Battalion Wars offered a lot on the GameCube but didn't quite fulfil its potential as a multi-fronted war-time action game. With the sequel improvements have certainly been made, an online multiplayer mode added and tight Wii controls implemented, but sadly it still falls short of being a classic. Still, with a heavy dose of political commentary and some impressive presentation, it's one of the Wii's most entertaining action titles.
The game focuses on two wars: one set in the past and the other the present day, but both revolve around the building and use of weapons of mass destruction. Six fictional nations fight in these wars, each bearing a remarkable similarity to a real life nation. Take the Solar Empire for example. While not explicitly stated, it's obvious that this high-tech nation is intended to be Japan. Then you've got the Anglo Isles, a faction certainly intended to be the UK - almost certainly confirmed when the faction is fooled by the game's superpower to invade another nation in search of weapons of mass destruction. This political undercurrent runs throughout the game, and sits well against the almost cartoon-like visuals.
Over the campaign you'll get to take command of various nations and use their arsenal of weapons and vehicles. While BWII looks like a straight up action game from the outset, it's really a far more tactical affair, with your troops relying on your command to stay alive. You can take direct control of all the units in the game, be it infantry, tanks, helicopters, anti-air units or whatever else is at your disposal. This part of the game does play like a standard action game, with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck doing a great job - partially thanks to a handy lock-on feature.
While you're going commando and taking on enemies like John Rambo, you'll also need the support of your army. All commands are issued by selecting a unit type with the d-pad and then clicking on the target you want them to attack. Although remarkably simple, it does have its limitations. For example, if you want your army to retreat after taking a beating, you first have to retreat and then order them to follow you. It can also get a little fiddly in the heat of battle, as you scramble to select the right unit for the job - each unit specialises in taking out another unit type, although you can usually get through most battles by simply commanding your whole army to attack.
New to BWII are naval units. War can now be fought on land, in the air and at sea, with battleships, frigates, submarines, dreadnaughts and transports at your command. As with all the other units, each has its own special uses. For example, the sub can obviously dive beneath the surface, making them invisible to all but other subs and frigates. Tactically the naval units add some more options, but it's really more about making the campaign more enjoyable and diverse.
Battalion Wars 2 isn't nearly as hard as the original game, with most skirmishes being more than manageable, as they build up to a larger, final confrontation. Fans of the first game may well find that the increased number of smaller battles results in less enjoyment, but most people should find the challenge builds up nicely and doesn't become overwhelming too soon.
On top of the single-player campaign BWII includes online multiplayer, both competitive and cooperative. The co-op missions see you and a partner each controlling an army, with key units split between the two. Without the complete roster of units at your disposal you'll need to work with your partner in order to take on the enemy. More appealing to most players will be the competitive head to head multiplayer, which pits one player against another either in skirmish or assault game types. Skirmishes are little more than straight up deathmatches, but assault throws in some objectives, making for some more entertaining matches. It's somewhat disappointing that the game only supports two players online and that there's very little in the way of customisation, but it's still far better than what we get in the majority of Wii games.
Lots of Wii games don't show the processing power superiority the console has over the GameCube, but Battalion Wars 2 looks considerably better than the original. At times there's an awful lot going on and the game manages to maintain a steady frame rate. BWII looks bolder, more colourful and feels solid - which can't be said for many games released for Nintendo's latest console. With some solid voice work and decent cutscenes Kuju really did a good job with the presentation.
As an action game spin-off from the highly tactical Advance Wars series, Battalion Wars II does its job, but a number of issues with the depth of the command system and the ability to rely on brute force over tactics let the game down. If you're after a fun, action packed Wii game that isn't too taxing on the brain cells, give Battalion Wars 2 a try, but don't expect the finished article.