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Posted on Sep 4, 2005 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Advance Wars Dual Strike – Game Review (DS)

Armchair General

And let’s not forget the non-combat units, because the Advance Wars designers have always had an eye on logistics and transportation. There are three types of transport, the APC, the Transport Helicopter and the Landing Craft. All are capable of transporting Infantry into battle, Landing Craft can even load Tanks for transportation across water. The APC has the secondary ability of being able to refuel and reload supply up to four friendly units in adjacent squares at the end of its move. This can be handy for moving those Mega-Tanks into the font lines, because they go through fuel and ammunition faster than anything else out there. The only problem is that all of these transport units are unarmed and totally unable to defend themselves against attack, but they are all essential to winning battles.

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As you’ll have gathered from the above, there are a lot of potential strategies open to players, and depending on which CO is chosen, advantages might be maximised even further but this is usually at a cost, for each CO available to you has different strengths and weaknesses. For example, Max (my favourite) is best at controlling direct combat units such as Infantry or Tanks which can only attack adjacent squares on the map. As a result, troops of that nature are more powerful in battle and can inflict greater damage than regular units. Unfortunately, Max’s weakness comes with indirect combat units, such as artillery or rocket divisions which fire from a distance – frankly, he’s rubbish at using them and their range suffers drastically as a result. Players much therefore choose their COs to fit their own strategies and preferences – if a player’s up for a bit of air superiority, then choosing the relevant CO will provide air units with even more range and even greater firepower, but ground units may be slightly handicapped as a result.

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CO selection screens give players vital information on who is in charge of their army

COs also have special abilities which can be unlocked. The more damage they inflict, the more their special ability is charged up. Once it’s ready to go, players can choose when to unleash the power of this ability, the results of which can mean changing the weather in their favour, repairing damaged units, or making certain units even more powerful for that all important final attack – but only for that one turn. Advance Wars 2 added a second even more powerful tier to the CO special abilities, thus providing players with a choice – do they go for a quick hit now or forego any temporary advantage and charge the power a bit more to get an even bigger effect in a few turns’ time? Well, guess what, Advance Wars DS has expanded this ability further still – if players embark on a Tag battle, they can deploy two COs, charge both special abilities simultaneously, and at the crucial moment, unleash hell. I eliminated one heavily entrenched enemy in a single turn by using first one CO’s special ability, then tagging the second CO whereupon I got an entire second move to finish the enemy forces. Result. Except when it happens to you.

So what’s different between this and the original titles? Well, to be honest, not a lot. But that’s actually GOOD, because the original Advance Wars was pretty much perfect, and its sequel only really tweaked an already proven formula. Advance Wars DS tweaks the game that little bit further and throws in a few extra COs, and some additional units, but gameplay remains pretty much the same. They have even provided the same War Room maps that were playable in both previous titles – so not only is this a new game, it’s got all the old stuff in there as well. Of course, the fundamental differences between the GBA and DS versions of the game are obvious – the DS has two screens to the GBA’s single display, plus that nifty touch-sensitive screen at the bottom, and this is where we get to the nitty-gritty.

In earlier Advance Wars games, unit and terrain statistics were available via a separate menu, in Advance Wars DS, it’s now possible to display those important figures on the top screen whilst battle continues uninterrupted on the touch-sensitive screen below. It saves a lot of time. And, of course, movement of troops is all done via the stylus (although the buttons work as well – it’s a matter of preference). But, there’s more, an additional game mode simply called "DS" allows players to fight two simultaneous battles which switch from screen to screen, the secondary battle of the moment taking place on the upper screen. Gaining an advantage in one battle can help in the other, which is a nice touch, as is the ability to siphon troops from one area of battle to the other. Destroy your enemy utterly in one zone first? Or fight on a broad front across them both?

What’s more, an entirely new feature is the real-time battle mode, which puts players through their paces in what’s essentially a massively accelerated version of the main game – it’s going to take me a while to get to grips with that one.

AND let us not forget the ability to create your own maps and to exchange them with friends and enemies. I created a version of Operation Overlord on my DS, with massive defences in "France" and a huge invasion fleet in "England".

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Here’s my Overlord map

Graphics

Well, OK, the graphics are not exactly cutting edge, especially given the 64-bit processing power of the Nintendo DS. Indeed, apart from some neat new zooming on the lower screen as your units appear to do battle, and a slight tilt of the maps, there’s hardly any difference at all between this and the previous titles. But that’s not the point, it’s the gameplay that matters here, not eye candy, and the game remains just as addictive as it ever was. Yes, it’s cartoony, but it’s also fun and colourful and everything is very well drawn.

Sound

Again, there’s not much to be said about the sound, combat sounds just like the earlier games and the same tunes crop up for each of the COs during a game, so it’s not going to win any awards. But all that means is that you can play the game at work with the sound turned down and know that you aren’t going to miss anything important.

Multiplayer

Well, now we’re talking, because the beauty of this game lies in the fact that you can not only play the devious AI (trust me, it can be very calculating at times) but also any friends who might want to be destroyed at your hands using the wireless capabilities of the DS system. The DS allows several methods of multiplay, not least of which is the ability for 8 players to play from just one cartridge by downloading data to their own machines. Other modes (there are four in all, plus the option to trade maps) require each player to own a cartridge, but there is a huge potential for gaming with the options provided.

Summary

If you own a Nintendo DS, then buy this game.

If you are an Advance Wars fan without a Nintendo DS, then buy a Nintendo DS and then buy this game.

If you don’t own a Nintendo DS and you’ve never played an Advance Wars game, then I understand, and yes the Sony PSP is much flashier, but here’s one reason to change your mind. There are literally hundreds of hours of gameplay in this one tiny little cartridge, and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Armchair General Score: 90%

40/40– Gameplay
10/15 — Graphics
05/10 — Sound
15/15 — Interface
N/A — Installation Technical
05/05 — Documentation
15/15 — General’s Rating

Links

Nintendo

Advance Wars site at Nintendo

A J Summersgill

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

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