On September 10th, 2001, one day before the horrific terrorist attacks hit the United States a turn-based strategy game titled “Advance Wars” was released for the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo didn’t believe the game could be successful in the U.S. due to the slow turn-based gameplay, but thankfully they released it in the West anyway. Advance Wars was met with critical acclaim spawning numerous sequels. Let’s crank our engines and dive deep into this Advance Wars review!
Advance Wars Plot:
The war takes place in the Cosmo Lands, you are a tactical advisor for the Orange Star Army where you gain commanding officers throughout the game the further you progress. The entire war seems to be one big misunderstanding. There are four armies, the Orange Star, Yellow Comet, Blue Moon, and Green Earth. You will end up battling the other three armies throughout the game but it’s all part of the mastermind Sturm who commands the Black Hole army to weaken the other armies so he can wipe them out without resistance and rule Cosmo Land. Sturm used a doppelganger clone of one of the Orange Star commanding officers to incite the aggressive nature of the three armies, tricking them into thinking that the Orange Star was the aggressor.
Once you defeat the other three armies, the twist is revealed. After the other armies figure out what’s going on, they unite with the Orange Star and takedown Sturm and the Black Hole.
Commanding Officers: Throughout the game, as you advance to new battles you’ll be rewarded new commanding officers to take control off during the war. Let’s take a look at who they are and their special abilities.
Andy: He’s the first commanding officer that you use in the game and turned out to be my favorite. He has the ability to repair damaged units.
Max: He’s your typical “Hulk Smash” character who can double the damage when you attack enemy units.
Sami: She looks like she should be nowhere near a battlefield but she can send units advancing them double their normal distance. (Insert joke about going the distance with her)
Advance Wars Gameplay:
About 10 years ago I wrote my first Advance Wars review but wasn’t satisfied with that website or review so I went back and replayed the game. Advance Wars, to put it simply is a turn-based strategy war game. A HARDCORE, turn-based strategy war game. This game is so hardcore with its strategy that the game won’t let you start the campaign mode unless you complete the tutorial mode and even that is not easy. To put the strategy into context, there are a ton of units to control. Each unit has a certain amount of health points, each unit can travel a different number of squares, and each unit can cross a certain terrain.
The units are infantry (regular soldiers) mechs, (soldiers with bazookas) transporters, small tanks, medium tanks, recon jeeps, artillery, rockets, and missiles. That’s just the ground units!
Sea units include battleships, submarines, loaders, and cruisers. Air units include fighters, bombers, transport helicopters, and battle copters. It gets crazy from here as each one of those units can attack certain things, cross certain terrain, capture certain areas, or carry certain units. You can capture cities to make money and you use the money to build bases, airports, and ports, which you use to build new units.
The concept of the campaign is the only simple thing about the game. Cross the map, enter battles, survive and repeat Simple, yes? Each army has a few commanding officers and each officer has a special power. Special powers include capturing cities faster, moving units further than normal, repairing units, and mass destruction.
I was able to beat the first 25 missions or so on my own. Most of the time I could win the battle on the first try but on a few occasions, I had to replay the mission. During the last four missions, the game was so hard that I had to use a walkthrough. I know that’s not satisfying but it was highly needed. Although I will brag that in the final battle I didn’t have to use a strategy guide and won on the first try. The battle lasted over three hours. No joke. Oh, and once you beat the game you unlock the campaign again only it’s set on Advance. I didn’t even attempt to try this mode as the normal mode was hard enough.
Overall, this game took me around 50 hours to beat. It’s perfect for the Game Boy Advance and had pretty good graphics for its time in 2001. The soundtrack is catchy and upbeat which goes along with the cartoon side of the war. You don’t get graphic deaths and mass body graves but you do see explosions, ships sinking, soldiers shooting, etc…
I only have two small problems with the game. One, I would have enjoyed more of a story. The game had around 10 really interesting characters with cool designs and personalities. I wish they would have increased the story with each character and gave them interests or reasons for fighting in the war. They are really well-drawn characters with colorful designs that make them pop from the screen. The other problem I had is how hard this game is! If someone in their twenties struggles to get past some battles then how in the world is a 12-year old going to beat the game, let alone the tutorial?
The game does do a lot of things well though. It’s extremely addicting once you understand how the game works and would be super fun to play with a friend. You can link your Game Boys up to battle each other!
I first encountered Advance Wars when I was in seventh grade. It was summer vacation, and my mom and stepdad were going to visit Maine for a week. My stepdad’s parents lived there during the summer months at their cabin located right on the ocean. It doesn’t sound too bad except my step-siblings would be coming too. My mom and stepdad were married the year before so I had only met his children once before. I grew up living with my dad, and the weekends I spent with my mom were on a different schedule than my stepdad’s children so I never saw them. We all were of similar ages, I was 13, my stepsister was 14 and my stepbrother was 12. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled that they were tagging along so my mom bribed me to behave by buying me the new Game Boy SP and Pokemon Ruby to go along with it.
While driving through Maine’s mountains and scenery (very beautiful just not to a 13-year old) I had my nose buried into Pokemon. My stepbrother was in the back seat with me and he was playing his Game Boy Advance. I noticed he was pretty focused on his game. Thinking he must be playing Pokemon, (Why else would you play a Game Boy) I casually looked over to his screen and instead of seeing Pokemon battling each other, I saw armies battling each other.
The graphics were pretty good so they kept my attention. He explained to me that it was a strategy turn-based game and let me try out the tutorial. It was pretty hard to grasp. Controlling armies, navies, air forces, and many other types of weapons was very confusing for a 13-year old. Now go ahead and point out the fact that my younger stepbrother understood the game and I didn’t. But he was some type of freak, and by freak, I mean super genius who went on to get an engineering degree at the University of Michigan, his Master’s at MIT and I’m pretty sure he is working on his Doctrine now. That was my first taste of Advance Wars, but it wouldn’t be another ten years until I’d play it for myself when I first reviewed this game in 2014.
Advance Wars Review Score:
This is a great strategy turn-based game for your Game Boy Advance collection. I highly recommend it as it holds up very well even after almost twenty years. After playing Advance Wars, I actually felt smarter. It was like playing chess and really made me strain my brain when thinking about not only my next five moves but my opponents as well. I’d like to think I am now a warlord capable of defeating any army or foe.
Advance Wars scores a 9.5 out of 10.
What would you write in your Advance Wars review? What did you think of Advance Wars when it first came out? Who was your favorite commanding officer? Did you beat the game on your own or did you need some help as I did during a few missions? Have you played against a friend yet? Let me know your thoughts and memories of Advance Wars, I’d love to read them!
If you’d like to own a copy of Advance Wars, you can purchase a preowned edition on eBay for between $8-$45, but hurry up because there are not a lot of options!