Review by awesomephatman

"Advance Wars 2 enters the--wait, this is the third one?"

When Advance Wars hit the GBA, critics and gamers alike wallowed in its creativity of a cartoony strategy war game for a portable system. It was fun, deep, and most of all, addictive. Advance Wars 2 came not too soon afterwards. It too was highly addictive, perhaps even more so. But for the most part, it stuck to the original AW formula. It added more maps, units, and new campaign. It basically employed the same template but with different fillings.

Insert Dual Strike. As a brand new entry on the Nintendo DS in the Advance Wars series, Dual Strike had the potential to do something completely unique, given the system's unique functionalities. But the features that take advantage of the system feel for the most part, tacked on.

The best and worst aspect about this Advance Wars is its focus on adding more of what vets know and love. While the new content is certainly appreciated and definitely worthy of sinking your teeth into, it would be nice to see some worthwhile innovations added to the series. And while there are several innovations, almost none of them are worthwhile.

The game's namesake, Dual Strike, is the title of one of the new innovations. You now have the ability to bring in two COs to command your army, rotating them as you see fit between turns. If you use just one CO the whole battle, his/her star power will be built up more than the other CO's. And if you want to unleash the most devastating attack in the game, you'll need to have both COs meters filled. When you do get both meters filled, you can let loose the aptly named Dual Strike. This executes both COs super powers combined simultaneously, while also letting you move twice in the same round. This new addition to the series is as powerful as it sounds, and as long as you're the first commander to inflict this carnage, you're likely to win (at least when it comes to multiplayer/versus battles). At first, this feature is fun, until you realize how much it unbalances the gameplay. Thankfully, you have the option of using just one CO in versus and multiplayer modes.

The next innovation is the dual-screened battle. Tasking you to switch between two fronts of war and moving units to and from each battle, this is less exciting than it sounds. You're essentially just playing two simple maps at once. In all, this dual battle aspect of the game feels repetitive and bland. Seemingly added only to add another bullet point on the back of the box, these dual-screened sections in the campaign break up the complex (read: interesting) action. Thankfully, these segments don't appear too often and are easy enough to breeze through. Another DS-specific feature, touch screen control, is frustratingly inaccurate to use, almost forcing you to resort to the d-pad and button controls.

But it's not all bad. The extra real estate that two screens offer allows for easy viewing of terrain and unit stats, which is great for people new to the series and simply decent for returning players. Also, it's much easier to construct custom maps using the touch-screen—when you don't need to be precise, at least.

There's also a new mode, dubbed Combat. Think real-time. Think simple. Think aim and fire. Think monotonously mind-rotting. You won't invest much time here. No, most likely you'll just keep having fun creating maps, versing the A.I., spending time in War Room, and battling your friends. Just like you always did in Advance Wars.

Not that that's a particularly bad thing. As any Advance Wars fan can attest, the core gameplay is still ridiculously addictive and fast-paced. And at least the new content, with the exception of the most of the maps, satisfies.

Seven new units enter the Advance Wars fray, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. However, other than the three listed here, they are all fairly insignificant to your core strategy. You may not even use the Piperunner outside of campaign mode once, considering its hefty price and specialty purpose. And some units are just variations on existing ones, such as the Black Boat, which, in addition to being able to carry two infantry types, can repair and resupply adjacent units. You have the Megatank, which moves incredibly slowly but delivers a powerful punch to the enemy. There's the stealth fighter, which can hide anywhere in the sky, then strike ground or air targets (but its low fuel and mediocre firepower don't do much to warrant its price tag). By far the best new unit (or item, if you will) is a slime-like goop that can swallow any unit it moves upon. It takes a tremendous amount of firepower to destroy one, so one's best bet is to simply avoid it. In one mission, your whole goal is avoiding an army of blobs as you attempt to complete an objective.

And aside from that mission, the whole campaign in Dual Strike is pretty underwhelming. Other than progressing just to see a new unit or character, which goes a long way to spice up the gameplay, there really isn't much incentive to keep playing. Advance Wars 2's unparalleled level variety is gone, replaced with fairly cookie-cutter missions and those insipid dual-screen battles mentioned earlier.

In conclusion, the whole concept and gameplay is still highly addicting. It's just a shame Intelligent Systems failed to execute when it came to the new ideas. But for gamers new to the AW franchise, or just those wanting to play more of the same, this is a value-packed pick-up. Otherwise, you may want to pass if you're looking for a completely new entry that takes advantageous use of the DS hardware in effective ways.

Pros
+ More of the same

Cons
- More of the same
- Throwaway new features
- Samey visuals
- Where's the online play?

Bottom Line: If Advance Wars was Advance Wars 1, then Advance Wars 2 is Advance Wars 1.5. And this one is 2.0.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 05/29/07


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