aka Advance Wars: Dual Strike outside of Japan.
One of the most immersive titles that dawned on the Game Boy Advance for the US audience was the rebirth of Nintendo’s Famicom Wars series. Originally found on the NES the series got a rebirth from Intelligent Systems to make a definitive US launch title. The game drew a sizeable audience and became an instant hit. In a lot of ways Famicom Wars DS is a no brainer. Add in touch screen control, a few more units and a couple of new commanders and you already have a hit on your hands.
Intelligent Systems did add in a couple of new ideas to make Advance Wars Dual Strike more than an upgrade. The most striking new feature is the dual screen battles. The first on you’ll face has two of the Allied Forces commanding officers (like Rachel and John) up against two Black Hole commanding officers (Chakka and Kindle). On the bottom screen you’ll do battle like you normally would, capturing buildings and maneuvering troops towards the enemy base. However, you won’t be able to get very far because the Black Hole have a secret weapon that shoots beams of lightning from the sky at the only ground choke point. On the top screen a sky battle is going on simultaneously with two AI controlled commanders from the opposing sides. While you can’t directly control your partner commanding officers you can reinforce him or her with additional fighter planes to ensure success. Many of the dual battles rely on players micromanaging both battles at the same time, reinforcing your partner while building up your own units. If you lose your ground on either battle, it’s likely that you’ve failed the mission. If you’re looking for a challenge, you’ll love it. Otherwise it’s a feature that makes Famicom Wars DS less accessible than the original title.
The overall system of the Advance Wars series skips the idea of unique units for each side seen in other strategy games. Instead both sides have the ability to build all of the possible units. In some ways it makes the game feel more like a chess match or a game of Stratego instead of a strategy game. What makes the system work is that every single unit is useful. If you build an entire army of tanks with no infantry you won’t be able to capture any buildings so you’ll miss out on extra income. If you fill up on bombers and fighter jets you can be wiped out by a handful of anti aircraft tanks. The unit list is relatively the same as other Advance Wars titles where you have long range artillery cannons, transport copters, mech infantry, medium tanks and recon trucks that can see far in the fog of war. There are a couple of new units like the megatank (more powerful than the neotank introduced in Advance Wars 2), pipe cannon and stealth bomber.
Advance Wars Dual Strike does favor the aggressor, if you attack you’ll give bonus damage instead of waiting for the enemy to strike you first. Damaged units actually give less damage than a fully healed unit, so you’ll want to keep your troops as intact as possible. If you have a bunch of damaged units you can group them together to make a fully healed unit, which is normally a good move than having a handful of units with 1 health. To further protect your units players can use differences in terrain to help them out. Clever defense by hiding your units in a forest rather than an open plain can easily change the course of battle.
While unit accessibility is the same for both sides, each commanding officer has two unique “break” abilities to turn the course of battle. Breaks are powerful techniques that can’t be used freely. During battle there is a star meter that fills up as you attack or get attacked. When the first meter of small stars fills up you can use your basic break. Bonuses differ between CO’s. For instance Max gets a 40% attack boost when he uses his “Max Power” break and Ewan gets a cash bonus. If you wait longer for the second meter to fill up you can launch your second break attack, which lets you do one super break. Super breaks are generally more powerful attacks. Rachel’s super break calls upon air reinforcements to dwindle down enemy units to a few HP and Chakka’s break adds two points to all unit’s movement range. Each commanding officer can be further customized by filling in their force rank slots. Force rank abilities can be a huge boost like “Domino March” which gives a CO the same capturing power as Domino (Sami in the US). Another huge ability to add on are weather based abilities like Rain Star or Snow Star that can give a 20% bonus to attack when the weather changes.
There is a story mode that players can take on, which shows how the Allied Forces (Blue Moon, Green Earth, Orange Star and Yellow Comet) battle against the stalwart Black Hole. The campaign mode begins with a tutorial to get those who haven’t played an Advance Wars title up to speed. After the ten mission lesson, the game’s difficulty ramps up quickly comparatively to the other Advance Wars games. If you don’t want to sit through the entire campaign mode you can play through a quick battle with one of the maps you’ve unlocked from the war room. Even after you’ve unlocked all of the maps you can use the map builder to make your own creations. With a bunch of battle modes and wireless multiplayer Advance Wars Dual Strike is bound to keep players busy.
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4
It is possible to play through this title without understanding a lick of Japanese. Unit pictures are the same from the other games, with the exception of new units. So if you’re familiar with the GBA games Famicom Wars DS can be tackled. However, the game is really text heavy. The story, the menus, mission goals and so forth are all in Japanese. Unless you’re really patient or understand Japanese wait for the English version.
Nintendo of America is bringing this title over sometime later this year.
+ Pros: A few new units, commander tagging and an increased level of difficulty should please fans.
- Cons: Feels more like an upgrade rather than a brand new title.
Overall: Engaging as other installments of the series, Advance Wars Dual Strike doesn’t stray far from the formula. If you’re looking for a complex tactics game look no further.
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