Advance Wars 2, the sequel to the excellent Advance Wars improves on its forerunner in almost every way. Where it doesn’t improve, it certainly doesn’t degrade the experience. In fact, I’d go as far to say that Advance Wars 2 is the best game on the GBA.
Best game on the GBA then, that’s certainly a way to start a review and for you dear readers, I shall elaborate on why I feel so strongly about this game. It’s all about the gameplay. Advance Wars 2 has more gameplay excellence than most games can even dream of having. The campaign beautifully eases you into the game in a way that all Nintendo games seem to do perfectly, at a pace so calculated that you won’t miss a thing and you’ll be raring to use all of those new skills you’ve learned in almost an instant.
There isn’t a single unit that feels out of place or unbalanced in this great little turn-based strategy game. The single new unit introduced, the Neo Tank, adds the muscle that the original Advance Wars was missing and as a direct result suddenly alters battles in a hugely fierce threat inducing way, as all firepower is directed towards this new destructive monstrosity.
The CO’s have also been bolstered with around seven new additions. If you’ve played Advance Wars before you’ll know that CO selection is of critical importance before a mission, with different CO’s powers effecting play. Colin for example can buy troops in at a cheaper price than the other CO’s, but his troops are all significantly weaker. Another CO related addition is the inclusion of a new super move for the CO. When the power bar, which fills through violence, gets to the half way point, or less in some cases, a CO can do a special move that will bolster his or her chances of success in some fashion. Andy may use repair on his troops, healing a point of damage on all of them, whereas if he waits until his power is at max, Hyper Upgrade will repair all troops by two points and give them extra power for that turn.
The Advance Wars single player is where most players will spend their time and this is perhaps the most in depth single player experienced offered by a turn-based-strategy on any system. The campaign is huge, taking weeks to play through all the missions. Thankfully, if you don’t want to do everything, you can even choose your route through the game to a limited degree, avoiding some of the harder missions. Furthermore, on the map screen you’re helpfully given the basic details of each mission, i.e. characters available, mission difficulty, etc. You’re even treated to a nice little bit of character banter and story between and after missions. The story is never going to win awards, but there are certainly some amusing parts that will at least result in a chuckle. And then of course there’s a new campaign in the ‘Hard’ mode with all new maps.
Away from the Campaign there’s also the War Room, wherein you can play through a series of different maps from the campaign just for fun. You can buy new maps from a shop if you’re getting bored of the ones that are already available. Rather excellently you get ranked for each performance, exactly as in the campaign, so you can play through each mission in a bid to get a better rank and for more money to buy new maps and CO’s and such. After the campaign, you’ll spend most of your time here.
The Advance Wars 2 multiplayer experience is also excellent. Because of the turn based nature of the game you only ever need one GBA and a single cartridge. There are modes catering for multiple cartridge link-up as well as single cart link up, but there really isn’t any point beyond having your own GBA and game and a blatant hate for pass-the-parcel.
There are approximately a billion maps to play in multiplayer, give or take a few. These maps cater for all needs, 2, 3, 4 players, standing armies, etc and I doubt that you’ll be getting bored of these any time soon. Again you can also buy new maps from the shop to increase the depth of the experience yet further. The only real problem for multiplayer is when you’re waiting around for your friend to do something. Whereas a CPU player will make all of their moves instantly, a human will not and you’ll find yourself twiddling your thumbs or doing a dance or anything else to alleviate the boredom. This isn’t really the games fault I suppose, but it’s still something to be aware of, especially in long 3 hour battles.
The graphics aren’t awesome and the sound suffers from the standard GBA sound syndrome, but there really isn’t anything negative to say about this game. You’ll never lose troops on the map, you can scroll around at excellent speeds and the informative list boxes tell you all of your troops’ strengths and weakness, more than making up for the unspectacular nature of the 2D sprites.
Perhaps if you don’t like turn-based-strategy games then you won’t warm to Advance Wars 2, but when I played the original I wasn’t a particular fan of the genre and it certainly won me over. If you own a GBA you really should own this game.