I first encountered Advance Wars when I was in seventh grade. It was summer vacation, and my mom and step dad (Greg) were going to visit Maine for a week. Greg’s parents vacationed there during the summer months at their cabin located right on the ocean. It doesn’t sound too bad except Greg’s children would be coming too. My mom and Greg were married the year before so I had only met Greg’s children once before. I grew up living with my dad, and the weekends I spent with my mom were on a different schedule then Greg’s children so I never saw them. We all were similar ages, I was 13, Greg’s know-it-all bossy daughter Shelly was 14 and his son Adam was 12. Needless to say I wasn’t thrilled that they were tagging along so my mom bribed me to behave by buying me the new GameBoy SP and Pokemon Ruby to go along with it.
While driving through Maine’s mountains and scenery (very beautiful just not to a 13-year old) I had my nosed buried into Pokemon. Adam was in the back seat with me and he was playing his GameBoy Advance. (HAHA, I had the brand new GameBoy SP and he didn’t) Trying to drown out Shelly’s smart ass remarks, (She never shut up) I noticed Adam was pretty focused into his game. Thinking he must be playing Pokemon, (Why else would you play a GameBoy) I casually looked over to his screen and instead of seeing Pokemon battling each other, I saw armies battling each other.
The graphics were pretty good so they kept my attention. Adam explained to me that it was a strategy turn-based game. He let me try out the tutorial part of the game and it was pretty hard to grasp. Controlling armies, navies, air forces, and many other types of weapons was very confusing for a 13-year old. Now go ahead and point out the fact that my younger step brother understood the game and I didn’t. But Adam was some type of freak, and by freak I mean super genius who went on to get a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Michigan and is currently working on his Master’s at MIT. (I know what a loser)
Now that I’m all grown up, I decided to give Advance Wars another shot.
Advance Wars, to put it simply is a turn-based strategy war game. A HARDCORE, turn-based strategy war game. This game is so hardcore with its strategy that the game won’t let you start the campaign mode unless you complete the tutorial mode and even that is not easy.
To put the strategy into context, there are a ton of units to control. Each unit has a certain amount of health points, each unit can travel a different number of squares, and each unit can cross a certain terrain.
The units are infantry (regular soldiers) mechs, (soldiers with bazookas) transporters, small tanks, medium tanks, recon jeeps, artillery, rockets and missiles. That’s just the ground units!
Sea units include battleships, submarines, loaders and cruisers. Air units include fighters, bombers, transport helicopters and battle copters.
It gets crazy from here as each one of those units can attack certain things, cross certain terrain, capture certain areas, or carry certain units. You can capture cities to make money and you use the money to build bases, airports, and ports, which you use to build new units.
After playing through the tutorial I realized this is no children’s game. (And realized that my step brother Adam is an even bigger loser for being so smart at 12)
The concept of the campaign is the only simple thing about the game. Cross the map, enter battles, survive and repeat Simply, yes?
There are five armies in Advance Wars. Orange Star, Yellow Comet, Green Earth, Blue Moon and Black Hole. Each army has a few commanding officers and each officer has a special power. Special powers include capturing cities faster, moving units further than normal, repairing units, and mass destruction.
Seriously, this is not a kid’s game. Think of it as chess on crystal meth.
You command Orange Star along with your commanding officers Andy, Max and Sami that you gain throughout the game.
SPOILER ALERT: The plot is kind of weak. The Yellow Comet, Green Earth and Blue Moon all attack your army because they are convinced that Andy attacked them first. Turns out the Black Hole army who you don’t fight until the last battle cloned Andy and had the clones attack the other armies to confuse and weaken them. The mastermind behind it all is Sturm.
Come to think of it Sturm looks like a blow dryer tipped on its side. When he gets excited or upset smoke comes out of the hole. I know, weird.
I was able to beat the first 25 missions or so on my own. Most of the times I could win the battle on the first try but on a few occasions I had to replay the mission.
During the last four missions the game was so hard that I had to use a walkthrough. I know that’s not satisfying but it was highly needed. After realizing that they have been tricked, the four armies unit to attack Sturm and the Black Hole army. Although I will brag that the final battle I didn’t have to use a strategy guide and won on the first try. The battle lasted over three hours. No joke. Oh, and once you beat the game you unlock the campaign again only it’s set on Advance. I didn’t even attempt to try this mode as the normal mode was hard enough. I assume only blood thirsty war lords would play on this setting. If this game was around during the late 1930s, it probably could of prevented World War II if Hitler had a copy of it to get his aggression out.
Overall, this game took me around 50 hours to beat. It’s perfect for the GameBoy and had pretty good graphics for its time in 2001. It has a pretty good soundtrack too. It’s catchy and upbeat which goes along with the cartoon side of war. You don’t get graphic deaths and mass body graves but you do see explosions, ships sinking, soldiers shooting etc…
I only have two small problems with the game. One, I would have enjoyed more of a story. The game had around 10 really interesting characters with cool designs and personalities. I wish they would have increased the story with each character and gave them interests or reasons for fighting in the war. They are really well drawn characters with colorful designs that make them pop from the screen. The other problem I had is how hard this game is! If a 25 year old who holds a bachelor degree struggles to get past some battles then how in the world is a 12-year old going to beat the game, let alone the tutorial?
The game does do a lot of things well though. It’s extremely addicting once you understand how the game works, and would be super fun to play with a friend. You can link your GameBoys up to battle each other!
This is a great strategy turn-based game for your GameBoy collection. I highly recommend it and give it a 9.3 out of 10. It holds up very well even after over 10 years of its original release. I played it on an emulator, so if you don’t have the original cartridge you can do that, or just this year it was released with updated graphics for the Wii-U library available for download!
After playing Advance Wars, I actually feel smarter. It was like playing chess and really made me strain my brain, thinking about not only my next five moves but my opponents as well. I’d like to think I am now a warlord capable of defeating any army or foe. (Except my step brother, even if he was 12)