Review by Leo0820

"Advance Wars and the DS make a great Tag Team. Too easy, though."

Advance Wars: Dual Strike for the Nintendo DS is the third Advance wars title in the series to hit North American shores, and just like it's two predecessors, it doesn't disappoint.

Advance wars is a turn based, unit level, modern warfare strategy game that puts you in command of various armies and Commanding Officers(COs) in order to defeat and shadowy and evil enemy army, whose schemes have spanned the series.

Story:

The game takes place on the continent of Omega Land, which has just been invaded by the Black Hole army which terrorized Cosmo Land and Macro Land in the first two Advance Wars games. You come upon two new Orange Star COs(who now work for an amalgamation of the four nation-states of AW1&2 known as the Allied Nations) who are waiting patiently for reinforcements to arrive to drive off the invaders. The game unfolds as more and more of your old friends from AW1 and 2 show up to lend a hand against Black Hole COs both old and new. It seems that Black Hole has a dastardly plot to rule the world once and for all, and with Lord Sturm defeated a new, mysterious, leader has risen to power.

The story is basic Advance Wars fare. You command the COs of the newly formed Allied Nations and their armies against the evil Black Hole army which has invaded a new continent. The first few missions of the story are training missions for new players or those who might be a bit rusty since the last AW game they played. After the training is done, the story kicks into full swing as you uncover Black Hole's plot, unmask their new leader and bring peace to the world. Again.

It's a little thin, very predictable and the CO dialogue is a tad corny at times but it's what you generally expect from a title like this, and it doesn't stray from the overall atmosphere of the series. 6/10.

Graphics:

The graphics to this game look almost identical to those of the first two. There is only one slight change and that is that the maps on the touch screen where most combat takes place are tilted ever so slightly. Things at the top of the screen are further away, while the bottom of the screen looks a little closer. This gives the game a bit of a pixely effect that, while easily ignored, is still a step down from AW2.

Still, the colours are vibrant. Each nation's soldiers and weapons look a little bit different, lending a sense of nationality to it. Orange Star's soldiers are the typical American guys, with their plain helmets and fatigues. Blue Moon looks vaguely Scandinavian. Yellow comet is distinctly Japanese and Green Earth has a sort of European/Germany feel with their long trench coats and big captain's hats for the tank drivers. Black Hole is all weird alien technology, with their soldiers in what look like space suits and all their tanks and planes looking robotic and foreign.

You get little explosions every time you defeat a unit, and soldiers fly off the screen almost comically when slain. Ships fire from separate cannons, planes shoot missiles or drop bombs and what happens in your screen finishes in your enemy's screen as your brutal assault bears down upon him.

The Nintendo DS is capable of powerful graphics, much better than this, but to change the graphics would be to change the overall feel of the game. It just wouldn't BE Advance Wars without the cute soldiers with big heads and small feet fighting each other. 7/10

Sound and Music:

Each CO gets his or her own theme music which plays during their respective turns. The music generally fits the personality of the CO in one way or another, though most scores still have that urgent "we're in the middle of a war zone" feel to them. The older tunes have all returned in great big Stereo, rivalling their tiny ball-of-sound Mono cousins on the GBA. The music is catchy at times, but to be honest, you probably won't notice it much.

The games sounds are what you'd expect from a game about war. The soldiers make little marching feet sounds when they move. Tires, treads, ships, choppers and airplanes all sound distinct(so that you can recognize them when the enemy hides behind the Fog of War. Nothing is more frightening than not being able to see and hearing the soaring movement of what could be a Bomber of Fighter Jet, or the rushing waves of a Battleship). Bombs make their trademark whistle as they fall towards their targets, blowing them up with characteristic explosions. Cannons and machine gun fire is exchanged between tanks and infantry troops, and the whoosh of a Battle Copter's air to surface missile flies right into your enemy's reconnaissance vehicles.

Nevertheless, the DS is also capable of better sound quality. While the music is par, and sounds better in Stereo, the sound effects still sound like the ones used in the old Advance Wars 1 game. 5/10

Gameplay:

The meat of the game, and this is where it gets good. Advance Wars: Dual Strike fully utilizes the touch pad of the Nintendo DS and you need only tap a unit and click where you want it to go to move it there. The control pad and buttons still function normally for those of you who can't stand the stylus(like me, some days). You engage the enemy with armies built in factories, harbours and airfields and your goal is either to destroy all enemy targets or capture the enemy Headquarters.

What's nice about each AW game is that the battles are very simple. Before you strike a small window pops up to tell you how effective your attack will be. Every combat unit carries at least one weapon and the intel panel tells you exactly which types of targets it can be used against and how effective each attack will be. The Machine Gun can fire on Infantry, Vehicles and Copters. It is very effective against Infantry but useless against Tanks and Copters.

With the DS' second screen, every time you move your cursor over a unit, the intel panel automatically appears on the top screen to be read at a moment's glance and without any menu options. When your cursor is simply on terrain, the terrain info is displayed along with your current stats. How many troops you have on the field, how much money you have, how many cities you've captured and how full your CO Power bar is. These same stats are displayed for your enemy as well(except in Fog of War where your enemy's stats are hidden from you).

The other use of the DS' second screen is the new Dual Front feature. When fighting on two fronts, the main front appears on the bottom screen, while the secondary front appears on the top. During campaigns, the secondary front is controlled by an AI-partner, which is usually a CO of your choosing(The AI can be turned off as your reach later stages). You can issue basic orders to the secondary front to tell them to be aggressive, defensive or just act as the CO would act. The secondary front usually has some smaller mission that needs to be accomplished in order to simplify battle on the main front. Should you be successful in winning the second front, your second CO will team up with you on the main front to perform a Tag Battle.

Tag Battles are another new feature to AW:DS. You can use two COs to attack a single enemy. Each turn, you can choose to swap your CO to take advantage of the situation. When you CO swap, however, it does end your turn, so only swap if you're finished with what you're doing.

If both of your CO's have their power meters full to Super level, you can use the TAG ability from the menu, which allows you to use both COs on the same turn with their Super CO powers activated. As well the power of your units can increase depending on the relationships the COs have with each other. This info is found on the CO page. Tag powers are very effective in ending a battle quickly. If you're close enough to your objective, but you'd need one more turn without the enemy creating more units or attacking your infantry, a Tag will do the trick.

The COs themselves have also undergone gameplay changes. Each CO now has a "Rank" which increases with experience gained from battle. At the end of a mission, you add up your points to find how well you did in categories of Speed, Power and Technique. The highest score in each is 100(there are also other objectives that can raise your score to over 300). Those points are then given as experience to the COs you used that battle. When they reach 1000, they gain a Promotion and their rank goes up. With ranks come Skills which can be used to make your units more powerful. Some skills increase damage slightly, others let you get a bit of money every time you deal damage, others are defensive. Each CO can equip up to 4 skills at a time and they can be changed depending on the situation(of course, not during battle).

Aside from giving your COs experience, the points are also added to a total point total and you can use them to purchase maps and other special things from Hachi's shop, as usual.

The War room returns, now with options because of the new Rank system. If you have a CO who has fallen behind, one you don't use often, but now need for a mission and you want some skills, just throw that CO in the War Room. You can increase point-experience by up to 2.5 times the normal rate(if you want to play solo with no skills at all, that is). You can also play a skill-less two-CO tag at 1.5 times the rate to level up two COs at once.

However, the War Room HAS been watered down quite a bit since AW2, so expect some of the maps to play a LOT easier than they used to.

There are also two new, non-campaign features called Survival and Combat.

Survival is an eleven map challenge to outlast the enemy in one of three modes: Money, Turns and Time. In Money, you have 500,000G to spend on troops in order to defeat the enemy and make it past all eleven maps. You'll have 99 Turns in Turn mode and only 25 minutes in Time mode. Choose your CO at the beginning and see how well you do. Survival tests your ability to manage whichever of the three resources you've chosen, so it gives you a chance to get better at the game, by being able to survive on minimal requirements.

Combat mode is entirely new. It doesn't play at all like Advance Wars normally does. In this mode, you pick on of the COs that are Combat Mode only, you then have 20,000G to select an army out of Mechs, Recon, Tanks and Artillery. Combat is in real time, so you have to physically dodge the enemy's attacks. While it is a new thing to the AW series, Combat Mode seems to be a stuffing feature instead of anything genuinely innovative. It doesn't play the same way as the rest of the game, and has no purpose other than point gains, which can be done easily in Campaigns and War Rooms.

With an array of new features, but the classic AW Gameplay still the same as always, this game is just that much better than the last one. Combat mode is completely unnecessary, but the ranking system, allowing you to outfit your COs a bit better for combat is a nice change. 9/10.

Replay Value:

When you complete the different modes, like Campaign or Combat, you can have access to the Hard Version, which makes the game more challenging for Advance Wars experts. As well, there are always maps to buy from Hachi(which require more and more points), War Room challenges to complete, secret characters to unlock and since the DS plays wirelessly, you can compete with your friends for giant multi-battles that can, literally, last for hours(sometimes days). In general, aside from the dulling effect that *all* games have, you will not be at a loss for things to do in Advance Wars: Dual Strike. 9/10

Overall Score:

No game is perfect. Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a fun game, with new features that increase the already wonderful job done by Advance Wars 1&2. However, the audio and graphics are still the same as before and while one doesn't usually play AW for the story, the dialogue can still get a little cheesy as the characters remain almost fixed in their respective stereotypes. The overall difficulty of the game seems to have stepped down a notch since Advance Wars 2, so the game is a bit easier than the last incarnation of the series. Still, the title deserves praise, and it's one of the top DS games out at the moment. If you're a fan of the original series, this is a must-buy title. If you're new to Advance Wars, I still highly recommend you pick Dual Strike up. It's a fun game to play, and that's all that really matters. Isn't it?

I give this game an overall score (as an average of all the areas I covered) of 7/10.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 09/17/05


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