author: Giancarlo Saldana
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp Review: Modern Classic Warfare
22 years after their first deployment, Advance Wars is back with two games in one Switch remake. Are the improvements enough to make you want to hit the battlefield again? Find out in our review.
The review is based on the Switch version.
Turn-based strategy games can be as simple or as complex as developers want them to be, but in order for a series to be successful, it has to have that special oomph that keeps fans coming back for more. Look at XCOM and Fire Emblem—two totally different brands that offer their own kind of RTS experience and hit hard because they’re so iconic.
- Two strategy games in one package that offer hours of RTS fun;
- Welcome quality of life improvements to its classic gameplay;
- Updated visuals, animations, and guides.
- Questionable lack of online multiplayer;
- Story is still forgettable with no improvements beyond added voice lines.
Advance Wars, on the other hand, could be regarded as a forgotten wonder that saw its first game come out back in 2001. This Game Boy Advance title set the series in motion and brought us a game that was colorful, smart, and portable enough to enjoy anywhere. 22 years later, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp puts the first two games in the series in the spotlight once more and proves every game deserves a second chance to shine.
Tactics of War
At its core, Advance Wars is a real time strategy game that pits two different armies against one another on various map grids across the game’s warring world. During each turn, players can move land, air, or sea units around the map, deploy new units from bases, or move certain ones onto cities to capture them. Captured cities provide additional defense against enemy attacks and also heal your units each turn. The main objective of most missions is to obliterate every enemy on the field or capture your opponent’s central city to win the game.
On paper this seems rather simple, but playing the game an entirely different story as there are multiple things to take into consideration. That’s the thrill of RTS games, after all, since each turn can have a massive impact on your success if you make the right move. Air units are massacred by anti-aircraft missiles, only infantry units can capture cities, and tanks can block anyone from crossing bridges so they provide ways to stall your enemies while you sneak around or target their weak spots. These and many other unique characteristics about your squad will prove vital each turn.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp may not win any awards for its story or online offerings, but at its core are two games that offer you a classic RTS experience that continues to hit hard 22 years later.
This depth of strategic options continues even in the environment as you will encounter missions where a dense fog covers most of the map making it impossible to see where enemies lurk until you approach their adjacent space. While the first game offers mainly straightforward missions, the second game features even more unique requirements here and there that force you to put everything you learned into practice if you want to win. Sometimes you may need to capture a few cities before beating the enemy, for example, or race the clock before you lose. And even if you finally finish a tough mission, your score will depend on a few factors so you are always challenged to do better and improve.
Advance Wars and its sequel Black Hole Rising don’t feature the most exciting storylines, but what gives them character are the various commanding officers that you will play with and against throughout the main campaign. These COs offer some unique powers during a battle and each one can give you an advantage that can turn the tables on an enemy in just one turn. Andy can heal all squad units on the map during his turn and power them up while Grit powers up all units and increase their range allowing some to take down units from halfway across the map.
You won’t get to fully enjoy each CO as often as you want during the main campaign, but you can pick your favorite when you play through the game’s War Room mode against the computers. This gives you a chance to play new maps against some tough opponents even during or after the main game is done. Each CO brings something unique to the battlefield so missions will never feel exactly the same thanks to their powers and influence over some of your decisions. Plus, it’s great to have even more missions to play through after you are done with each of the game’s meaty 20-hour campaigns.
One of the joys of playing Re-Boot Camp is seeing the classic Advance Wars games in a whole new light thanks to some updated visuals that make the game feel like a friendly cartoon show despite its warlike premise. Beautifully updated character models and smooth animations make the action pop more onscreen, and considering the original had only the small GBA’s screen to work with, it’s a no-brainer that it all look so much better on the Switch. More room also means it’s easier to hover over a unit to get insight on their weaknesses and advantages and to preview how many spaces they can move. It’s these quality of life improvements that also augment the experience thanks to more screen space.
Various cutscenes when deploying your CO powers look like transformation scenes from an anime and occasional voice lines give each officer a more fleshed out personality that didn’t exist on the GBA. COs also now sport an updated distinctive look that is a huge upgrade from their original design. The same can’t be said of your units, however, as they look like lifeless toy soldiers during cutscenes when they attack. It’s an odd choice to stray from the overall anime-inspired look of the game, but there is no denying the game masks the brutality of war with colorful animations that make conquering another country seem like a friendly altercation between friends.
Other quality of life improvements include being able to reset a turn if you make a mistake, targeting an enemy right away to initiate attack, and fast forwarding through attack sequences. These make a huge difference in how fast you can play through a game, and because some missions could potential take you more than 20 minutes to complete, it does speed things up and bring the series up to the date with more modern RTS game features.
In addition to campaign and versus modes, Re-Boot Camp also includes an improved level designer that lets you create maps with all the fixings. While it’s great to make your favorite courses big or small, sharing them is more limited as you can only send them to people on your friend’s list. An online sharing feature akin to Super Mario Maker would have been amazing so this mode may not get much use unless you have others with the game you can play against.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about the game’s multiplayer offerings. While it is great to play with up to three other players on the same Switch system, it’s disappointing that there isn’t an online matchmaking component to let you fend off against others around the world. The originals only had local multiplayer, of course, so it’s as if the remake is now forcing you to find nearby friends and play together like you did back in 2001. Chances are all of you are grown up now and would really benefit from online matches.
You can tell Re-Boot Camp was a labor of love as the game is filled with things for you to collect and unlock that not only keep you coming back for more, but are great ways to fall in love with the series all over again. All the money you get from completing missions can be spent at Hachi’s Shop, where you can purchase additional maps for various modes, more Commanding Officers to play with, and various gallery and music tracks to listen to. There is definitely a lot here to keep you busy even beyond the main campaign.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
True to the originals, Re-Boot Camp is the quintessential game you can play on the go. It’s the perfect addition to your Switch library of games as it features a plethora of missions and modes that challenge you to do better while testing your strategic skills. Don’t forget that you’re getting two games here and the main campaign has two difficulty modes for those who may think the game is too easy. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp may not win any awards for its story or online offerings, but at its core are two games that offer you a classic RTS experience that continues to hit hard 22 years after their first deployment.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com