|April 21, 2023
While the Wars series dates all the way back to Famicom Wars in 1988, the entry that most brought it to prominence was 2001’s Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance. One of the early flagship titles for Nintendo’s handheld system, the gorgeous animation, and bright, colorful visuals brought new fans to it the franchise while solid tactical gameplay and a fun, well-rounded cast kept them playing. Now, 22 years later, we’ve gotten a ground-up remake with campaigns for both Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. Despite a few notable concerns, this package brings those entries to a modern audience beautifully.
Violence: Animated war actions like guns firing, tanks shooting, or bombers shooting. There is no gore. Units who are killed kind of disappear in an explosion.
Sexual Content: None.
Drugs and Alcohol: None.
Language/Crude Humor: There is no language or humor in the game that wouldn’t be fit for a Saturday morning cartoon for children.
Dark/Spiritual Content: There is an evil villain set on world domination. He manipulates others and pulls the strings in an attempt to orchestrate events. His lackeys are also on the evil side. They’re depicted with black clothing and more sinister personalities. Otherwise, even warring commanders typically have positive interactions/dispositions with one another after battles.
The year was 2001. As a high school sophomore with some extra saved money, I wanted to try the cool new Nintendo handheld. I was immediately drawn to the bright, vibrant war game with gorgeous animation. Now I’m in my late thirties and being given the chance to dive into a well-done remake with modern updates has stoked the fires in my strategic little heart.
I have to commend WayForward on the work they’ve done rebuilding Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2 from the ground up. There are a few missteps I’ll address, but as a longtime fan of the originals, this package delivers wonderfully on its promise. The campaigns are both there, now with voice acting, beautiful new CO Power animations, and a Casual difficulty option. The game has a fully-featured map designer. There’s a War Room so you can play skirmish scenarios against AI opponents. They also have a Versus mode to play hot seat with friends locally and an Online mode that lets you play against friends that have the game.
Let’s start with the campaigns. Both are here in their full glory. You’ll get to take each step with Andy and the Orange Star Army as he, Max, and Sami engage with other COs around the world in order to save Cosmo Land. Things get a bit more pointed in the sequel as all of Cosmo Land’s COs will have to work together to drive the invading Black Hole Army out of Macro Land.
For a tactics-based war game, I really like Advance Wars‘ stories. The mission structure and narration are well thought out to tell a great overall narrative. Each of the characters has a great personality with their own motivations that make them relevant and interesting. While the in-mission banter can sometimes feel a little weak, it all serves to deliver a great, family-friendly tale strategy fans will enjoy regardless of their age.
From a gameplay perspective, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp nailed what made the originals so fun to play. Every move feels as substantial as it did over two decades ago. Units all have their own strengths and weaknesses, ensuring each unit on the battlefield has good reason to be there. From unit movement to attacking to capturing structures and maneuvering through the fog of war, the whole package is still as engaging as its ever been.
But what about the audiovisual upgrades? These are arguably the most significant updates to the games. All of the COs were given anime glow-ups, with elements of their wardrobe being modernized and the characters each getting some minor tweaks. Where the pieces you control in the original games were fully animated pixel art, the entirety of the new game is done with completely rebuilt 3-D models. I struggled with this update at first. Seeing units move around the field almost gave the game more of a Tiny Metal feel than the classic Advance Wars. Seeing models of soldiers jumping on buildings as they captured them felt off just enough to get the sense something wasn’t right. As I worked my way through the campaigns, though, it all grew on me. Now, I think the 3-D models are perfectly fine. I just want folks to be aware there could be a bit of an adjustment period for nostalgic fans. In terms of positive updates, I love the new animated CO Power activation screens. Watching the wind blow Max’s shirt or Matrix-like code scroll across Sonja’s glasses (oh yeah, she has glasses now) with an anime feel is a real treat. All of the game’s audio has been updated as well with orchestral and rock takes on the series’ classic tracks. Re-Boot Camp looks and sounds fantastic.
As much as I love what WayForward has done with this package, I have to address the online situation, which is my biggest gripe with the package. We continually say this, but Nintendo is woefully behind the curve in its online offering. With Advance Wars 1+2, you have to have friends on your friend list that have the game or the online is dead on arrival. I have thirty friends on Switch but none of them own the game, so the online offering is completely worthless. There was so much opportunity here. They could’ve had a custom map leaderboard so folks could share their creations. They wasted the opportunity to have online matchmaking of some sort incorporated too. The claim they’re trying to protect their users feels like hand-waving. Player interaction for this situation was solved by online TCGs with a limited set of emotes years ago. Sure, I can play skirmish matches against the AI ad nauseam, but this could’ve been built for us to enjoy online for years to come. It’s a real shame.
I hope everyone else loves this package as much as I have. Despite the poorly implemented online features, it’s one of my favorite bits of revived nostalgia in recent years. The 3-D models took a bit to grow on my sentiment-addled mind but I’m comfortable saying all the game’s visuals are beautiful, especially the updated CO designs and their CO Power animations. The updated soundtrack is a treat, too. I’d love to see WayForward tackle remakes for the rest of the modern Wars games…but give us proper online matchmaking and map-sharing mechanics. Regardless, if you enjoy tactics games and have a Switch, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is a must-have.
Review copy generously provided by Nintendo
The Bottom Line
Despite an awkward online offering, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is an excellent package that strategy fans both new and old will love.