It’s beginning to feel like almost every review preamble these days is related in one way, shape or form to nostalgia and bygone eras. So prevalent is the remake, remaster, re-release market that it now makes up at least 20-per-cent of the annual release manifest, 100-per-cent of the time… jokes aside, the business of the Re- world is very real, and proving to be very profitable. But it also serves another purpose which is to give new life to games that might have lived on a different system no longer really accessible, opening older experiences up to entirely new audiences.
Obviously that sentiment brings us to Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, a re-release and something of a remaster of a couple of hand-held classics from the Game Boy Advance era (2001 and 2003, respectively). It’s been 20 years since Advance War 2 released, and while there were other titles in the subsequent years, these two games that took the Wars series out of Japan for the first time are still arguably two of the very best examples of a tactics style game. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re charming to a fault and bite-sized in their delivery of gameplay, making them perfect for pick-up-and-play spurts such as commuting or when you want to keep the kids quiet.
But let’s back up a bit and explain the premise for those of you not across these gems from yesteryear.
The Orange Star Nation (and Army) has its hands full with its aggressive neighbour, the Blue Moon Nation (not the beer), and its military commander or, CO, as they’re known in the series, Olaf. The two nations engage in a number of skirmishes which slowly develops into a world war once other nations get involved. Despite its cute and fluffy presentation and lite-on narrative, it’s hard not to draw some real-world parallels playing the games freshly again. To the point of scary poignancy at times. But these are just that: games. Though at times the mood and actions of any of the game’s COs and the player can be viewed as quite dark, such is the nature of war.
"Infantry, for example, are the frontline fighters and need to be adjacent to the enemy unit in order to open fire, while Artillery stays far behind the front but can attack as a ranged unit, and be quite devastating...”
You skirmish in gridded maps in a turn-based setup not at all dissimilar to many other tactics games, specifically Ninty’s other popular property, Fire Emblem. Different units obviously feature different movement, range and purpose. Infantry, for example, are the frontline fighters and need to be adjacent to the enemy unit in order to open fire, while Artillery stays far behind the front but can attack as a ranged unit, and be quite devastating.
Each map also features neutral buildings either side can attempt to conquer and own. Once you’ve claimed one of these it bolsters your supply lines and overall income. See, pretty dark.
Of course it’s not at all graphic and is as cute as war can be, really (what an odd sentence to write). And as you progress through the game you gain more units, maps become larger and more complex and before you know it you’re fighting from land, air and sea across challenging terrain with unique conditions that have you thinking as tactically as you can, while also having to make very real decisions in order to win the day (A lot of which is about sacrificing units to gain incremental bits of ground.) And at the end of each battle, you’re awarded with a ranking based on how you’ve performed with an S rank being the highest and an unlikely E the lowest (if you’re getting Es, you might need to rethink how you’re going about it).
And that’s war, in a nutshell.
As You Were
As this is a mashup of the first two GBA titles, there’s a smooth carryover from one to the next, and you don’t actually have access to the second game until after completing enough of the first game. In AW2 OG, the game was a much more open affair and that remains true here. In fact, in the Campaign aspect Re-Boot Camp is where most of the re-release/remaster effort has gone into, which is obviously the meat and potatoes of the experience.
There’s a bit of voice-acting that has come into Re-Boot Camp which is a nice addition, while the games’ animations and powers have all been given a nice facelift. Advance Wars was always a low-fi experience anyway, so anything done here to take advantage of the Switch and more modern tech is obviously a bonus, but the team at Wayforward
who handled update duties hasn’t gone too over the top, which is actually a wise decision, allowing the charm of the original releases to continue to shine through here.
"There’s also a new Casual mode which is likely a nice addition for youngsters or newcomers looking only to coast through the game (though I wouldn’t understand the point of that)...”
Alongside the game’s Campaign, which across both games is hours upon hours of content that escalates in challenge the deeper into the game you get, there’s also a new Casual mode which is likely a nice addition for youngsters or newcomers looking only to coast through the game (though I wouldn’t understand the point of that). There’s also multiplayer and the War Room and the Design Room to create your own maps -- all of which were in the original. There’s a bit of a missed opportunity overall with online play, which is fairly limited but given this is an update of offline games from a while back where the meat of it all is Campaign, we kind of weren’t expecting a lot anyway.
Which leaves this as more of an updated trip down memory lane than an entirely new thing. But we’re okay with that. And the first two games -- the second in particular -- were simply stellar and near perfect for the era and platform they were on, so it’s hard to overly fault the experience here. And there’s a stack of replayability which makes for the best point of recommendation, because it really is hard to fault the base product.
So at the end of the day, for what EB Games is peddling at $80-odd AUD (and for what you can get through the Nintendo eShop at the same price), you’re getting two games with a decent amount of new lacker, that will entertain for more than your run-of-the-mill other tactics game. The creation suite isn’t as robust as it could have been given this is something of a ‘remaster’, while the online side of things is fairly barebones, which does hurt it in an overall sense, but if you want a challenge and don’t mind the cutesy aspect of it all, it’s hard to look past the game and its Campaign mode, bolstered by its peripheral offerings.
Delayed a bunch and certainly long-in-the-tooth in terms of its heritage, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is still worth signing up and serving for.