I remember when André was telling me about this ‘great new game on the Gameboy Color’ I had to get. After a while, I moseyed on down to the store, picked it up, and glued my hands to the GBC. I couldn’t let it go. Warlocked was the game to play. Now, a little over a year later, another great portable strategy game is released into my waiting hands. It doesn’t disappoint. Apparently all the strategy games on handhelds (in the states at least, I still need to play Napoleon) are best buys. All two of them.
Apparently at one time or another there was a game called Wars that went on a couple different systems. Most unbeknownst to me. So when I saw Advance Wars, I didn’t know what to expect, till I played it. This was quite a few months ago, at E3. The game was an absolute blast. I knew I had to get it when it was released. Well, I did. I sold some other older games to get it, but I’m incredibly satisfied that I did. This game is the best title to hit the Gameboy Advance since Super Dodge Ball Advance, or Castlevania. In fact, I may just have to go as far as to say it’s better than the both of them. I’m giving this game a perfect ten, because it completely deserves it. I love this game. It’s as simple as that.
And that’s the overworld. Once you get into a fight, you have an equally beautiful (if not more so) fighting sequence. Each unit has it’s own little sprite used to mark it’s location on the map, and a much larger one for fighting. You’ll have huge tanks attacking little infantry, helicopters attacking boats, it’s all so cool. Just…so cool…
Anyway, the battles. Included are somewhere in the neighborhood of ten different backgrounds depending on where you are when you fire, and where the targeted enemy is. There are woods, cities, bases, construction factories, (nicely done on the infantry aiming downward when they fire from a mountain), and they all look grand. Not to mention they all change when it’s snowy, or something. Not that you’ll be looking at them much, of course, cause of all the numbers and units you need to be paying attention to, but that’s all explained in gameplay, a little further below.
Finally, the little things that are just awesome. Each commanding officer has their own few mug shots for text, and the emotion displayed during it. They also have different reactions to the fight in progress. Let’s use Andy as an example, cause you fight with him first in campaign mode. If a unit is fired upon, and badly damaged, Andy’ll frown. If the unit has been destroyed, he’ll have an animation for it. If it retaliates, and holds it’s own, or hurts the offending enemy more, he’ll have a big smile on. If he destroys a unit, he’ll have a little “V” sign on his hand for victory, that’s an animation too. And this goes for all nine COs. Number two small thing is the fact that even if two jet fighters verse each other, they’ll look different depending on what side you’re on: Orange Star, Green Earth, Yellow Comet, or Blue Moon.
The very last thing I have to mention is the ability of each CO. They can do various things, depending on who you’re using. Like Max makes your units stronger, while Andy repairs them, and Sami conquers faster. They all have a little animation on the screen, while it says what they’re doing, and has a picture of them in quite the anime way. Check out Andy’s (yeah, I know I’m picking on the little guy, but he’s my favorite besides Eagle).
Ok, so the music rocks, what about the sound effects, you say? Yeah, they kick ass too. Each type of unit doesn’t have a unique sound when it moves, but most do. Like all boats sound the same, infantry/mech, and the two types of tanks. Still that’s quite impressive. They also have this little ditty for when you use a COs power. It’s short, but sweet.
Finally, the firing and explosions. Depending on what unit you use to fire with, the sound effect is a different. If you use a bomber, it’ll have a whistling sound, and a large explosion on whatever target it hit. For a fighter, it has the sound of launching missiles. A battleship: their booming guns. Infantry: machine guns. Mech: bazookas firing (if they’re against a tank of some ground based vehicle, or they ruin out of ammo, otherwise it’s a machine gun). The explosion of some trucks with rockets in the back has never sounded so sweet until you’ve lived through their raining hell of fire. Never felt so sweet…raining hell of fire…blew ‘em up…I blew the bastards up…
So there you have it. Audio. One very complete set. But it’s hard to write much about it when you’re never hearing it, but rather concentrating on the gameplay.
Step 1: Field Training
Anyway, there are 18 different units, each with their own strengths, and weaknesses. There’s things like infantry which are needed to conquer towns, which give you money to build stuff, and bases, which are a shortcut to winning. If you capture an enemy’s base, you automatically win. The alternative is defeating all units, or in some cases lasting a given amount of time, and/or capturing a specified number of bases/cities. Back to units, Medium Tanks can defeat practically anything on the ground it’s next to, but it can’t hit aircraft, and most ships. It’s like a great deal of other units in that it has to be right next to something to attack it. When it does, you’re treated to a lovely little sequence of fighting. You also have things like Artillery and rockets, which can reach far out, but not close by. Then there are bombers, copters, and jets that all fall victim to Anti-air turrets or missile units. Jets can fight only other air vehicles, and copters can fight anything but ships and bombers. Bombers can completely wreak havoc on ground units, but they have zero defense against jets. See how confusing it can get? I didn’t even get into all the ground or sea units, either. Or how far each can move. Each unit can move different distances, like 5 spaces a turn for a Medium Tank, while a small tank is at 8, and infantry at three, Mech at 2, etc. Once you get in the game, though, it’s pretty simple (mainly cause of field training).
There’s also using the terrain to your own advantage. Mountains give you four stars of defense, while forests two, fields one, bridges zero, towns three, etc. Sometimes they’re key to winning.
The final thing to mention is Fog of War. And that each time you both move, a day goes by. Right. Now Fog of War. While difficult, it adds a lot to the gameplay. The entire region is fogged, and each unit can only see so far (it differs from unit to unit, awesome!!!). The really cool thing is that if you put an infantry unit on a mountain, his view range is greatly expanded. And just cause you can see the enemy doesn’t mean he can see you. The enemy is also hampered by it. Unfortunately, he takes the wait-to-be-attacked method. C’est la vie. The last thing about it is that you can hide your units in forests, and boat units in reefs, so the enemy can’t see your unit unless he’s right next to it. Too late.
Step 2: Campaign Mode
Anyway, the plot just expands from there. Over time, some more COs join you (Max and Sami), giving you the option to choose between them for different missions. And even if this game sounds fun now, just wait till you play it. 115 maps ready to be conquered.
Step 3: Single Pak Link
Of course, that’s not to say that there’s no challenge. It goes from move-fire-finish, to downright impossible. The AI is nothing to laugh at, and usually can predict my moves. It’s always a sucker for a supply unit over anything else, though. The one thing I’ve learned.
Step 4: Create Map
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