel over mountains. A unit traveling over mountains or forests however, cannot move as far as on a road. So its range of movement suffers, but defense increases. Gamers familiar with War Craft, Command and Conquer, and even Diablo, know all about the black fog. This fog hinders your ability to see what is beyond your position. This element is used in Advance Wars, but can be turned off if you wish via the option menu (note: can’t turn off in Campaign mode). Advance Wars calls it the “Fog of War.” Staying hidden from your opponent is the key element here. The recon unit proves most useful in these types of battles. They can see far and travel great distances in one turn, but they are weak in defense. However, any unit that is standing on a forest square will remain unseen no matter where the opponent is. The only way to find a unit hiding in the forest is to move to the square directly adjacent to it. However, if you find an enemy hiding in the forest, you cannot attack until next turn, giving the hiding unit a slight advantage. Fog of War is an intense battle of wits and strategic thinking. Because these battles can be lengthy at times, the game offers a handy save any time function.
After each battle, the player gets a grade from your performance on the battlefield. The faster you defeat you opponent while losing little of your own army, the better the grade and more coins you will receive. Coins are used to buy more COs and multiplayer maps. Other maps called War Room maps can also be purchased. War room maps are for those people that only want to play a single battle, as opposed to a long campaign. There are also different kind of multiplayer maps to buy. There are maps for sale for 2P,3P,4P, pre-deployed case, and single pak linking. Pre-deployed cases are maps where each army starts with a few units. There are no bases. This is mostly use for single pak linking. The GBA only has 256k of Ram memory and if bases were introduced, the game would be too big in file size. The game is obviously better if every person has his own copy of the game because you can pick whatever options you want. Even though you do not get all the options of a multi-pak link, the single pak-link mode is one of the best the GBA has to offer. For all the creative gamers out there, there is a level editor for you. You can make your own level to support 2,3, or 4 players. You can even trade your maps via the game link cable.
This game is more fun than super models with shotguns and clown shoes. The game play is dead on. Advance Wars offers everything you could want in a strategy game. The game makes use of every button on the GBA, making everything at your disposable quickly. The graphics are very bright and colorful while the texture are clear. The audio is outstanding too. The battle music is fun and exciting, but can become slightly irritating if you are dueling a long drawn out battle. The sound effects are shockingly powerful. Put on a pair of headphones to enjoy the sound fully. This game offers an infinite amount of replay value. You can unlock more maps and even make your own. You’ll want to unlock all the COs as soon as you can to open up even more possibilities. The multiplayer mode is one of the best in any handheld and not everyone needs a copy of the game. However, in order to feel the full effect of Advance Wars, everyone will need a copy of the game. You’ll never play Risk again once you play this game. So gather up you friends and link up a game of Advance Wars. This game will leave all of you in awe and make you realize what the GBA is capable of. With the quality of this game, it makes you wonder what improvements they will make in Advance Wars 2. Thanks Nintendo for making this additive, much needed strategy game.