Review by bowser194

"A must-have for the Nintendo DS."

In 2001, Advance Wars was released for the GBA. It became the sleeper hit of the year. Two years later, Advance Wars 2 was released, with more to offer. And finally, after another two years, Advance Wars: Dual Strike has been released. This is quite possibly the best game in the series yet – there are even more modes, features, characters, and unlockables to find. If you haven't got a DS yet, this very well could be a good enough reason for you to get one.

Not only has the originality in the style and layout of Advance Wars been preserved, but it has also been improved. The first thing I noticed was that maps now appear on a tilted angle, making it look even better than before. There are actually small waves you can see in the water while playing, and occasionally seagulls will fly over the battlefield. The existing weapons look just as their predecessors did, and the new additions look great as well. The details on the maps have been improved a bit from the originals.

For the most part, animations are fluid and look great. One noticeable and stand-out animation would be during an attack, where the screen zooms into the weapons being used, and makes a nice, fluid fade transition into the battle scene. The character drawings, and all other drawings, for the most part, look better than they did in the original. Unfortunately, at times, I have found that the weapons can tend to pixelate at times when zooming and because the battlefield is tilted, but this is about the only thing preventing the graphics from getting a perfect score. A great job was done in this category.

The sound effects used in the game are great. Gunfire, missiles, and the war in general sounds very nice and is actually impressive. However, the perfect score is found in the actual music played throughout the course of the game. Each character's theme suits them to perfection – most notably, I love the ‘feeling of doom' you hear when battling a Black Hole character. It isn't limited to just character themes, either. The sounds of success after a long victory, the battlefield music, the menu music, CO power music, all of it done very well. This is definitely one of the best aspects of the game.

For the most part, controls used in game are not that hard to comprehend, assuming you're using the buttons. The standard buttons from previous games exist, along with some new functions for X and Y, nut it's very easy to pick up and play for Advance Wars veterans to pick up and play, and it may take newcomers about 5 to 10 minutes to have everything down pat. The problem is found in how the touch screen was implemented into gameplay.

As you might imagine, touch screen control should make the game easier to control, especially when it's a game like Advance Wars, where a lot of Control Pad movement is involved. Unfortunately this isn't the case, because using the touch controls isn't very simple. I tried it out for a while, thinking it was simply me needing to get used to it, but this isn't the case. The arrow showing where and how your troops will be moving from one place to another is extremely difficult to control. You'll find that it can weave in paths that simply waste an unit's fuel instead of taking a shorter path, or that despite how much you point to a certain location, you keep getting a different one. Selecting the unit you want to move isn't easy either, due to how small they can be and how the game will occasionally select the wrong one. Worst of all, I frequently made incorrect decisions by trying to cancel a move, and then instead, finalizing it. You'll probably find yourself sticking to the Control Pad and buttons over the touch screen – I know I did.

The storyline and plot is the same as it has always been, which is good, as there is no need to change it or alter it, but it could probably be freshened up a bit. Basically, Black Hole is an evil army led by evil COs, bent on world destruction and domination. The four nations of Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth, must all form an alliance in an attempt to defeat the Black Hole army. There are many different missions to complete with different COs along the way, all leading up to the conquering of Black Hole.

Despite the rating, the gameplay is the greatest aspect of this game, and what makes it stand out brilliantly. With this edition of the game, there are so many more new characters, battlefields, and more. All can be unlocked by completing the many different modes of gameplay. The standard modes exist, which include Campaign (Story), War Room, and Versus mode, but new to the game is Combat mode, a real-time battle with various weapons), and Survival mode, where you must meet a certain requirement by doing certain things, and if you meet the requirements, you advance to the next map. An example would be attempting to win five battles before time runs out.

With the DS and its wireless multiplayer capabilities, Advance Wars has become an even better multiplayer game than it was before. Virtually every mode of gameplay can be played with somebody else who also has the game card (you can even trade custom battlemaps), and with a single card you can play Combat mode. This all combines for massive replayability, regardless of how long you've played the game for. Even if you've only got one DS, you can still play ‘pass-it-around' multiplayer in the turn-based games.

Campaign mode has been improved quite a bit. There are now three save slots, and more missions to complete (although the first few are pretty basic), and a lot more strategy to it. I'm yet to see any decrease in difficulty as others have claimed, too. Some other notable changes are the ability to customize the mindset of the CPU. You can set them to play defensively, offensively, normally, whatever you'd like. There are now also ‘tag team' powers, where two players on a team can use their CO Powers as one, which can completely change the course of any battle. The map editor is more detailed and thorough. You can track more details than you could ever imagine on virtually everything you've done, including play time, units deployed, turns played, and so on.

While all this is very impressive, there are still some minor problems with the game that stand out, the major one being difficulty. Some battles become insanely difficult to the point where you want to throw your DS at the wall. The touch screen controls are also horrendous, as I've already mentioned. Some weapons that are available are simply too good, meaning you end up with people buying only one of a certain weapon. Speaking of weapons, it would have been nice if there were less of the ‘newly invented weapons' from Black Hole – these tend to be the ones that are overpowered and prevent the game from simulating a true battle. Lastly, in Campaign, the game assumes that you have no previous experience, meaning that you either have a lot of text to read or a lot of tapping buttons/screen to do.

Regardless, Advance Wars: Dual Strike offers some of the best gameplay for the DS, and even though there may seem to be many problems, these are all minor and some are only opinion-based.

Even once you've beaten the game, you aren't done. There is so much to do, so much to unlock, so much that you can go back to and play again, all combining to make this game seem endless. The new multiplayer wireless capabilities with the DS allow you to play with others once you've grown tired of the CPU, meaning that even once you've beaten the game, you can still play against friends. Most importantly, the battles are always fun to just pick up and play in. This game can last you for a long time.

Unless you don't like turn-based or strategy-based games (in which case I recommend you rent this), this is something to seriously consider. Currently, it is one of the best games available for the DS, and if you don't have a DS this is a perfect reason to get one.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike is quite possibly the greatest of all three games in the series. There is much, much more to unlock and be found, not to mention that an extremely addictive gameplay and several new modes, offering more for even the veterans of Advance Wars. This game has matched and surpassed virtually every other game currently available for the Nintendo DS. Combine that with great gameplay and nearly unlimited replayability, and you've got a game that's worth the money and is easily a system-seller.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/31/05

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