just when i thought i was safe from my fire emblem obsession, somehow i got sucked into an entry in its sister series, advance wars, in particular advance wars: dual strike for DS. i had just finished advance wars 2 for GBA, and although i had to force myself to finish that game i had dual strike on hand so i thought i’d just dip into it, as is my wont.
and before i knew it i was hooked! the situation was somewhat similar to my experience when i immediately followed up the somewhat dull and tedious metroid prime 2 with metroid prime: hunters: dual strike turned out to be different enough from AW2 that the experience felt much more refreshing than its predecessor. although the core mechanics are still the same, the game has a host of additions even within the main campaign mode. the main addition is the new tag-team mechanic where you can switch between COs during battle. this change doesn’t seem like it should be nearly as fun as it is, but it’s satisfying to unleash a “dual strike” attack when both of your COs’ attack meters are completely full. the dual strike mechanic is a bit broken in that you get two consecutive, CO-powered turns and it’s easy to completely overwhelm your opponent, but bracing yourself for your enemies’ impending dual strike attack fits fairly well into the overall strategy. the new units are all fun and worthwhile, and the new COs (both enemy and ally) are entertaining as well. the game also adds “dual front” battles where two distinct maps are presented simultaneously on each screen (although most of the time the computer’s AI handles the top-screen battle and you just have to provide support in the form of units you send to the top screen), as well as CO levelling which provides bonuses in battle that are minor but another nice distraction (and you can choose to ignore them if for some reason you don’t want to use them).
beyond all of these gameplay additions are a host of new modes as well. the most straightforward of these are three survival modes (money, turns, and time) that turn out to be a lot of fun. a new real-time “combat” mode provides an occasional diversion, although it isn’t deep enough to be worth spending much time with. one of the most compelling additions for all the obsessive completists out there (such as myself) is the history feature, which tracks such useless stats as number of turns used and number of enemy units of each type destroyed. each stat has 3 “medals” you can earn, and although earning them is much more a matter of gameplay time than skill, it’s still fun to watch your medal count go up as you progress.
looking back on the game it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made this iteration of the series (the 3rd for the US) so compelling. being able to level up your COs somehow makes one more attached to them, and i appreciated the fact that the later maps in the campaign mode aren’t the long, drawn-out affairs that its predecessor has. and although the additions seem relatively minor, they add up and give the game quite a unique feel, especially after the sameness of AW2. the series ended up going in a different direction for the next installment, taking on an entirely new cast, so for now the game has become the third of the “advance wars” trilogy begun with the original advance wars for GBA. it’s a fitting conclusion to the trio, with a host of new features that easily propels this to the top of my list of not only favorite advance wars games, but favorite games ever. now what about that fourth advance wars game? well, any guesses as to when i’ll get around to playing that one? … hmmm? … …
more links advancing to the battlefield!
– entry at wikipedia
– complete script at gamefaqs, especially useful if you’re wondering what the outcomes are of the two choices you’re presented with after the last battle of the campaign mode
– list of unlockables, detailed CO FAQ (including tag affinities), and detailed attack and defense stats FAQ at gamefaqs. (i still don’t understand why the game doesn’t give explicit defense stats, but ah well.) you can also find a damage chart here at advancewarsnet.com.
– you can get a PDF of the manual at nintendo.com
– guide at IGN