advance wars 1+2 re-boot camp review
Screenshot via Siliconera

Review: Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Isn’t Here to Make Friends

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, as a title, makes some implications that series fans may have trouble ignoring. After all, a “re-boot” generally isn’t intended as a one-off, instead seeking to revive and jump-start a given franchise. And Advance Wars fans? That’s something we’d love to see. But it’s a lot of pressure for such hopes to rest on one game, and Re-Boot Camp’s multiple delays certainly couldn’t have helped to lessen that pressure. Does it live up to those expectations? Let’s dig in.

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While most elements of the game were preserved as much as possible, Re-Boot Camp did clearly get a modern once-over from Nintendo’s localization team. After all, two decades can do a lot to change context and small elements that concern the company. So Yellow Comet is now Gold Comet. Drake’s “Tsunami” power is now “Squall.” They’re small, but if you’ve been around a while, you’ll notice a few things.

Generally, though, WayForward did a good job expanding on what’s there without changing the underlying characterization. Characters talk in less truncated sentences, since they have the screen room. And that “Saturday morning cartoon” feel we discussed in the preview definitely extends to the extended CO lineup. Black Hole Rising’s enemy COs in particular really ham it up.

advance wars re-boot camp review

Screenshot via Siliconera

One thing Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is missing that we really thought would be here? Modern quality-of-life features. Like the sort of range visualization we see in modern Fire Emblem games? This would be particularly helpful with the sorts of large-area weapons that extend range beyond what will fit on the screen.

The one thing we did see implemented, though the game’s rather quiet about it, is the “Reset Turn” function. This allows you to reset your moves to the beginning of the day and try again. While helpful for newcomers or the occasional mis-click, it’s also, um, cheating? You can use it on Fog of War maps to basically scout out everything around you and know where the enemies are, then reset with that knowledge. So there’s that.

We talked about the game’s new aesthetic in our preview, and those observations hold through the second campaign and late-game content. We got used to things, mostly! And the look works. There are still definitely some fighters and bombers that look too similar and such, which is annoying. But the extended time with the game also emphasized some areas of polish. For example, entering and exiting a campaign presents you with a slick map transition. There’s clearly a lot of people at WayForward who love the original games, and it shows through in their work.

we appreciate that this game exists at all, for sure

Screenshot via Siliconera

That said, some of the game’s new setup just serves to slow things down. For example, beating a map? It should feel exciting and cool. But Re-Boot Camp pauses for a moment before it notices you’ve won, or before it’s able to load the enemy voice lines or whatever it is. CO power animations are cool the first time you see them! But they’re long, and they’re unskippable, and eventually they become a burden. Also, the little chatter each CO has at the beginning of their phase repeats incredibly quickly and just adds more downtime between turns.

Also the sporadic voice acting is a choice? We’ve seen small clips work well, like in Fire Emblem: Awakening, to provide flavor and save storage space. But Re-Boot Camp voices some partial lines, some grunts and then generic text beeps, and some lines that are beeps only. The inconsistency does it no favors. (And is storage space really an issue? Or was there that much of a concern about studio time costs for what’s ultimately a fairly limited script?)

The strategy gameplay is unchanged, though, and that’s great because the originals were stellar at that. We’ve seen a lot of efforts to recreate Advance Wars‘ carefully balanced strategy fun in games like Wargroove and Tiny Metal, but try as they might, no one’s gotten it quite right. A limited set of units, and one identical in function between factions, does a lot to make something understandable that could be very complicated.

The whole “unchanged” thing does weigh on one audience in particular, though: grizzled franchise vets. As representatives of that particular demographic ourselves, there was definitely a nagging feeling in the back of our minds as we played. What if Re-Boot Camp had something new? Anything, something small. We kept playing through and unlocking things, hoping for a surprise secret character from Dual Strike or another little bonus to freshen up the experience. But nope!

And a lot of vets were banking on one particular function to excite them.

hachi's shop screenshot

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In spite of all the things Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp does right, a few unfortunate choices limit its overall appeal. The most obvious one? Its truly barebones online infrastructure. Franchise fans were understandably excited by the prospect of playing with friends, and there are a lot of ways that could have been done right. Asynchronous play is a great fit for a strategy game like this! And it’s not here, though the interface for sharing custom maps suggests someone along the way might have had that in mind.

Instead, it’s real-time play only. And two-player only with direct friends. There’s no matchmaking of any kind and no public lobbies. You can’t even play maps with a third or fourth faction at all, even if you just want an AI-controlled force for variety or co-op challenge with a friend.

We were limited in our opportunities to test out the online functionality pre-release, but we managed a few matches, and… it works? There’s not a lot to say about it in motion, as it’s an uninspired, barebones approach. Games take a long time, and no ability to look around or plan during your opponent’s turn doesn’t help that. And even once you sit through a map? You may not have the best time, as late-game CO unlocks can be broken, maps can heavily favor certain choices and there appears to be no attempt to mitigate any of this.

advance wars 1+2 re-boot camp review

Screenshot via Siliconera

Sound limiting? Yeah, it should, because it is. And so limiting that it’ll probably keep people from bothering to try what’s there at all. Truly, even with all the effort that’s here, adding Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2 to the Nintendo Switch Online app would have offered a more robust and functional multiplayer experience without compromising any actual gameplay features. (Also, we know some people still prefer the original’s aesthetic and there’s value in its visual clarity.)

Truly, any idea, any angle, any vision for how this would be played would have made Re-Boot Camp better. And it’s bizarre to see such little attention paid to what was clearly the most important mode to get right. So given this minimal functionality, we have to judge Re-Boot Camp as an offline-only offering. Which is a shame, because we know the development time was there for Nintendo to fund further work during the game’s long delay.

advance wars 1+2 re-boot camp review

Screenshot via Siliconera

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is simultaneously a triumph in preserving the timeless strategy gameplay of the past and a huge missed opportunity to give it a rejuvenated platform that could attract new players. It’s one robust multiplayer patch away from being what it should be, but there’s no track record in Nintendo-bankrolled projects to suggest that will happen. We can only hope, then, that this isn’t the last we see of the Wars franchise.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp launches April 20, 2023 on the Nintendo Switch for $59.99. For more on the game, check out our archive.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

Lead a cast of colorful characters in fun, turn-based battles with two classic campaigns from the beloved Advance Wars series — fully remade from the ground up.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is simultaneously a triumph in preserving the timeless strategy gameplay of the past and a huge missed opportunity to give it a rejuvenated platform that could attract new players.

Food for Thought
  • You’ll immediately know some of these voice actors the moment their characters begin to speak. These performances ain’t subtle!
  • The unlocking process in the campaign is a little relaxed, which will make it easier to get COs you like. That change could irk challenge-seekers, though.
  • There is, technically, a new playable CO in the game, but since their surprise inclusion is more interesting than the minimal gameplay implications, we’ll let you find them yourself.

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Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.