Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp Review - Advanced Tactics For A New Generation
When I was a kid, I was fascinated not only by my older brother’s Lego collection, but also how he chose to play with it. As I would race down the hallway by his bedroom on a weekend, my periphery was interrupted by several Lego baseplates that he would assemble on his bed, littered with constructs of military bases, small vehicles, and even smaller soldiers or “hero units”. Kneeling next to his bed, my brother would spend afternoons progressing short narratives through battle as astronauts or ninjas fought each other.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the primary criticism that has already been lobbed at Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, as I take this ridiculous idea and toss it aside. As expected, the remake remains faithful as other Nintendo games that received shiny upgrades from a Game Boy console to its high-powered multi-modal Switch cousin. This release includes upgrades to two Game Boy Advance games – Advance Wars and Black Hole Rising – that revise character artwork and animations, visual map and unit designs, and voice acting of commanding officers. It’s bright and shiny and a little bit like a cozy cartoon series, and apparently that “toy-like” remake is doing a disservice to the memory of a cult classic Game Boy Advance game with expert sprite work that complimented its complex gameplay.
You have never seen a 9 year old play Lego next to his bed. You know nothing of the strategy, the legacy, the history of the skirmishes that occurred on square Lego base boards. You believe there is a massive disconnect between the complex lore of a Tactics Ogre and the cartoonish antics of a 17-year-old spanner plebe trying to take down Santa Claus’ ginger cousin with toy soldiers? Well, you could not be more incorrect and naive if you tried.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp may look the part of a kid’s bedroom, but it treats the player like an adult in the best possible way; It respects you, your time, and your current personal moment on a strategy gaming journey. It’s a refreshing approach and perfect for the Nintendo Switch.
For those of us who are newcomers to the series, there are already delightful improvements that seem absent in recent games in the strategy genre, and most of these are just through design simplicity. Allowing you to select a Casual or Classic mode, the first campaign starts off with Siri’s bestie Nell walking you through a tutorial mode that was a blissful blink-and-you’ll-miss-it initiation lasting about 15 minutes across three maps. It further acknowledges our own ability to reflect on our tactical knowledge by offering additional unit introductions at an incremental pace – embedding information within separate missions, and permitting us to skip explanations entirely. Animations during missions can be turned on, filtered to just your turn or opponent turns, or switched off entirely to speed up gameplay, and these settings can be changed easily at any time.
The games remain faithful to the original campaign and tactics, with each mission providing an array of land, sea and air units with varying strengths and weaknesses. Maps are diverse with opportunities for small gains on terrains or utilisation of fog of war. I enjoyed the frequent diversity of unit management on each mission – some missions may relegate you to the units on the map, encouraging some conservative play, while others afford you income and bases to amass an army that suits your playstyle or the strengths of your commanding officer. There was also diversity in the victory conditions, with even the standard maps allowing you the option to obliterate the army or capture the HQ and the flexibility to choose a goal that is enjoyable to you.
The commanding officers have their own powers that can buff or heal your units or hinder your opponent’s progress through debuffs or terrain adaptation. I found myself being too conservative with using my commanding officers’ powers during gameplay, and would advise new players to completely do the opposite of what I did. As soon as a power is available from your CO, use it with reckless abandon, as they last through your turn and your opponents’ turn before reverting back to normal.
This game is so beautifully native to the Switch and its hibernation settings that you can progress through each mission in small increments without significant time investment during each play session. I yielded more often on harder missions, and Nell provided helpful hints for me to consider next time I wanted to return to that mission for another go.
There are options for replay outside of the two original games once you have made your way through the campaigns, including a War Room to challenge yourself further, local and online Versus modes, and the ability to design your own maps to play against others. For those of us who enjoy gaming alone, it is great to have options that are not only embedded in the campaign.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp may not have the character investment of Nintendo’s recent strategy darlings in the Fire Emblem or Tactics Ogre series, but it is a solid strategy series that has been reintroduced for a new generation. It has the approachability and imagination of the toybox. WayForward have done an amazing job and I am a happy new fan of the series and cannot wait to play and replay at my pace.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a review code kindly provided by Nintendo Australia.