Review by Lance_Stern

"Very good game with some slight problems"

Advance Wars, one of the most heralded series on the GBA. It seemingly came out of nowhere but silently took the juggernaut by storm with addictive gameplay, a unique artstyle, and almost infinite replayability. Next came it's sequel. While most people said much wasn't improved over the 1st, it was still an addictive, replayable masterpiece. Now comes the DS edition of AW, and guess what? It still keeps what it has always had, adds some more to it, but also comes with a few problems. Read on:

Graphics: 7/10
Why the low score? If it kept the same artstyle, it SHOULD get a nice score right? I have one word for you: isometric. Intelligent Systems (who aren't known for graphically impressive titles in the first place, just artistically impressive), decided to "tilt" the battlefield in an isometric angle. This was supposed to give the field a sharper look and it succeeds in that. Unfortunately, it came with a heavy price. Now, the sprites of the units on the field are HORRIBLY choppy and pixelated, and can be a pain to some people's eyes. When you go into the animated battle sequences, while not as harsh, the tilt still affects the graphics by pixelating the characters up. Also, this is just for me, but they sped the animated battles up. Now the characters almost shoot missiles and such TOO fast. Had they just kept the original field style ala AW 1 and 2, it would've been just fine because they added an option to just skip the battle sequences even with them turned on. The one improvement I can say is that they added a screen transition effect when going into battle, it flips in a smooth motion, and is very nice to look at. Also the character designs are just as cool as ever, especially the one CO: Jugger.

Music/Audio: 9/10
A high point in the series for me, this game doesn't cease to have foot tapping good music, at least for most COs. They have been digitally upgraded a little bit for a greater effect, and so have the sounds of weapons. Guns sound like machine guns now, and cannons have a more thunderous roar to it. The few gripes I have is that some of the weapons sound out of place (artilleries sound like lazers) and the music to some of the new COs just isn't as catchy as those of old. But these are acquired, opinionated complaints that could mean nothing at all to you, so enjoy.

Gameplay: 10/10
Here's where it really counts, and quite frankly, there's too much to go over. Without this, there would be no game and nothing to review it on. AWDS keeps the same addictively easy to play, challenging to master game of rock-paper-scissors as it's predecessors and adds stuff to the flavor. If you've played AW 1 and 2, you will be thoroughly pleased at this game and how there have been more maps, COs and units added to challenge you even further. Also there has been the addition of Tag battles and Dual screen battles. In tag battles, you select two COs and share them with one army to fight another CO or COs. The first CO you use takes their turn, and you can either end your turn, or "tag" your other CO to bring them out to the front and end your turn. The main CO you are using gives the units their own special bonuses (Colin's units are 90/100 but cost 80%, so buy them, then tag to Kanbei who has 120/120 units). You continue this which adds an entertainingly (yet almost tedious) challenge to the fold. It's tedious I say because: sometimes you'll find yourself forgetting you have a second CO with you, and if you do remember, you want to tag as much as possible to even out your CO bars, but you might not want to change at a particular moment due to their weakness, and there is a brief 5 second pause to tag COs, which irks me. Dual Screened battles (one on top, one on bottom) are interesting to say the least. The main front, or bottom screen has you as one CO and the top screen has you as another. You take turns either controlling both screens or letting the computer control the top. It's a nice addition, but it's still turn based and is just like having a 2 vs. 2 match. The rock paper scissors formula has been beefed up with new units, force ranks (which I don't use. You level up with experience and get to equip up to 4 ranks to your CO that give them benefits), and new environment hazards. All - in - all, it keeps the great formula.

Even more additions to gameplay is the survival, war room, combat and vs. modes. The two new modes: Survival and combat are fun and take your mind off the huge strategy part of the game. Combat is a real time version of the game where you buy units, but move them one at a time with the D-pad and use the stylus to shoot a bunch of enemy units. Think of an overhead version of contra or asteroids or any arcade shooter, only you get to move more than just on a scrolling screen.

Survival mode is a series of stages you ahve to beat with a challenge added to it, either complete 11 stages with a preset amount of money, time, etc. It's more strategic than combat, and is challenging to say the least.

Vs. Mode and War Room are the same as AW2 except some of the new maps show up (although 3/4 of them are classic maps), and you may have some dual-screened or tag battle in there.

Control: 9/10
The touch screen has been added to make an almost PC-like experience for AW. And leave it to the courteous folks of IS to also leave an optional addition of just using the d-pad and A/B/X/Y buttons to move. The controls are spot on with teh dpad and buttons, but touch screen control can be troublesome. It speeds things up, but you may find you accidentally touch commands you didnt' want to. I don't use the touch screen much, but I still find it very useful to play the game or get past dialog by just tapping the screen on units, for I may be eating a sandwich, or on my cell phone.

Replayablility: 10/10
Addictive formula, Hard campaign, lots of variations and customization to matches, design your own maps, wireless multiplayer, and dozens of unlockables. I need not say more.

Overall Feel: 9/10
While better than AW 1, the overall feel of the game just isn't as fun to me as Advance Wars 2. Perhaps it's the linear single player (unlike the choose your own mission in AW2), the uninspired new COs (the designs are cool, but most of their new powers aren't too original), or the problems of the game. However, I will say it's the most thorough and deep DS game out today, and should be missed by no-one, whether you are or aren't a fan of strategy games.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/25/05

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