dvance Wars has long been one of my favorite franchises in gaming, and judging by the series’ following I’m far from alone. This sequel is an excellent game in its own right, but I can’t say that I’m on board with Nintendo’s decision to take Advance Wars away from its charming, cartoony roots in favor of Days of Ruin’s dreary post-apocalyptic setting. At the same time, it’s not a bad trade to make for this title’s new unit types, improved balance, and fresh campaign to conquer.
Boring storyline and interminable dialogue aside, the meat of the gameplay is classic Advance Wars, with all of the strategic excellence that implies. Managing your units from turn to turn, vying for control over revenue-generating bases, and making the most efficient use of those funds to complement your chosen strategy with new units is as good as it’s ever been.
Though I didn’t care for the maps as much as those in 2005’s Advance Wars: Dual Strike, the rest of the changes in this sequel are welcome. Each added unit fills a useful role on the battlefield, and puzzling out how to utilize them effectively is a joy.
Commanding Officers have been completely reworked. No longer abstract off-field leaders, COs now inhabit units, granting bonuses and charging power gauges only within a certain radius. Passive bonuses have been substantially increased, while activated abilities are toned down from previous titles. Ultimately, this results in more traditional strategic battles and fewer game-breaking CO powers being used – a net gain in my opinion.
Also gone is the CO experience system that made grinding through the dozens of one-off maps so engrossing in the last game. While probably better for balance (+2 vision on a fog of war map? GG), it’s sad to see that addictive mechanic depart.
The addition of online multiplayer via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection will be a great boon for some, but the core single-player experience feels like a small step back from the brilliance of Dual Strike. Still, this is a standout in the DS lineup and a sequel that shouldn’t disappoint the series’ many fans.