Advance Wars: Dual Strike Reader Review
Most GBA owners are familiar with Advance Wars. The previous two games proved themselves not only to be incredibly popular, but also incredibly good. Some argue that certain things in the sequel weren't quite as good as the original, and it's a fair criticism to make, after all, the original was nigh on perfect. It's a game which stayed firmly in the cart slot of many GBA owners for months at a time, no mean feat when there are plenty of other games worthy of playing. Advance Wars Dual Strike looks like it's going to be one of the crowning glories in the new era of the DS handheld, and it deserves to be recognised as such.
There is an incredible amount of depth to this game, and given it's cute looks and simple interface, this is something that may come as quite a shock to anyone new to the series. The tutorial in the first game was overly drawn out, holding your hand through every tiny thing, so much so you ended up feeling patronised. This time around, the tutorial gets right into the nitty gritty much faster, and is over much sooner, so you can get straight on with those large scale battles you've been looking forward to. There's no need to go into the story of the game, as it's as twee as ever. Thing is though, you will still enjoy the little cut scenes and banter between the opposing CO's. The game opens with a neat little intro and I never fail to be impressed with the DS when I take a step back, and see what it is that it's actually doing. When we get past the impressive intro, we take a look at the options to be played around with.
Combat allows you to play the game in real time. You have a pot of money and you can buy certain units. Once you start the game you use the d-pad to control your unit, moving it around in real time, and you click the b-button to fire. It's dead simple, and a right laugh to boot. It's weird playing on maps with this, but it brings some welcome relief to the brain sapping strategy of the main campaign. If your unit gets killed, simply select another one and go track down the enemy. You can capture enemy buildings by resting on them, and restore your HP by resting on your own. But while your sitting there the enemy will come gunning for you! When you capture a factory, whichever unit you used to capture it is added to your inventory, a nice little bonus if you like. It's mad and hectic, and games last just a minute or two as you manically race around the map chasing your enemy.
Survival mode is the next one up for scrutiny. There are 3 sub modes to this, Money, Turn and Time. Each mode puts a restriction on winning the map in question. Playing this mode really turns on the pressure, making things even more difficult than they already are. If you think you are good at Advance Wars, this is the mode to play. Expect your arse to be handed to you on a plate many times during the course of getting to grips with this mode.
The War Room allows you to set up battles how you want to. This is a great mode for practicing your strategies. There are quite a few variables for you to play around with, and if you think you are the bees knees, you can even stack things against yourself. It is fun, but it's more one to use if you are struggling with the main campaign.
In the Versus mode, up to four people can play against each other on the same DS. No need for wireless, or extra games and hardware, so if you find yourself on a long trip with your mates and only one DS, this should help you sort out the ultimate Advance Wars king. Points earned in Campaign mode and in the War Room will allow you to buy extra maps that can be used in this mode. It's a thoughtful extra allowing friends to join in on just the one DS, and that's no bad thing.
The main Campaign mode is where it's really at though, and it's where you will spend most of your time. You'll be battling away with the various CO's, getting to learn their quirks, and how best to use them. Each CO has powers that can be utilised throughout battle, and these can often turn the tables on your enenmy. Some of the powers are offensive based, while some may just net you loads of cash. Dual Strike allows you to select two Commanders for a single battle, which means you can mix and match till your hearts content, and come up with the perfect partnership. Battles can now rage on two fronts (the top AND the bottom screen), and you can switch between them easily at any time. The AI is certainly smart, and I've been on the receiving end of a good hiding many times already.
Of course, Intelligent Systems have taken full advantage of the DS's wireless capability, allowing up to 8 players to wage war until their hearts are content. If any of your friends end up with this, I can see the sparks already starting to fly. Just try not to punch anyone, ok?
Advance Wars isn't something to play if you just fancy a quick game. Maps can take well over an hour to complete, and can have you tearing your hair out at times. It always comes down to strategy though, if you think things through, you should come out on top. Nothing is guaranteed in war though, so do expect some defeats until you find your feet. The graphics aren't really a step up from what has gone before, in fact they are probably a smidgeon less clear, but that's not a major criticism by any means. The sound works well through the DS's stereo speakers, though headphones made things sound even better. The stylus control is nigh on perfect, but you won't want to use that on a bumpy bus journey, otherwise you will be sending units to all the wrong places, and making a myriad of bad decisions. Luckily, you can use the d-pad at times like those.
I'm delighted with Advance Wars Dual Strike, it's everything I hoped it would be and more. It uses the DS very well to improve on the previous games, and you'll wonder how you ever managed before without the stylus. It's one of those games whose addictive qualities are second to none, and this simply wouldn't work to any level of degree on any other handheld, the DS is the perfect home for it.
9 / 10