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Posted on Sep 4, 2005 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Advance Wars Dual Strike – Game Review (DS)

Armchair General

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Overview

So, here we go with ACG’s first ever Nintendo review! And what a game – Advance Wars Dual Strike might not be as "hard-core" as many of the wargames we cover, but it’s both fun and challenging to play and it fits in your pocket – and you can’t say that about a lot of the games out there.

Advance Wars Dual Strike is the third iteration of the successful Advance Wars series and the first for the Nintendo DS. The original Advance Wars was designed for the Nintendo GameBoy Advance and became an instant hit. Following its release in 2001 it was eventually followed by Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising in 2003. Whilst both games are capable of being played on the DS machine, I must confess that I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to having the latest version of something, so I’ve been looking forward to the DS version ever since the console was released.

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Fans of the series will need no introduction, but for any newcomers out there, the premise of the game is simple and it follows on directly from the stories in the previous titles. In a nutshell, a belligerent force known as "Black Hole", natives of a fictional continent on an equally made-up planet, has invaded and almost conquered a neighbouring continent of allied lands. Players must take command of various Commanding Officers in the field to lead their troops to victory over the course of several story-driven campaign missions which will see them recover stolen lands from the enemy.

Gameplay

The turn-based battles are fought on maps which are divided up into squares which contain varying types of terrain – plains, seas, rivers, mountains, trees, woods or roads. Oh, and let’s not forget the buildings like cities and military bases. Not surprisingly, each type of terrain has advantages or disadvantages when it comes to attack, defence, movement and visibility. There’s even a Fog of War option if players like a challenge and that’s when those forests and mountains really come into their own, ambushes suddenly become a real option, for both sides.

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Selection screens allow players to choose their mode of game and how they fight

Each side has a point allocation which is determined by the number of cities under its control. Using military bases such as factories, ports and airbases (the availability and number of which varies depending on the mission), each side is able to spend its points on purchasing new units to throw into battle, ranging from cheap Infantry to more expensive Tanks and Helicopter Gunships or even mega-expensive Battleships or Bombers. Points are awarded on a turn-by-turn basis, so capturing more cities will increase that side’s point allocation and allow them to purchase even more units next time. Or, save up those points and buy something even bigger and shinier next time. Conversely, losing cities can cause an entire strategy to come undone as the points dwindle and purchases become less frequent or of a lower quality.

Each unit has a movement range, a vision range, a firepower value, a defence value and an ammunition count. Some units also have secondary weapons (Tanks have both main guns for attacking vehicles and machine guns for anti-personnel actions) which are deployed automatically depending on what is being attacked or defended against, and those weapons also have an ammunition count. Vehicles also have a fuel count, which gradually decreases during movement, or, if it’s a plane, all the time it’s circling around in the sky.

Each unit also has a strength value assigned to it – this can never be higher than ten or lower than one. Newly bought units have the value of ten until they are successfully attacked in which case the number is reduced according to the value of the attack. Once a unit reaches zero, it is destroyed. But the strength value does not just define how healthy a unit is, it also determines how powerful an attack it can itself mount. Thus, a one-point Infantry unit has effectively lost 90% of its strength and can only ever inflict a maximum of one point of damage on anything it attacks, assuming that the attack was successful at all. But never fear – two similarly damaged units can be joined together to create a more powerful unit (any excess points are placed back into the war fund), although it’s often more beneficial to leave fatally damaged units in the field to block the enemy advance – they have to waste time destroying them to move on.

Of course, units increase in their power the more expensive they become, however each and every unit has its own abilities, and it’s impossible to win any battle with just one type of unit alone. By way of a few examples, Infantry and the more expensive and powerful Mechanised Infantry are the only units capable of capturing cities. Capturing an enemy HQ is often the only, or the quickest, way of winning a battle, so do not neglect your humble Infantryman. They can also traverse mountain ranges, something that wheeled and tracked vehicles are unable to do, but as one would expect, they find it hard to defend against an armoured assault or aerial bombardment. Tanks, whilst still vulnerable (not least to Mechanised Infantry with their pesky Bazookas, grrrr) are the great all-rounder and come in several sizes, from the basic model to the more powerful MD Tank and the uber-powerful Neo-Tank (it’s got wheels on legs – no, really, it has). And, joy of joys, Advance Wars DS also adds a new Tank into the fray – the enormous (but slow and heavy on fuel) multi-turreted Mega-Tank. It’s almost invincible, it kills everything it sees, and then it kills them again for good measure. At the ultra-expensive end of the scale, players can buy Fighters for knocking out enemy air units, or Bombers for pulverizing those difficult to kill enemy units. For players with points to burn, Advance Wars DS now has long-range Stealth Planes complete with "Omni Missiles" that can attack any enemy unit, be it ground-based or airborne. Losing one is painful though.

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The fearsome Mega-Tank!

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