They sure kept us waiting, huh?
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is far from the first game in the Wars franchise to see release troubles, of course! Nestled between the years of no confidence in the franchise’s success in the West and the years of no confidence in the franchise’s success in Japan was a small golden era, but even that started with trying to launch a war game on September 10, 2001.
All of that’s to say, well, adversity is kind of what Wars games do.
Re-Boot Camp seems more aware than ever of that reputation, and in the early hours with the game, you can’t avoid its efforts to push against its subject matter and lighten the mood at every turn. Advance Wars was — with one exception — always a whimsical take on combat, but Re-Boot Camp takes it to Saturday morning cartoon territory.
The board and units look more like toys, and bounce around accordingly. The game’s plot follows the same points, but personalities are all a bit more over-the-top. There’s more chatter. And if it weren’t obvious enough through this stuff? Series protagonist Andy shows up with a voice performance that would charitably be described as Ash Ketchum-adjacent.
The gameplay isn’t too affected by these choices, thankfully, as that formula and balance is what makes the franchise special. We thought we’d be disoriented by the angled board display, but it’s easy enough to adjust to it. We’re reminded of the presentation in Dual Strike? It’s not the best, but it’s fine.
The material textures, along with other interface choices, do make the experience decidedly Nintendo-like, in the vein of modern releases like Clubhouse Games and the Labo titles. The look can take you out of the action at times, though with all the efforts to make the game feel light and unrealistic, that might be intentional. Regardless, it’s nice to see how well WayForward picked up the in-house style.
The map loses a bit of legibility sometimes, especially regarding vehicle units with different designs for each faction. Some armies’ Fighters and Bombers are fairly similar. Occasionally a Recon will look like a tank. You can easily move the cursor over and check? So it’s fine. But it’s a testament to the original pixel design that it didn’t have these issues.
We’ve been spending time with the game’s first campaign. It’s where you’ll start too if you play, because the game initially locks the second campaign. That does make sense, generally! But the first Advance Wars used its story mode as a tutorial of sorts. The true strategy opens up from there, and most of the challenge is score-chasing and playing through the War Room maps and advanced missions. There’s a “casual” difficulty option for the campaign, if you want it, but keep in mind that the rest of the game doesn’t scale like that.
The way Re-Boot Camp tries to split the difference is through constant optional tutorials. If you’re new to the game, you can ask about new elements. If not? You can say you know what you’re doing. It works well enough, and it doesn’t take particularly long to get to gameplay either way. Still, if you want things to go faster? You’ll want to turn off battle animations after the first few missions. The game animations aren’t the snappiest, there’s a bit more talking from opposing COs and these little delays add up.
What will really carry Re-Boot Camp long-term is a robust online multiplayer offering! Sadly, we weren’t able to try that for this preview, but we’re going to do our best to dig into that part of the game soon.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp launches April 20, 2023 on the Nintendo Switch, both physically and digitally. Stay tuned to Siliconera for more thoughts on the game, including our full review!