Review by dougmoto
"I'm a pacifist, but I'll make an exception for this game."
Nintendo has developed a knack for producing games that just catch your attention and reel it in, and AW:DS is no exception. But what strange force attracts us so? Perhaps it's the bright cheerful colors? Perhaps it's the ridiculous amount of customization? Maybe it's because Nintendo has learned what the consumers want over the years? Who knows. All we can do is be thankful, and keep hoping that Nintendo continues to produce gems like AW:DS. A brilliant combination of strategy with some slight role-playing elements, AW:DS really sets the stage for great DS games.
This is the third handheld advance wars venture by Nintendo, and they've really shown what they've learned. The first advance wars introduced the units, and showed what they could do. The second game threw off the balance a little bit with the introduction of Neotanks. With AW:DS adding several new units, including a stronger, but much slower tank, the game's balance has been restored. The actual moving of units is simple and concise, and there won't be much problem with that. The use of the touch screen is questionable at best, but thankfully it's just an option, and most advance war vets will find that they prefer to use the d-pad. CO powers have been re-invented for more fairness, costing much more for their "super CO power", which can really turn the flow of a battle. Thankfully, the CO's with exceptional powers (see: Eagle's Lightning Strike) have to pay an even heftier star cost to use their powers. As you can see, AW:DS's gameplay is near perfect, so I've had to nitpick for tiny nuisances.
Take a look at some screens from advance wars 2. Now check out AW:DS. See a difference? Neither did I, but who's complaining? The graphics remain true to the series style, cartoon-y with a slight anime feel. The battle scenes are fun and relatively non-violent for a war game (you won't see any blood, infantry are literally blown away, and vehicles explode with no hint of casualties), and they fit the series well. It is supposed to a game that's fun for everyone, after all. The character sprites are somewhat bland, but not terrible. The terrain is well distinguished; you can easily tell when road becomes plains, when plains become mountains, etc. They've also tried to add a slight illusion of depth by using some shading. It's nothing great, but it doesn't hinder the game at all.
The main music is uplifting and upbeat, but is at the same time mellow enough to keep you focused on the real game. But when the battle heats up, so does the music. You'll notice that when you use your CO powers, the music changes (depending on the CO) to a more intense beat. A welcome and encouraged change. The sounds are sometimes a little repetitive, the constant grind of tank treads, the roll of tires, or the tireless march of infantry. Soon it becomes one with the game, and you don't even realize it anymore. The sounds do a good job of creating the atmosphere.
The rule is: save the best for last, and this is no exception. The multiplayer on AW:DS is fantastic. You can play with a single DS, with friends who have the DS, but no game, or with friends who have both. In any condition, you can have fun in turn based maps, or in the real time mini-game (which isn't fantastic, but will keep you amused for a bit), and it's loads of fun planning sneak attacks, diversions and just messing around with your friend's head. The replayability factor really adds to the value. After clearing the lengthy campaign, you can almost immediately start again under a hard difficulty, meaning: more units, more challenge, and more coins. With your coins, you can purchase dozens of new maps, CO's to use in multiplayer or new colors for your officers. After you're done fiddling around with character colors and abilities, you might want to make your own map. That's right, making your custom maps is extremely simple with the DS's touch screen, and you'll find yourself designing terrains in no time. Finally, after you're done everything you can do for the turn-based portion of the game, you can turn to the real time shooter game. It's not good enough to deserve its own game, but as the icing on a very beautiful cake, it does well. As you can see, Advance Wars DS will keep you busy for hours.
Overall (Not an average) 9
Nintendo shows that experience can prevail through many obstacles. AW:DS may not be the most graphically or audibly pleasing game, but it remains to be one of the best I have ever played. That's really the beauty of the Nintendo Corporation. They can take a concept that seems ridiculous, and make it into a game that almost everyone can enjoy if give the chance. If you have a DS, you need to pick up this game.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/22/06
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