After spending far too much time hiding in the shadows, Advance Wars has finally made its triumphant return to the public consciousness. Featuring some of the finest strategy gameplay around, does this 20-year-old title still feel as fresh as the day it was released, or does this not-so-modern warfare feel a little stale? Let’s find out why Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp should be on your radar.
Get Ready For War
Advance Wars was originally released on Game Boy Advance and quickly became one of the most iconic franchises for the portable console. With its unique and colorful visual style alongside engaging gameplay, fans quickly flocked to the franchise and still praise its gameplay today. It’s easy to understand why, as many games have tried to replicate the Advance Wars formula with mixed results.
It’s a one-of-a-kind game, for sure, but does it still hold up today? The simple answer is: yes. The more complex answer is still yes but for a variety of reasons. The simple-to-learn, difficult-to-master gameplay still stands strong as its best selling point all of these years later, and with the variety of quality-of-life features added, Re-Boot Camp takes what made the original great and almost perfects it. Battles flow smoother, and maps look and function fantastically, giving you all of the visual cues you need. Playing primarily handheld on a Nintendo Switch OLED, vibrant colors and fantastic animations helped bring Advance Wars to life.
No matter if you’re tinkering with the Map Editor and sharing your creations with friends, or if you’re jumping directly into the campaigns to learn what has caused the world to take up its arms, you’ll find that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is loaded with content. For the price of entry, you’re getting two full campaigns with revamped missions and structure, alongside an editor that keeps things feeling fresh for years to come in a title already crammed to the brim with things to do.
Maps now take the look and feel of a tabletop game, rather than an actual battlefield, which could be hit with mixed results. Personally, I loved the idea of seeing the ruffles of cardboard surrounding the outer portion of the rectangular playing field during the tutorial, and a variety of visual effects help make things feel more cohesive as the game progresses onward. The transition to 3D isn’t entirely perfect, with slowdown plaguing some of the action scenes, but in a turn-based strategy title, does this really matter? To me, it does, as the game had an extra year to get fully polished up, so seeing a slowdown hit when multiple units begin their attack during battles can be slightly jarring, but it’s by no means a dealbreaker.
As you progress throughout the campaigns, meeting a variety of eccentric and eclectic characters, you can also earn coins that are used at Hatchi’s Shop, giving you the perfect chance to purchase new maps, songs, and more. Getting new war maps that you can utilize in other modes helps expand the time you can sink into this title tenfold, with a large variety of different locations available.
To me, Advance Wars is a game meant to be played on the go or handheld. While it looks perfectly acceptable on the big screen, I just had to keep my Switch out of the dock and in my hands so I could relive the days of my youth once again. Deploying familiar tactics that I remember jiving with back in the day still provided exceptional results, but now things are looking better than ever. Wayforward has done an exemplary job of bringing these characters to life with vivid animation and bombastic design, reigniting the flames of war within me once again.
Use Your Head Before Your Rifle
Battles can be won in Advance Wars in a variety of different ways, and you’ll be graded accordingly at the end of each mission. If you’re hoping to exhibit brute force and make your foes surrender through military power, you can make this happen. Or, you can snake through toward their HQ and take it over with an infantry or MECH squad in an action that normally takes two turns to complete. As the two primary ways to secure a victory, it may sound like there isn’t enough to keep you occupied.
“Although these particular titles may be old enough to enjoy a cold beer after an epic victory, they still feel and play better than most new offerings on the market.“
That’s where you would be wrong, dear reader. I found myself experimenting with different tactics, and giving myself small challenges to keep the gameplay feeling fresher than it already is. Although these particular titles may be old enough to enjoy a cold beer after an epic victory, they still feel and play better than most new offerings on the market. The pacing is perfect, the layouts are perfect, and the general feeling of taking a little toy tank onto the battlefield feels just right.
While another strategy franchise that lights the fire under some emblems may have taken the crown as of late, Advance Wars still has some gas in the tank, both literally and figuratively. As I put pressure on my opponents, I also needed to keep an eye on fuel and ammo, making sure I lead with my brain instead of my military brawn. Finding yourself advancing on your opponent, only to lose one of your most valuable troops due to a lack of supply is heartbreaking, but also the cold reality of this kind of situation.
A Killer Soundtrack Amplifies The Action
Something that helps set the Advance Wars franchise apart from many others in the field is the soundtrack and sound design that they’ve always held close to them. Re-Boot Camp is no different, and I need to take a moment to laud the soundtrack choices that were made. While playing through this version of the game, I had my trusty Game Boy Advance next to me with an original copy of the game playing, mainly to compare apples and oranges to one another.
The original chip-tune soundtrack has been fully brought to life, thanks to the advancements in technology that we have today, and it’s a doozy. As battles continued for more turns than I would have liked at times, the soundtrack kept me pushing forward, thanks to a reimagining of these electric tracks found in the original versions of the game. The droning whir of machines feels intimidating, but you always feel like you’ve got a step above the competition with these tunes blasting in your ears.
That’s what Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp does best. It brings the feelings of nostalgia to the forefront while improving on those childhood memories. Even those that have never jumped into the world of Advance Wars and the stories and tales of the main group of protagonists will keep you invested, even if it’s a little goofy and not so serious, and it’s brought to life in the best possible way due to the enhanced soundtrack. Bravo, Wayforward.
Not So Modern Warfare
Beyond the small performance issues, there is only one other con that I can think of that keeps this game from being the perfect strategy title. The lack of Asynchronous multiplayer. For those unfamiliar with this term, allow me to explain. Asynchronous multiplayer is a type of multiplayer gameplay that lets you take your turn, close down your console, and get alerted when the next move is yours for the taking.
While this doesn’t sound like the most important thing, high-level strategy games can take hours to come to an end. If you’re hoping to join into a battle against a friend that is also great at strategy games, make sure to set a few hours off to the side to ensure that you’ve got things covered in your regular life.
After playing indie titles like Wargroove, and even Hero Academy from the early 2010s, the lack of this mode feels like an absolute oversight. With everything else being polished to near perfection, this is one small stain that will not come out, no matter how hard you scrub.
The announcement of a rebooted Advance Wars brought attention to the long-dormant franchise and got plenty of players interested. Due out in 2022, this rebooted war tale was hit with a long delay due to real-life conflict, but now that it is here in our hands, we can say the delay was worth it. No matter if this is your first foray into the world of Advance Wars, or if you’re a veteran of the franchise, this is easily the best version of the original games. If you even slightly enjoy strategy games and own a Nintendo Switch, this is a no-brainer to snag as soon as you can.
ADVANCE WARS 1+2: RE-BOOT CAMP
● Amazing Soundtrack
● A proper modernization of a classic
● Quality of Life changes
● Small performance jitters
● Lack of Asynchronous multiplayer hurts
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.