Advance Wars 2 Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Intelligent Systems

Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

The threat once posed by the Black Hole Army to Wars World has returned, more powerful than ever. Join Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet and Green Earth as they unite to repel the technologically superior invading forces.

Kyle Ackerman

It would be easy to say that Advance Wars 2 is simply a remake of Advance Wars, offering a bit more of the same cheerful and cartoonish, turn-based, strategic warfare provided in the original title. In truth, it is more. Advance Wars pushed the Game Boy Advance (GBA) so far in its pursuit of entertaining strategy gaming that we described it as reason enough to recommend a GBA to a prospective purchaser. So what more could be done in a sequel? Apparently, a good deal.

Advance Wars 2 has all the familiar units, terrain and Commanding Officers (COs) from the first game, and continues the plot where Advance Wars left off. The Black Hole army, led by the sinister Sturm, has been repelled from Cosmo Land (part of Wars World), after attempting to turn the COs of the resident armies like Orange Star and Yellow Comet against one another in a test of their capabilities. Now, Black Hole has returned in force to conquer Macro Land by invasion. To complete their scheme, Black Hole is busily seizing territory, sending resources through a vast system of pipes and factories to a hidden Black Hole stronghold that converts the plunder into a conquering army and doomsday weaponry.

For gamers, this means that Black Hole has arrived with new and vicious COs, and all manner of deadly fixed emplacements, from missile silos to the devastating Black Cannon and multidirectional lasers. Black Hole's junior genius, Lash, brings plenty of sinister technology to Macro Land, including the Neo Tank, a new unit more powerful than any ground unit ever fielded in Cosmo Land. Each of the four defending armies also has a new CO (although Orange Star's Nell needs to be unlocked), adding powerful new allies like the paratrooper Sensei or the unskilled, but wealthy Colin.

CO powers that could transform combat in the original Advance Wars have been more carefully balanced. Now, each CO has both a power and superpower. As their units take or deal damage, CO power builds up, which can be used to activate the lesser power, or if it builds up long enough, can be used for a much stronger skill. For example, in the original, Andy could use his power to repair 20% of the damage done to all units. In Advance Wars 2, that is Andy's ordinary power, but his super power heals 50% of damage. These powers to repair, do increased damage, capture towns or even fill controlled towns with infantry continue to serve a pivotal role in combat, and changing the CO's involved in a battle can completely change play on the same map.

Units and terrain in Advance Wars 2 look the same as in the prior game. That's not a bad thing, as the bright colors and clear designs made it easy to see and understand the battlefield, even on a dim GBA screen. Nearly everything else, though, has been tweaked and polished. The menus, titles, CO appearance, credits and background screens are all more polished and impressive. While few of these impact game play, they do improve the overall experience.

Also, the new technologies do more than add new weapons and guns. Campaign mode in Advance Wars 2 has more varied strategic objectives than its predecessor. Sometimes the goal is to destroy a massive cannon. Other times you must sneak around it as quickly as possible to break a hole through a massive pipe. Because you need to steal plans for the Neo Tanks from secret laboratories, you might even go out of your way to capture extraneous properties, in hopes of finding a map to the lab's location, lest you be left without Neo Tanks in later battles. Of course, if you finish the entire campaign, there is a harder version of the campaign to be played. Some maps are different, and many are just tweaked slightly, but they are considerably more challenging, offering even more play than just the basic campaign.

The campaign mode is hardly all there is to the game. Wining battles will allow you to unlock maps, COs, music, color palettes and more. You even get to choose what you unlock with your winnings. All of these can then be used in single or multiplayer battles, on your own GBA or across multiple, liked units. The maps from Advance Wars are included, so you can revisit any of your favorite locations from the first game. An added feature is the ability to build, save and play on your own, custom maps.

Advance Wars was easy to recommend, and anyone who has not already done so should rush straight out to acquire Advance Wars 2. The only question is whether Advance Wars 2 offers enough additional material that owners of the first title should bother to purchase the second: the answer is an emphatic yes! This new installment offers so much additional material, along with plenty of pleasant tweaks, that it is a must-have. Advance Wars 2 has added enough new material to be a worthy sequel, and a sequel worth owning.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 22, 2003 6:36 PM.

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