By: Adrian V.
I will admit, I’ve
never been a big strategy gamer. Sure, I enjoyed Civ2, but anymore
that’s the cover charge for admission to gaming geekdom.
"Yep, loved Civ 2. And Metroid. Oh yeah, big fan. Ever play
A.P.B.? Er, nevermind." The problem with strategy games was
that the subject matter rarely appealed to me. Let’s be frank,
horses and cannons are boring. Even Mel ‘Martin Riggs’ Gibson
couldn’t keep me from yawning with his "I’ll toss this
tomahawk into your back if you look at me wrong" War of
Independence opus. Come on... he and his siblings were smuggled out
of the country by their father so none of them would have to fight
in the Vietnam War, and now Mel’s a hero of the American
Resistance? That works how?
Where was I?
So pre-industrial scenarios were out, and the only other turn-based
strategy titles that seemed worth investigating involved re-enacting
quasi-realistic 20th century military campaigns. And
unless Mel was coming over to personally explain the best way to
flee in terror from a conflict in the Orient, those titles were just
plain depressing. I play games to escape reality.
But for some
reason, I picked up Advance Wars. Mostly because I don’t think I
could have found another ‘hidden tape’ or ‘old school gap’
without puking, and a little because I wanted to pretend I was using
my brain while wasting more precious hours of my life gaping at
a piece of plastic while the other people on the train gave me those
‘You’re how old?’ looks. So there you have it.
purchase appears to have paid off, which is more than I can say for
those suckers who bought GT Advance. And if there’s anyone else
out there waiting to become one of those suckers, I have a *nearly*
new copy of said game in my possession that I would gladly part with
for say, the price of a Happy Meal. With a Simpson’s toy.
Or a used copy
of Powerstone 2. I’m flexible.
So what exactly
is Advance Wars? And more importantly, should it be in your
possession yet? And why did that skinny kid always sit with the fat
kid at lunch? What the hell did they have to talk about?
you see your feet?"
haven’t been able to cut my toenails in six years."
gonna go sit over there now."
The answer to
these, and many more questions will be presented in the following
So what’s the
game about? Put simply, it’s a Junior League strategy game. By
Junior, I mean that a lot of micromanagement has been trimmed like
so much fat from a cheap steak. And by League, I meant nothing. It
just thought it would make ‘Junior’ sound less juvenile. Looking
at it, I see that it instead sounds like an organization of pre-schoolers
playing T-ball and trading Pokémon, but that’s the chance you
take, owning something called a Game BOY. I guess Portable
Masculine Entertainment Device was already taken. Or too creepy.
puts you in charge of the Orange Star Army (whose enemies include
Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, Green Earth and Black Hole...those guys
work overtime at the Backstory Content desk, eh?) and asks you to
guide them in their efforts to...well, take over the world. Their
dreams of global domination are kept kinda quiet, but really, there’s
no other reason for most of the things you’re asked to do. You
frequently take massive military forces into foreign countries
without asking permission or giving as explanation to the
inhabitants, so I guess the designers were adhering to American
foreign policy when putting this one together. Nice to see them
trying to be more accommodating of Western philosophy. Now if only
one of the missions was ‘Protect Our Overseas Oil Interests’ or
‘Drive Out The Canadian Nuisance’ they’d be guaranteed to get
a US Government contract. Can’t you just see all those guys in
fatigues ‘training’ on their ArmedforcesBOYs? No more
worries about looking childish with one of those in your
unfortunate though, that storming Fidel Castro’s compound wasn’t
made into a game level, because that would have made all the
difference. As it is, the campaign ends up being a series of
missions putting your limited forces in a myriad of difficult
circumstances, with the ultimate goal usually being either total
elimination of hostile forces, or the capture of the enemy’s base.
You take turns moving your units about the map, engaging in
skirmishes and generally doing your best to do less dying than the
guys you shoot at.
So let’s break
the gameplay down into good and bad.
Simple units and battle conditions. You only have eighteen unit
types to deal with, and any time you choose to engage a hostile, you
are told exactly how much damage you will deal. Also, you can lay
multiple courses and gauge your unit’s effectiveness before
committing to the action, which is truly a blessing. The only
consideration is that, supposedly, choosing the route and then
negating it still uses fuel. But re-supplying my units was not a
concern that arose often enough to make me worry about burning
diesel. Maybe if they put those ‘Oil Interest’ missions in, I’d
have three different CO’s to choose from before each battle.
Essentially, they do nothing other than provide specific benefits
and/or hindrances to your units. They make no strategic decisions,
but can be quite useful. For example, once charged, Andy can unleash
a ‘special’ that repairs 2 hit points to all of your units. Then
there’s Max, who gives all your melee (or direct-fire) forces an
attack bonus but all his long-range units, simply put, suck.
That’s a military term.
The campaign has
branching paths that allow for different secrets to be available
once you’ve finished the game. The choices you make also have a
direct affect on the final battle (which I won’t ruin for you,
suffice to say that the CO’s involved in that conflict are
influenced heavily by previous actions).
The control is
entirely without issue, since there is no precision gaming involved
in any way. Maybe the cursor could have moved a bit faster, but that’s
just looking for fault.
there is a save feature that can be used at any point (which really
should be a given on a portable system).
And then we have
missions. Essentially, you just have to blow the other guy up all
the time. There were only a handful of times (read: less than 5 on
my first run through) where the victory conditions were even
remotely interesting. A few more ‘Defend this specific thing’ or
‘Destroy that specific thing’ would have been a big help. You
can only blow up so many medium tanks before the existential angst
getting a little tired of playing the underdog. When are we going to
be able to take on an enemy when our forces are obviously superior,
or at least equal? Why do I continually have to begin the
mission at such a pronounced disadvantage that half of my gaming
time is sucked away in a clichéd, monstrously boring struggle to
churn out enough forces to keep the enemy from destroying my
factories as they churn out enough forces to keep the enemy from
destroying my factories as they churn out enough forces to....
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