With the release of Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, I’ve been wanting more and more strategy games. Intelligent Systems is known for a lot of games such as Paper Mario, the Fire Emblem franchise, and the topic of today’s Throwback Thursday, Advance Wars.
Originally started as Famicom Wars in Japan in 1988, the Wars franchise never saw the west until the Advance Wars series came out on the Game Boy Advance in 2003. Advance Wars was my first foray into strategy games and it hooked me. In the original Advance Wars, you command an army, Orange Star, who simply seek for the source of the sudden invasion of a neighboring nation. The player is given the role of tactical adviser who aids a given Commanding Officer, who each have unique abilities called a CO Power, in multiple battles against other nations.
Toward the end of the first game, we discover the big villain which carries onward to the Advance Wars 2 and Advance Wars Dual Strike where more and more features have been added such as the super CO powers and the tag battles or dual front battles. The final Advance Wars game, Days of Ruin is completely unrelated to the trilogy involving The Black Hole and has a significantly darker story line. Days of Ruin even toned down the CO powers and shifted the focus more to actual tactics than good power timings.
Advance Wars has a slightly more complex combat system than the Fire Emblem games. There’s no weapon triangle of sorts, but some units are more effective against certain units and less effective against other. Units are created on the battlefield, not recruited in the story. This means there’s no perma-death so players can be more offensive with their strategy than they could be in Fire Emblem. Units also do not promote to an upper tier, you simply just build the upper tier as a fresh new unit. All this, however, could result in a much longer encounter than necessary. The CO powers also added an element of unpredictability. One turn you could gain the upper hand with an amazing play, then on the enemy’s turn they user their CO power and immediately reverse the situation.
For straight up turn-based strategy, the Advance Wars franchise is amazing. You probably should not expect quick battles all the time but all the encounters in the story are very engaging and all the characters are interesting in both their personalities and abilities. If I still had my gameboy advance (or the DS games even), I’d pick it up again just for these games because they were basically masterpieces. For those who have played these games and are looking for more, Chucklefish is making a spiritual successor to these games with Wargroove expected to be release later this year.