No, this review is not because of the GBA and GB player on the Switch, unlike the last bunch. This one is because a remake came out a while ago, admittedly a remake meant to come out last year but Russia invaded Ukraine and it seemed like a bad time to release a game called Advance Wars. Franchise has a bit of a history of unfortunate timing.
Released back in 2001 as a continuation of the Famicom wars series, Advance Wars was the first of the franchise to reach the west and so we all think of it as the first one.
Advance Wars is a turn based strategy video game that sees you take control of a CO of an army and faced off against another CO of an army to try and defeat that foe, either by capturing their HQ or destroying all their troops. The game can played as a multiplayer game or single against a CPU controlled opponent. So, you get a choice of the campaign or story mode, war room or the vs room. War Room will have you play on a set map to defeat a CPU controlled foe while VS is the one for the multi-player fights.
But what about the actual gameplay? Well fortunately the Campaign/Story mode’s first few missions are all training missions to get you caught up with the mechanics… in fact I think the game outright tells or forces you to do those before anything. Thankfully the remake shortens the amount of training missions so it’s less annoying for you. But the main part is how you get different units such as infantry, small tanks, anti-air, copters etc. that have different uses and power. Infantry are your most basic but can capture buildings, cities giving you more money while factories and some other facilities are used to build new troops with said money. You move your units along a grid map trying to best your opponent, tactfully taking out your enemies by using unit advantage and terrain till you can fully take them out. Each CO has different strengths and access to their own CO power to help win you the game or turn the tide of battle when used correctly.
The Campaign/Story mode is what you really should complete first, though it can be long… and if doing the original you will need to do multiple times, preferably with a guide on how to unlock stuff. Yes, it is through this you unlock all the other COs as you start with a pittance to begin with, mind you one of those is one of the most powerful in the game so do you really need anyone but Max? It sees the Orange Star army first having to fend off an invasion by Blue Moon but soon things begin to reveal a dark shadowy mastermind (with cool music) pulling the strings of war. It’s also this mode that really lets you experience the personalities of the COs. Many of these maps you have to go through don’t play like the War or VS Room maps, which normally had the 2 COs starting out with equal footing but instead play more like Puzzles where you have to work out how to win with a limited number of troops or against a vastly stronger foe. This can be quite apparent with levels featuring the Fog of War.
I wouldn’t say the game is balanced though. Some COs like Max are just blatantly better than others. Sonja for example is so based around Fog of War matches she’s not worth using under any other circumstance, and don’t get me started on the idea of using Drake on a map without ships… and even then, just take Max. But I’d argue that the disparity isn’t as extreme as it gets in the sequel (cue people getting PTSD from smooth jazz)
Still, I’d say it’s quite a fun strategy game. I didn’t think we would see Advance Wars ever coming back but am so glad to see the release of the remake which also contains the second game. I’d recommend the remake over the original just because it’s easier to get a hold of and the changes to the campaign mode. So, sit down and enjoy some tactical planning… or just mow people down with Max’s tanks… its a perfectly valid strategy.