Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Playing strategy games was never my favourite pastime activity and Nintendo consoles have never been in my possession. Until the day both were united in the form of Advance Wars: Dual Strike for the Nintendo DS. Consequence: I finally obtained a Nintendo console and -slap my ars and call me Charly- but I enjoyed it too.
I’m not very fond of talking about storylines. There are two reasons for that. First off I’m trying to prevent ruining your game fun by giving too much away. Secondly I’m a rather lazy person and the “see for yourself” thought often crosses my mind. Since the second reason isn’t appreciated if you’re a reviewer, I’ll gather all my courage and perseverance to tell you a little bit about the story. After a severe war against the Black Hole army, all the good fellows put their heads together to form an alliance. The next battle takes place in Microland, where the baddies of Black Hole are doing their thing again. You once again have the choice between several commanding officers (CO’s) to prevent Microland to fall in the hands of evil. That’s all there is to it, really.
For those not familiar with previous Advance Wars games, including me, the first missions are a big help. You learn to use your different units as well as different ways of attacking the enemy. Experienced players won’t really bother, but in these days of information overload, a little refreshment of the memory won’t hurt, will it? The only downfall is the huge amount of dialogue that comes with this. As a newbie, I also thought they were talking a bit too much. It could be a bit briefer. But then again this little minus is not at all decisive for the total score. The depth of the game, however, is. In a good way…
Each battle can be won in two ways; by defeating every unit of the opponent or by capturing their headquarters. It’s your choice to decide which one is the best. This however isn’t the end of the thinking process in this game. In AW:DS you’ll have to take account of much more things. The weather, for instance, plays a big role in your strategy. Certain missions involve fog of war, making your vision more limited. Every unit has a different vision, so you’ll have to use your best unit to scout ahead to see where the enemies are hiding. The number of different units is surprisingly big. From artillery to transport choppers and submarines to jet-fighters: anything you can think of is there. Every time you get to play with a new unit, you’ll get an explanation of its possibilities which came in very handy in my case since this is, without a doubt, the first strategy game I play. Yes, I did commit a sin by playing Command & Conquer years ago, just to hear the accent of the Russians, but I think that this doesn’t count for being intense playing time.
Attacking in AW:DS is done by turn based battles. After you’ve given orders to your units, it’s your opponent’s turn and you won’t be able to do anything about it. In role playing games I’m not really a fan of turn based gameplay, but in strategy games it’s doing its job nicely. This might have a large “big fucking duh” feeling to it, but I’m a strategy noob remember? Turn based often means looking at tons of stats, but this isn’t really the case in AW:DS. The top screen of your DS shows all the useful information about the selected unit so you won’t have to bother using menu’s here.
After every victory you’ll get a rating which varies depending on how many units you bought and how many you lost. The highest rating is the S rating and given the pretty open and easy to pick up gameplay, you’ll be receiving straight S’s in the beginning. This, however, doesn’t make the game boring. You’ll have to really push yourself to get a S rating. Aside from this rating, you’ll also be rewarded with experience points; a feature which is often seen in RPG’s and works just as good in this strategy game. If you gained enough experience points you’ll rise up a level, giving you more power each time you progress a level. Every CO has different abilities too. Take Max for instance; he sucks in indirect combat but he’s the man when it comes to direct combat. Each CO has also his own special abilities, which you’ll be able to use throughout the battles.
The things I’ve mentioned so far are all coming from the campaign mode, which is the main storyline of the game. However, if you played through it, the fun’s not over yet. In single player mode, you can also play in the following modes:
•War Room: You’ll have to battle computer opponents and you’ll earn points for applying a good strategy
•Versus: In this mode you’re able to play against up to four players with only one Nintendo DS
•Survival: This game mode is further divided in three. When choosing Money, you’ll get a certain amount of money beforehand and you’ll have to last as long as you can with the given money. Turn, on the other hand, sets a number of maximum turns in which you’ll have to finish your battle. And finally, Time, which is pretty obvious. You’re just given a time limit.
•Combat: You can compare this mode with a death match in FPS. Everything happens in real time here, so no more turn based gameplay.
•Battle maps: This isn’t really a game mode but rather a shop where you can buy all sorts of stuff, ranging from new outfits for your CO’s to new battlegrounds. Enough stuff to keep the freaks, that want to unlock every single thing in a game, satisfied for months.
Everyone enjoys doing it on its own, but sometimes you need some variation and you crave for more. That’s why there’s a multiplayer mode in AW:DS, which is again divided into multi-card play and download play. In multi-card play it’s possible to play a normal battle with a minimum of two and a maximum of four players. When you’ve only got one version of AW:DS in your group, you can still play Combat with up to eight players. It’s obvious that AW:DS will not be forgotten quickly nor will it be thrown in a corner to catch some dust.
When it comes to graphics and sound AW:DS continues to take the high road. Everything breaths that typical cartoon feel, which perfectly suits the game. The dialogues aren’t spoken though but this really tiny flaw is quickly forgotten thanks to the good sound effects and musical score. It’s obvious that Nintendo is again delivering a high quality product with AW:DS.
Who would have imagined me playing a strategy game and enjoying every single bit of it? Advance Wars: Dual Strike can be recommended to any DS player, whether or not you’ve played strategy games before; it doesn’t matter. The easy to use gameplay still offers enormous depth so I say: try this game, it’s worth it.