What a journey these games have had to launch, with real world events often dictating when they release.
Advance Wars was a spiritual successor to Famicom Wars and was a beloved series on Game Boy Advance that stood among the finest releases on the format. It suits handheld play perfectly, has hours of play, and a surprisingly deep and enjoyable loop that put it alongside the greats in the genre.
Yet time has passed and Nintendo left the franchise dormant despite its ravenous community. Wii and Wii U never quite felt like the right platforms for it, but the incredible success of 3DS did lead many to wonder why it was absent there.
Enter the Switch, a system that could well end up being Nintendo’s greatest experiment and the platform they are best known for. An incredible feat, undoubtedly, but also the perfect hardware for a game like Advance Wars.
And sure enough, it fits like a glove. Even in Docked, the new vivid art style really flourishes and glistens in a way this series has never been able to before. Surely in huge credit to the folks at WayForward who are well known for the glorious Shantae series.
The good news as well is that this Re:Boot remains very much in tact from the original release. Visuals aside, it’s the first two games you remember from the GBA but beautifully modernised with better controls, improved mechanics and a Nintendo stamp of quality.
These games won’t be for everyone, of course. Advance Wars is hard, really tricky and challenging and requires a level of concentration people may not usually expect from Nintendo games. Tactics will often need to be first rate, quickly picking up which units are effective against others, how best to use them and where to strike from.
And as such, there’s real potential people could tap out of this one quickly, around Mission 3 or 4, because once the initial tutorials are over, you’re kind of thrown in at the deep end. But that’s what makes Advance Wars so great, its unforgiving, unrelenting and it really makes you think outside the box.
The base campaign encompasses the first two Advance Wars games, with a pretty much like-for-like recreation of the stories. Interestingly, as well, mechanics in the second game aren’t added to the first with each games’ unique features kept seperate between the two releases.
Often for remakes we see the original game reconfigured to match the more recent release, so this is an interesting shift, but for Black Hole Rising, because the abilities do change the game quite significantly in many respects, it’s easy to see why they’ve been seperated.
And it actually works better for gameplay flow and sustains your interest for longer once you’ve worked through the initial campaign to unlock the other.
Another interesting approach is the first game has to be beaten to unlock the second, but for narrative links, for gameplay and just for general continuity, this is absolutely the best and right way to manage it.
But back to the game itself, you’re fighting a war on all fronts. Initially, it kicks off with you, representing Team Orange Star, fighting against the likes of Green Earth and Blue Moon. You’ll start the game with young Andy, tutored by Nell, and have to make use of tanks, anti-air vehicles, rockets, and even infantry to try and capture buildings and wipe out the enemy from the map.
Eventually, you’ll also add warships and submarines to the mix, and attack copters that can sail through the skies. And these can also be used to fight ground based troops as well, with some vehicles unable to fight against others.
This is where the tactics and understanding of approach come into play as Anti Air vehicles are obviously going to be better suited fighting aerial opponents, and rocket focused weapons can actually reach across land and take out targets at range.
This also affects your positioning, because if you’re in a line of fire then you’re in for a world of pain. But if you’re in the line of fire, stood on a mountain top, or in the weeds of grass, this can actually be life saving and make it harder for the enemy to hit you.
Advance Wars takes the best of the warfare in games like Civilization and Age of Empires and really engineers it in a way that carries an entire game. Especially when it also comes in picking the right general for the job.
See, each character has their own specialist Power which can change the tide of battle. You build up power by passing time in game and defeating other units and with this can then do anything from add increased sniping range to your vehicles, repair every unit on the map and even create a wintery wasteland to make more challenging conditions for certain units.
But the intention, ultimately, is to either wipe out all your enemies on a nice, tiled, almost board
And that perhaps is the difficulty of this particular release, with the new, more Nintendo’ified aesthetic that has absolutely split opinion, the game feels more naturally suited to a much wider audience than before. And the challenge is brutal and clear for all to see, which will make it difficult for anyone without the required patience for it to sit and sink their teeth into the game.
Some might even bemoan the price tag of this one, considering the releases Nintendo has coming up and Metroid Prime Remastered came out at a more impulse buy price range, but there’s a ridiculously generous bunch of content here.
Between the two major campaigns, easily taking you around 40+ hours combined, you can also play multiplayer, be it online or via local, and even craft and share your own maps to play around on. There’s even a shop full of optional extras you can purchase after each mission.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re:Boot Camp is the same great game you knew and loved from the GBA days, somehow better and more relevant than ever, and is such a great fit for the Switch that we’re already eagerly anticipating the other games and maybe future Advance Wars titles that really take advantage of the Switch’s capabilities.
But with a gorgeously redefined soundtrack that just works so well and contributes to an arcade’y strategy feel, an art style that modernises these characters, bringing them to life in new ways, with a stunning opening sequence that reinvigorates the IP, as well as the best campaigns in the series and a ton of long tail support with multiplayer and map curation, this is one of the best value packages on Switch right now.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re:Boot Camp might just find a permanent home on your Switch between its epic, lengthy campaigns, multiplayer variety, and custom maps. Nintendo and Wayforward have set up a release that is incredibly generous, highly enjoyable, while reinvigorating a franchise many thought they may never see again. Brutal difficulty curve aside, there’s no first party game on Nintendo’s lineup more suited for Switch than Advance Wars and if you’re willing to put the time in, you’ll be heavily, heartily rewarded.
+ Lovingly restored and reinvigorated for a new generation
+ Stunning soundtrack and vivid graphics really help this shine
+ Generous bundle of content for the price tag
+ Custom maps and multiplayer may mean it has a permanent home on your Switch
– A really sharp difficulty curve early on that can be offputting
Advance Wars 1+2 Re:Boot Camp is now available on Switch
Code Kindly Provided by Nintendo for Review Purposes
Played on Switch OLED