Review by Desulated

Reviewed: 07/20/12

Need a legit and perfect reason to own a DS? Read this!

Advance Wars and AW2 has been impressing TBS fans everywhere whom wanted a strategy game that can be taken on the go. With a ton of realistic units at their disposal, colourful and cute commanding officers for their picking and addictive gameplay made the series one of the best handheld games out there. The last Advance Wars game released by Nintendo was AW2, and it was only a year or so after the release of the DS when all of us impatient gamers waited anxiously for a fully-fledged sequel of Intelligent Systems' well-thought out cartoony turn-based strategy.

And its release certainly didn't disappoint. Advance Wars: Dual Strike is just engrossing and fantastic in every way with very little faults that would actually ruin the game.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike picks up right after the events of AW2, after the almighty leader of the Black Hole Army, Sturm, has finally been put to rest for the disaster he has done to both Cosmo and Macro Land. After months of peace and for some mysterious reason, the Black Hole Army in Omega Land has grown to enormous proportions in terms of military power and started draining the land of its life power through enigmatic means, leaving most of the land into lifeless heaps of wasteland. To counter this, The Allied Nations (somewhat a spoof of the modern United Nations if you use your imagination) has formed an emergency task force with limited manpower and supplies, fighting back and reclaiming every inch of available land in order to reveal Black Hole's true intentions.

AW:DS has some major changes in it-in fact, it feels almost nothing like the first Advance Wars game you've played even though it retains the classic turn-based strategy genre that it has been known for ever since the series' debut in 2001. New game modes like combat and survival gives extra fun after you complete the campaign and war room. New features include new terrain, new Black Hole weaponry, and the almighty Tag Powers that can rain absolute devastation on your hapless foes and can guarantee an instant win if used properly and at the correct time. New commanders arrive from every faction to either preserve peace or to corrupt the land.

This is the main feature of the game: just like AW2 that introduced a new cast of commanding officers, AW:DS takes that even further and provides us with more commanders to take to the battle, allies and enemies alike. The only character that did not make a return was Sturm, making him the only character from the previous releases of Advance Wars that hasn't made a comeback unlike the others. To be honest, I believe this was sort of a reliever, for he gave me a long stream of nightmares due to his absurd strengths and lack of any apparent weaknesses.

Unlike the older games, this game introduces a medal system that keeps track of your stats. In the history section, it shows the playtime you've passed, funds spent, units deployed, units destroyed, and certain Black Hole hardware demolished. I personally thought it was a nice feature, because you'll definitely feel a sense of accomplishment if you manage to nab all 300 medals (I managed to acquire 270 or so the last time I played this, and it took me roughly 500 hours of gameplay to get that far).

Classic features such as the Vs. Mode, War Room, etc. all return, along with an addition of new maps ready and waiting to be conquered. Finished with the campaign? These two modes will keep you busy and entertained for a very, very long time. And if that isn't enough, there's two more new modes: survival and battle.

Survival mode pits you against commanders from all five various countries on different kinds of maps, but each and every one of them have a restriction posed upon you-there is time, money, and turn-based survival. Time survival allots you a limited amount of time to clear a set of maps, and money provides you with a large sum of funds-but the twist is that you will not be able to acquire any new funds through any means. Turn-based survival is essentially clearing all the maps before the limit runs out. This mode is very addicting and fun to play through, mainly because the limits forces you to implement complex strategies to clear them before the restriction causes you to forfeit or make the game impossible to win.

Battle mode is a real-time strategy-based game where you control a single unit and attempt to defeat your foe. The one issue with this mode is that it's notoriously difficult that requires sheer luck and a ton of button mashing to vanquish the enemy army. Personally, I didn't find this mode too interesting or fun since you only have 4 units to play with. It doesn't really matter since the main mode of the game kept me preoccupied enough that I forgot about this one entirely, in a sense.

But the best feature of this game are the new units. While AW2 only granted us one new unit (the Black Hole Neotank) AW:DS takes that even further by introducing seven new unique units (although one of them is not deployable). Black Hole has advanced their technologies even further now- they now have three new units at their disposal: a vague-looking hovercraft named the "black boat" that functions nearly identically to a repairing APC, a guided flying missile known as the Black Bomb which somewhat acts like a remote-controlled missile silo, and a Piperunner, which, as its name implies, can only travel on pipes and is a hybrid of a MLRS (Rocket Launcher) and the mobile anti-air missile platform. The Allied Nations also has developed new technologies (but Black Hole reverse engineers them later anyways), like the Stealth Fighter, which is a weaker fighter but it can fire on all units and can avoid being attacked by cloaking itself. Another new unit is the Aircraft Carrier, which can hold 2 planes and can resupply onboard planes. It can also rip other planes out of the sky with missile salvos. But the all-time award goes to Green Earth's mighty Megatank, which can smash anything on land (with the exception of other Megatanks) with one barrage of its devastating gunfire. But with every strong unit comes weaknesses. This unit lacks speed, fuel and vision range. It also costs a whopping 28000 credits so take that into consideration before making the purchase. Black Hole has also developed another mysterious weapon of their own, but I'm not going to spoil it but be prepared once those gothic megalomaniacs deploy it into active combat.

The difficulty in this game is a 50/50 situation. A veteran should be able to breeze through the early missions easily, while a newcomer should take their time to listen to the tutorials. But don't worry too much, the game won't get TOO difficult to handle, so don't worry too much about 20+ Megatanks charging at you since there's no mission like that (because in some cases of AW2, some missions included such scenarios). But beware, the later missions sometimes do require a lot of smart moves in order to be successful-but compared to AW2, the difficulty in this game is outright laughable. However, the AI has received a rather positive and generous facelift, as the computer will make smart and witty movements, so don't expect the enemy to target your transports on first sight.

This game does have its negative points worth noting. For example, the game is known to be laughably easy as I mentioned earlier, mainly because the new Tag Powers, Force Powers, and bonus abilities you can assign to your commanders can really make a game extremely easy. For example, there are some outright broken CO combos in this game, such as Colin/Sasha, Kanbei/Sonja, and Nell/Rachel. These commanders are extremely powerful in their own right since many of them lack glaring weaknesses and when teamed up with another commander with a 3 star rating, they receive attack/defense bonuses and can become unbeatable if played correctly. Since the CPU never uses bonus abilities, you are essentially given the upper hand immediately.

Graphics, sound, music and whatnot are rather unchanged. There are some nice tunes for each and every commanding officer, while the explosive sounds of a Megatank's guns firing only add more sugar to your ears before the imminent destruction of a Black Hole Neotank. Black Hole's newest structures, the Black Crystal and Black Obelisk, look crisper than ever, even on the DS's rather small-sized screen.

The Design Maps room still falls short here in terms of improvement. It still retains the same old 3 save slots, meaning you can't really make a lot of new maps to play either with yourself or against friends.

So, are you convinced enough that this game is a prime reason why you should own a DS? If all of this hasn't convinced you to grab Advance Wars: Dual Strike, I'm sorry to say you're missing out on an amazing TBS game that can be played on the go, right in the palm of your hands.

No, really. Get this game. You won't be disappointed, I assure of it. I'm not a TBS fan either but this game and the entire series changed my opinion around otherwise.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Advance Wars: Dual Strike (US, 08/22/05)

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