My fondest Advance Wars memories involve long family trips sitting in the backseat of my parents’ van gaming away the day with my Game Boy Advance SP. At the time, the title offered a bite-sized, portable slice of the real-time and turn-based strategy action I enjoyed so much on PC.
Though I’ve never played Advance Wars, I spent countless hours with Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, arguably the better of the two titles, and have a nostalgic connection to the series. So as you may have already guessed, I’ve been excited about Re-Boot Camp since its reveal several months ago and was crushed by its lengthy but appropriate delay.
Now that Reboot Camp has finally arrived, the main question surrounding the iconic turn-based strategy game is if the remake/remaster lives up to the original titles’ pedigree while still offering a worthwhile fresh coat of paint. After spending roughly 20 hours with Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2, I can confidently say it’s an excellent, faithful remaster for both new and longtime fans of the series.
First off, the subtly complicated, chess-like turn-based gameplay is back and just as addictive as ever, and the core formula that made the series so compelling all those years ago remains entirely unchanged.
Tanks can move long distances, are relatively cheap resource-wise and are great for overwhelming foes with powerful numbers, while ranged units like Artillery offer excellent cover at a distance but are entirely useless up close. Throw in Battle Copters, a well-rounded unit that can take down most unit types, Submarines that can dive to hide and avoid attacks, long-distance Rocket Launchers and more, and you have deep turn-based action that has aged remarkably despite being 21 years old.
Advance Wars 1+2‘s core gameplay comes down to micro-decisions. Should you head-on assault your enemy with a barrage of Medium Tanks or keep your distance with Artillery? Maybe load up a Supply Truck with Infantry and sneak around the grid-based map to take over the enemy’s base? Oh, but is that Battleship in range of your units? Time to pull them all back or risk being outnumbered. It’s up to you to figure out the best plan of action given the campaign level’s conditions and each move you make really matters.
Then there are CO Powers that offer various advantages to consider. For example, Andy’s units can regain a small amount of health, while Sami’s units get a 30 percent firepower bonus and capture 1.5x. There are also Super CO powers in Advance Wars 2 that are typically stronger versions of the original CO Power. During my time with the game, I’ve found that adequately utilizing certain CO Powers is necessary to make it through most later campaign missions (I also imagine the Powers come in handy when facing human players, though I haven’t tried the game’s versus mode yet).
Speaking of Advance Wars 1+2‘s campaign, you can play Black Hole Rising immediately, but it makes sense to finish the original Advance Wars first given the two games’ stories connection. While both Advance Wars titles feature mostly the same style of missions, including removing all enemies from the field or capturing bases, Advance Wars 2 adds a few more variables to the mix, including Missile Silos, Pipelines and a new unit that can attack land and naval units called Neotanks.
One key criticism I have of the campaign is that the difficulty ramps up quickly. I found the first few missions of both Advance Wars 1 and 2 a breeze (mostly because the AI in early levels isn’t very smart) then, out of nowhere, the difficulty and AI intelligence kick up considerably in both titles. Thankfully, the lengthy tutorial featured in the original GBA titles has been incorporated directly into the campaign, allowing you to seamlessly learn how different units can best be utilized.
The visual upgrade feature in Reboot Camp brings a welcome coat of fresh paint to the series, which is a good thing given the original titles’ pixelated visuals haven’t aged that well, especially when compared to modern pixel art. Units look clean, skirmishes are quick and concise with unique effects, and the animations that appear when CO’s use their Powers feel like they’re directly pulled from an Advance Wars anime.
Other features worth noting include the ‘Design Room,’ which allows you to craft maps, the score-focused ‘War Room’ and a ‘Versus Mode’ that lets you take on other players locally or battle against the CPU. Unfortunately, online play is limited to matches against people on your Switch Online friends list. No online ranked system is included in this Reboot Camp, which feels like a misstep on WayForward’s part given the competitive nature of the series and the legally nefarious world of online fan games like Advance Wars By Web.
Overall, despite its shortcomings, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a solid remake of the classic turn-based strategy series. I’m hoping that if the game is successful, a true successor to Advance Wars: Days of Ruin for the DS will be greenlit because the series deserves a new, truly modern entry.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp releases on April 20th, 2023 for $79.98.
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Image credit: Nintendo