We had a chance to play a build of Nintendo's upcoming strategy title Advance Wars for the Game Boy Advance today and came away addicted to yet another game for the handheld. Developed by Intelligent Systems, the game is a wolf in sheep's clothing, blending simple but well-detailed graphics and up-tempo music with what initially appears to be classic slow-paced gameplay.
At its core, Advanced Wars offers deceptively simple turn-based gameplay in which players command units to move and attack. Each unit has its own movement radius and attack range, which must be taken into account during battle. Land, sea, and air mechanical units such as artillery, submarines, and attack helicopters have the added burden of a fuel supply players must manage as they move them in combat.
While the gameplay may seem simple at first, there is a wealth of depth to be found in each battle. Effectiveness in combat is determined by a wide variety of factors including unit types, terrain, and unit height. The variety of attack options in combat due to the various unit types add a great deal to the game. In addition, buildings on the battlefield can be captured for money and used to replenish unit health.
The game includes an in-depth "field training" mode that slowly eases players into combat. Once players have gotten the hang of combat, a lengthy campaign challenges them with fiendishly difficult missions and some brutal AI. Fortunately, players can upgrade their troops and earn special attacks for their commanders to even the odds--or at least try to do so, since enemy commanders have tricks up their sleeves as well. The mode was incredibly addictive and offered a "just one more try" challenge that made it hard to put down. Create-a-map and random map options add icing to an already sweet assortment of play options.
In addition to the single-player modes, Advance Wars offers several multiplayer options. While versus, which allows players to take turns by passing the GBA around, is good, the best multiplayer options make use of the GBA's link cable. Players will be able to play up to three opponents using four game paks and systems via multi pak link play, which allows players to select from all available game options. For those with friends lacking a copy of the game, single pak link play allows players access to only basic gameplay functions. The turn-based gameplay keeps the multiplayer games running smoothly, and they're a blast to play with friends.