#487 Advance Wars

Posted: 27th April 2012 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , ,

141st played so far

Genre: Strategy
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

Whilst we have been playing some handheld games recently (like Edge and LocoRoco 2) this is a group of platforms that we tend to neclect in favour of the PC or home consoles. This was noticed by the two of us a hile ago when looking at our statistics and seeing that we were behind on many handhelds. To combat the next two games for the blog are those available exclusively on a handheld.

So what? We play the same platform back-to-back all of the time. Why is this any different? Well in doing this we will also be directly comparing two critically lauded handheld strategy games. I will be taking the lead on the next entry but for now here is 2001’s Advance Wars.

Our Thoughts

That other game does influence your thinking… although with its different goals, we’ll need to see how fair a comparison is. To be fair it is not a fair comparison in retrospect.

Let me first start, then, by explaining that my opinion of this game was slightly driven by me initially playing the game second hand… You see, the game adjusts its difficulty level based on how well you play. Once I started playing, this game had already been beaten… meaning that I was thoroughly wiped in about the fifth or sixth tutorial mission. This game really pulls no punches. However, a quick Google search about deleting previous save files lead us to have a far more rounded gaming experience.

Right then, the usual categories. Sound? Adequate, but little more. Suitable. Graphics? Basic, really, small icons moving around. Some okay cutscenes, but those are simple and repetitive. Aesthetically, nothing to write home about, you could say. Functional.

But you know what? It works. That is what you want here. You’re a commander, directing your troops from high up. Figures you move around – even in battle you barely care.

Even your commander – possibly general on the ground – I’m not sure how the different levels interact – feel… abstract, I suppose. You don’t interact much, it really is all business.

And that’s where the game is good. You fight against armies of similar capabilities and use any tactical advantages you can get – take over cities, stay out of range, get defensive positions on top of hills compared to those on plains or roads. When two units fight, it’s clean – seperate areas, both sides fire, whoever attacks goes first, once both had their turns you see how many people, out of time, each side lost. Go to zero, you’re dead. Lose all your units or your HQ, you lose. Basic simple gameplay, clean, but with an underlying depth that will keep you engaged for a long time.

If I have to mention one downside, it’s a lack of prep – you get given an initial army, but can’t create new armies or advance their capabilities. You have to deal with what you’ve got, with the only customization being your commander who can have different capabilities – heal all your units, slow down the enemies or others – making for a very samey experience. Still, that might actually be a good thing, considering the time you’d need to spend figuring out how to beat them.

One thing that this does well is multi-player. I have very fond memories of a summer back in 2002 playing this with four mates on a series of sunny lunch breaks and things getting very heated (and some cheating may have been involved when people went to the bathroom. True the GBA SP had to be continuously passed from person to person but it was great fun.

Final Thoughts

The older a game is the more it suffers at the hands of recent games that have learnt from their mistakes to make a better product. This game suffers from this in spades anyway but when compared to the next strategy game this pales in comparison in every way… maybe we won’t do this again.

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