Review by ShadowGuardian9
"It's addictive, it's portable, it's excellent."
In the vast world of turn-based strategy, many people have been driven to their mouses and keyboards. But one series has become a legend in handheld strategy: Advance Wars. The other Wars games were good on the old consoles, but Advance Wars (along with its respective sequel, Black Hole Rising) have driven an epic and fun franchise to the handheld world, and this time, to Nintendo's newest system, the Nintendo DS. With two-screens and a lot of unique hardware, can Advance Wars: Dual Strike make the cut?
While the graphics do up the ante a bit, they still look like the old Advance Wars games. But, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Advance Wars graphics were very good for the GBA, and while not stunning, they are rather lively and colorful. CO leaders are designed diversely and well, and the maps themselves do provide a decent amount of variety. The inclusion of a map editor also allows you to customize the battlefield. The frame rate doesn't stutter, and the movement of each unit across the map is smooth. During an attack, the tradition of zooming in to the units is kept and does look as good as it ever was. It would have been great to see a bit more advanced graphics on the DS, but I can't say that the graphics are bad when in fact they do the job well.
There is no voice-acting, but there are a few voiced lines across the board. But in such a chaotic game, voice-acting isn't a must. The explosive attacks of the Advance Wars world remains lively and provides the role of commander with action. Each type of weapon from each type of unit is different and doesn't make the game boring. There are some nice war scores in the background of the maps, menus, and battlefields. Also, when a player executes a CO Power, Super Power, or Tag Power, the music jumps to a more active tempo, keeping the gamer on edge and feeling the effect of a well-placed attack or clumsy defense. Audio doesn't change much either, but remains well-made and doesn't hurt the game at all.
Advance Wars has always been an incredible strategy game and its DS incarnation does not disappoint. With the Black Hole Army on the aggressive, the many nations must unite to form the Allied Nations and stop the Black Hole Army. The gameplay remains, at its core, the same. As a CO, you control the army of your nation. On the battlefield, you move your units strategically and attack enemy forces. Along the way, you must maintain your army by buying new units. To get funds, you earn money from cities that you either possess from the start or capture from neutral or enemy forces. With new units, you must either defeat all enemy units or capture the opponent's HQ. However, if your units are all destroyed or your HQ is captured, you lose. The Advance Wars formula is excellent mostly because of its simple execution compared to other strategy games. There is not much resource management, although you must monitor your units and funds, along with fuel for your units. Advance Wars: Dual Strike's simplicity makes it accessible to newcomers who haven't entered the turn-based world yet, while keeping veterans of the series excited by including new maps, skills, and some new DS-additions to the already fun fray.
Dual Strike does have some new tweaks for its respective hardware. First is that you can use either the traditional D-Pad and face buttons to move and select units, or you can use the stylus to direct them. Surprisingly, both methods are effective and neither one seems incomplete in its function. Another new addition takes advantage of the DS's two-screen setup. Now you only have to place the cursor on a unit on the bottom screen and the top screen will show all the details on the unit. While this may seem a bit unneeded, you'll soon realize the distinct increase in pace of the game. Managing units with the two screens will quickly become instinctual and the game will fly by quicker. The two-screen setup is also used for combat. With two screens, you can now fight on two different fronts. Therefore, you can now use two CO's instead of one. Your first commands units on the surface, another (controlled by a CPU which can be tweaked) takes to the skies. With two CO's, you can also execute Tag Powers, where each CO executes their Super Power consecutively, offering not only special techniques, but two opportunities to position units. Advance Wars: Dual Strike also uses the DS Wireless Play to be able to play against another DS owner, even if they don't have the game. The Download Play is a brilliant inclusion in the game. Advance Wars: Dual Strike takes advantage of the DS hardware amazingly well, while keeping the core of the gameplay in tact.
The modes of Dual Strike are plentiful. The core is the Campaign mode, where you control a CO against the Black Hole Army and are assigned to missions and maps. War Room allows for some quick player vs. CPU battles. Survival Mode is an endurance and management test where you get limited resources, like time or money. Combat is an interesting addition where you control a single unit in real-time and move across a battlefield to take out enemies and capture the cities and HQ. You get a set amount of funds to purchase units at the start and must spend them to last six consecutive battles. While this seems a little unlike the Wars formula, it's quite fun and is a nice diversion from the turn-based mayhem of the other modes. You can also customize CO's and backgrounds, and even create your own custom maps to use in battle. Wireless play is both single-card, where only one play needs the game, and multi-card, if other players have the game. The multiplayer is deep, where you can do a quick battle with friends with single-card, or use your own armies and CO's with multi-card. You can also trade your custom designed maps to your friends wirelessly. Advance Wars: Dual Strike doesn't rely on a single trick to make a good game, even though that single trick is a very good one. Packing in so many modes along with great multi-player makes it a fun game.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike has very few marks against it, but one of the marks is the difficulty. It is a bit steep and the CPU is not afraid to punish you for a sloppy position of a unit or being stingy with your funds. But that is one of the many reasons Advance Wars is so addictive. The AI isn't impossible, and once you do perform an excellent strategy, you know it, and in the end stay with Dual Strike. The game is also handheld strategy, allowing you to be able to take it with you, play a quick game, and put it down to continue on your way. That is, if you can put it down. Advance Wars: Dual Strike's simple gameplay, plethora of modes, and wireless capabilities make it one of the most addictive games to grace a handheld. The gameplay is exhilarating.
Replay Value 10/10
Putting this game down is a serious feat, I must say, because the sheer amount of things to do, modes to play, and things to unlock give this game a ridiculous amount of lifespan. The gameplay is also seriously addictive. Not only that, but the multiplayer is incredible. Once you get bored of one mode, you can move on to another. But at its core, the gameplay remains solid throughout. And even if you do have the huge amount of spare time to play through the whole thing, you'll play it again. It's that addictive. Replay is perfect.
Final Verdict 9/10
Advance Wars: Dual Strike takes everything great about the GBA Advance Wars and adds the DS flavor to it, making a fun, satisfying, and very addictive experience for the Nintendo DS. Although the difficulty is a little bit high, you'll want to come back and fight until you win, and by then, you can't put it down. The brilliant use of the DS hardware will please fans and newcomers alike, and the overall gameplay is simple enough to be accessible, but deep enough to keep you coming back. Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a stellar game and does the DS and handheld gaming in general good justice. Even if you're new the Wars series or even strategy games, Advance Wars: Dual Strike is the perfect way to get into the genre. Buy this excellent DS game as quick as you can.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/14/05
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