The Advance Wars games are amazing achievements, and this version refines the series even more to higher standards.
The Bad: Looks and sounds like the GBA versions.
Introduction: Advance Wars is a strategy game that is available on the GBA. It is also one of the GBA's biggest hits. Well now the third game in the series hits the U.S., and its on the Nintendo DS: the next generation of platforms. Sporting the same stylized look, with cute looking characters destroying each other like madmen, its no surprise this game appeals to so many! Well here it is; quite possibly the greatest DS Games available, this game is pure brilliance.
Presentation: Everything in Advance Wars DS is great, and gives you the classic feel of the previous games. The menus are easy to navigate (by the stylus or the standard buttons). There is nice dialog in the game, and Intelligent Systems really does well in terms of storytellings (particularly Fire Emblem POR). This game just serves well to the classic series.
Story: Yes, there is a story in Advance Wars Dual Strike, but it only pertains to the Campaign Mode. The story is not what is considered "original", but at least there is one that isn't what you may consider corny. Well this game takes place after Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (on the GBA). The Black Hole army has been defeated in their plot to take over the land, and were thwarted be the Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth Army. Well they have returned, with new technology and more Commanding Officers (CO's) than ever before. They are plotting something big, and by means are trying to take over Omega Land. The Black Hole Army is immense, and the only way to defeat them is by combining the four armies into one organization; known as the Allied Nations. Led by two new CO's, Jake and Rachel, you must help thwart the demonic plans of the Black Hole Army, before its too late...
Graphics: The graphics in this game are GBA Quality really. The animations are smoother, and there is some more detail on the units and map in which you navigate. It still could have used more, but then again, why mess with the formula when its not needed right? Besides, the graphical art style is what sets the series apart from other Strategy and War games, and it really is pretty intuitive as well.
Sound: Just like the graphics, the sound isn't top notch for the DS. However, its not what you would call bad. The music is done very well and sets the mood nicely for the game, and the sound effects are done greatly; it gives a nice sense of war on a portable system (with cartoony characters of course)
Gameplay: Here we go, the longest and most important section of the review- Gameplay. Well, as of March 23, 2006, Advance Wars Dual Strike is my favorite DS game ever. The game is addicting as one can think of, and the game is just fresh so that it never gets boring. It is an amazing RTS game and definitely one the best, so heres why: Well, when you start the game, you are on a map. The map sports different terrains by which affects different units, etc. For one, you have a Head Quaters, or HQ. This is your main base, and is important to keep an eye on at all times. The next thing to keep an eye out for is cities. There are allied cities and neutral cities. Cities help determine the amount of funds being added to your inventory at the start of each turn. You can capture cities with Infantry Units (later), and it depends on how strong the Unit is to determine how long it takes to capture the city. Cities are important for control in the game, a sort of King of the Hill, so to speak. But of course, Infantry Units can capture an HQ as well. Once they do that, you or the opponent loses. It is extremely important to keep you HQ guarded at all times, otherwise it can result into defeat. But of course, there are other ways to defeat an opponent, and this cant be done without Units. But you can produce Units without funds now can you? Well, based on what I said earlier, you get funds based on how many cities you have in your possession. You will have limited number of funds per turn, and you can choose to spend them during your turn. If not, then you can keep your funds and add them to the new sum on your next turn. However, funds can be automatically decreased. When a Unit is damaged for example, they will try and recover their HP at your bases/cities, and this costs amounts of money. It depends on the strength of the unit however, as stronger Units cost more money to repair. Now on to the Units:
When you play Advance Wars DS, you have buildings that can produce Units. You either start out with an allied base, or you must capture one to produce a Unit. There are three different Unit types in which you can produce, Ground Units, Air Units, and Naval Units. Ground Units can only move onto the ground, which are built at a Factory. They include Units such as Infantry, Tanks, Anti Airs, and long range vehicles. Infantry and Mech Units are considered Ground Units, and are the only Units that can capture cities/bases. Mech Units are stronger, but have a shorter distance of movement and cost more to produce. These two Units are keys into capturing territories to gain money, and they are also the cheapest to produce. So its important to keep them coming if you want to survive. The next Unit Group is Air Units, which are built at Airports.. These include Battle Copters, Bombers, and Fighters, etc. They can travel farther than other Units and are very useful for taking out opponents. They however are expensive and consume fuel quickly (later). They can however travel over any type of terrain, with no limitations. The last Unit Group is the Naval Units, which are built at ports. These can only travel amongst the ocean. They are blockaded by Coral Reefs, and cannot travel in rivers. They attack other Naval Units, however other Units, can attack from Long Range (later). They also consume fuel while floating amongst the ocean, so it is best to keep them at a Port if you want to keep their fuel from decreasing. What is the point of fuel anyways? Well each Unit has an amount of Fuel in which it uses, and determines how long the Unit can stay afloat, above sky, or moving. When you are constantly moving on land, it consumes fuel. Different terrains also consume more fuel than others. They can be replenished by staying in cities, or being refilled by an APC. APC's are transport units that can transport Infantry much farther then they are designated to travel. They also resupply ammunition, which is also another part to a Unit. Units that attack have ammunition, some with more, some with less. When they attack Units from time to time, their ammunition is decreased. APC's and Cities can refill them. Keep in mind though, that Air Units and Naval Units burn fuel even if they do not move. If they run out of fuel, then they are destroyed. Now this wouldn't be Advance Wars if you couldn't obliterate your enemies right? Well here are the basics for battling. The game map is set up like a grid system, and it determines how far your Unit can move, or its attack range. Units (not including Long Range, (still later!) attack Units from one grid space away. But it depends on what Units you use that determines your strength, a lead to victory. For example, there are tens of Units to choose from. Tanks, Recons (or as they can be used in slang, Hummers), Infantry, and more. Well, there are also different strengths. Infantry Units are obviously the weakest, because they are just men running around with assault rifles. So obviously, a Tank will have the advantage. There are different types of Tanks that can be produced, with stronger ones obviously having a higher cost. But this is only half of it, the other half is the Units HP. HP also determines a Units strength. For example, if two Tanks were to head into battle against one another, a Tank with 8 HP v.s a Tank with 3 HP, the Tank with 8 would obviously win. Its not all sticks and stones however. The Attacking Unit will have a slight advantage. If a level 10 Recon attacks level 10 Recon, the Attacking Recons HP would be reduced to about 7, and the defending about 5. Now when the 5 attacks the 7, it becomes a 4, and the attacking becomes a 3. If there is a small difference in terms of HP, then you can attack and still have an advantage. If there is a marginal difference, then you will be doing small amounts of damage but be destroyed as well. It is a complex system at first, but is easily learned after playing the game for a few hours. Now when Air Units attack, they can inflict damage to Ground Units. Bombers can attack Ground Units and deal much damage. HOWEVER, Anti Air Tanks can still attack the Bomber. In this term, it really depends on who attacks who first. Now the next part is Long Range Units. These Units can attack other Units from space that is not near the attacked unit. They are generally strong as well when attacking, but have weak defense. They are good strategic points when attack powerful Units that are difficult to defeat (due to lack of Units or funds!) Each Unit has their own strengths and weaknesses, but all of them play a key into helping you achieve victory. Its important to learn about the different Units and such, so that you can experience what and what not to use in different situations. Another factor to look for in Advance Wars is the Terrain Effects. When playing, there are many different types of terrain, such as Grassland, Roads, Cities, Beaches, Mountains, etc. These are important to look for because they lead to higher/lesser consumption of fuel, and also provide defense for your Units. Units that are in the Forests attacking Units in the plains have higher amounts of cover, so they will have an advantage in battle. The amount of cover is determined by Asterisks which are displayed on the battle scenes. There are limitations too, such that Infantry and Mech Units are the only Ground Units that can traverse Mountains. They however provide strong cover/defense, so they are useful even though they have movement limitations. Again, there is another factor that can determine battle, and this is the weather. Rainy weather creates a little thing called Fog of War, in which Opposing Units are camouflaged into surrounding,; this is also the same for your opponent, so you may run into enemies when you are least expecting it. Also there are snowstorms and sandstorms, and these conditions reduce movement and increase fuel consumption.
Another thing to look for in battling is the CO's being used in battle. Each CO has their own different strengths, and even special abilities. By attacking and doing well in the battlefield, your selected CO will achieve special powers through Star Meters. When your Star Meter is half way full, you can use one of your powers, when full, you can use a much more Special Power- and even something more special (in a second!). These powers really can turn the tide in battle. They may do things such as heal Units, reduce Terrain Effects, Strengthen Units, or even spawn more! There is alot of variety in the COs, and its very important to keep an eye on what they are doing. Well whats different about Advance Wars DS is that now you can use two CO's during battle. This is extremely engaging to the gameplay, because different CO's work well with each other more than others. Rachel for example works best with her sister Nell (from the first game). But the big key here is Dual Strikes, hence the title. When you Star Meter is completely filled on BOTH CO's, you can achieve a Dual Strike. This lets you attack two turns in a row, and have the effects of the special ability added on both. The powers are also strengthened when CO's have a better relationship with one another. Its always good to check which CO's work well with one another. But keep in mind that you can only play with one CO at a time, or one CO gains more experience in their Star Meter. Thats why you can choose to swap your CO's when you want the other to gain experience. It is extremely engaging, and the Dual Strikes are very powerful, so you better watch out. There are many Game Modes in Advance Wars DS. The first is Campaign, in which you battle through the story. Next is the War Room, where you can achieve a ranking/score for your data and your CO's record. Then there is Versus, in which you can challenge a friend via Multi Card Play Wirelessly, or battle a computer. Next you have the Combat Mode, which is a completely different way of playing Advance Wars. It is very basic once you play it, so theres no need for me to explain it. But let me just say that you control you own Units, via Control Pad, as opposed to directing them. Next you have the Survival Mode, which is used a basic game with limitations, such as beating your opponent in a certain amount of turns, or with limited funds.
Then you have a Battle Maps Mode, in which you can purchase many things by the points you've earned while playing the game. This ranges from new COs, new Maps, and even New Clothes.......? Well in another place called the Design Room, you can choose to fit your COs in clothes of different colors. Theres no point really, but it can have a bit of fun to it. As well, there is also a Map Editor, in which you create you own Map to be used in Versus. You can add anything you want on the map, but their is a limitation for the number of buildings. It is a great mode, as you can make levels completely for Naval Units, Air Units, os just Ground Units. I have spent hours in this mode making new maps, which you can save on your game (and then play them!).
Whats New: Well Advance Wars DS seems simliar to its other games in almost every way, so whats different about it? Well, for one, you have the option of using two CO's in battle, as well as the Super Power Dual Strikes. This makes the game fresh and fun, and you even have the option to turn them off in Versus Mode. Next, you have some new Units. You have a Stealth Fighter, which can attack all Unit types and has a Cloaking Device so it is not spotted by an enemy. You have Cruisers, which can launch Missiles at Air Units, and house its own AIr Units to replenish fuel. And then you have a Mega Tank, which is the most powerful Ground Unit in the game. It is nearly unstoppable, and obliterates everything in its path. Too bad it costs about $30,000 (which is quite a number in Advance Wars... which may be a standard SUV in the real world!). But what else is different is the Dual Screened Battles. When playing, you can choose to battle on two screens at once. You can pick two CO's and one may battle on the Top Screen, while the other controls the Touch Screen. You can choose to have it so the AI controls one of the battles, while you control the other. If one CO on one of the screens wins, then they will join and help fight with the other CO on the other screen. Which is pretty scary now that they can use Dual Strikes. You also have linking battles, in which Air Units are above the clouds (Top Screen) and Naval, Ground, and Air Units are below. You can send Air Units to the clouds above to join in the battle, and that is important to keep them coming (there are no Airports in the sky now are there?!) There are even more battles, whether it be a satelittle ready to fry your city or Missiles ready to attack your land, Dual Screened Battles are fresh enough to keep this series from getting a dull moment. Multiplayer: Yeah, Multiplayer. Extremely engaging and tense, what a better way to play a game then by blowing up your friends? You need two game cards to play a normal Advance Wars Game, but you can play Combat Mode with a Single Cartridge. You can event trade maps (two cartridge), so that keeps the Multiplayer experience fresh and fun.
Value: Well what can I say? This game is just amazing. The best DS Game I own and is just great. The Campaign itself will last you around 15 hours to complete, and there are hundreds of Maps to play with in War Room or Versus. The Multiplayer Mode can last you for hours, and the ability to share and battle on Maps makes for endless possibilities. This game is well worth the purchase and truly sets a mark by how great Strategy games should be.