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Posted on Dec 19, 2005 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Battalion Wars – Game Review (GameCube)

Armchair General

BWcover1.jpgIntroduction

When I first heard that Nintendo were planning to release a version of the superb GameBoy title Advance Wars on the GameCube, I believe I actually shouted for joy. And that doesn’t happen all that often. You see, Advance Wars is such an addictive game I was crying out for more titles to play in the series. With the addition of the recently released Advance Wars DS (for the Nintendo DS, funnily enough) the longevity of the series is hopefully assured, but how would the series translate to the ‘Cube with full 3D graphics and enhanced sound?

Well, as it turns out, it wouldn’t translate to the ‘Cube at all. Because as the news filtered through and as the waiting for the title became more and more tense, it was announced that this version of Advance Wars was…well…it wasn’t Advance Wars at all. Not really. For one thing, it was being produced by an entirely different company (Kuju Entertainment Ltd) and there would be no Mega-Tanks, no Black Sun to fight, no special powers for each of the players, none of that. No, this was going to be its own thing…it would just look a little bit like Advance Wars, and that was all. So move along, nothing to see here…

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As the release date got closer and closer, I scanned the magazines and websites for information, and things got more intriguing every time. Firstly, the up-and-coming title was renamed to the much less exciting and somewhat nondescript Battalion Wars. Booo… After that, it became clear that this game was going to played in real-time, which is no bad thing in itself, except how would that finely tuned Advance Wars strategy hold up? I couldn’t wait to find out. And now I know. And the answer is, it’s not bad at all…

Gameplay

Right then, so, having established that this is nothing to do with Advance Wars, what’s it like? Well, it’s set on an alien world known only as "The world of Battalion Wars". That’s not important though, although it’s not set on Earth, it might as well be, it’s certainly populated with Human life, albeit a slightly over the top caricatured variety, and all the technology is Earth like. Just like Advance Wars in fact. On this world there are two warring nations with a history of antagonism and expansionism between them, one "good" (the Western Frontier) and one "evil" (the Tundran Empire). Again, much like Advance Wars – but shhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone. As you play through the story-driven battles (reminiscent of a typical Advance Wars campaign) with units of increasing size and sophistication (just like Advance Wars) on the side of "good" you must bring your nation to an ultimate victory over their foe. Exactly like…oh to hell with it, look, this might not be named Advance Wars but to all intents and purposes it IS the same game in 3D. Even the vehicles are massive brightly-coloured clunky cartoon-like machines with enormous firepower and a nasty tendency to explode in a slightly over the top fireball when hit.

bw_004_thumb.jpg
The bouncy Warthog…erm, I mean Recon’ vehicle
taking fire from an enemy checkpoint

In short – this game is fun fun fun!!

The first mission places you in charge of a single Rifleman on patrol, and is essentially a training exercise in more ways than one, teaching players how to move, jump, aim and shoot. As the mission proceeds, and Tundran Imperial Spies lurk in the woods, it is here that you will learn how to lock on to a target, allowing you to circle your victim whilst pouring fire into his hapless body, shooting his teeth out one by one until…ahem, excuse me, I must just have a quick lie down.

bw_001_thumb.jpg bw_002_thumb.jpg
The cutscenes are well made and remain in the style of the game itself.
Here’s the DMZ between the two warring nations, shortly prior to
the outbreak of hostilities, and the stereotypical General Hermann
who is spoiling for a fight!

Anyway, as the mission proceeds and it becomes clear that a full-fledged invasion is underway, additional units are given to you, Squads of Riflemen, Bazooka men and even a Tank, and it is here that you will learn how to switch between units, choosing to either direct them to specific locations from above to fulfil your overall strategy, or to take direct control of them to press home your attacks where needed. Of course, certain units are only effective against certain other enemy units, by way of a simple example, don’t even think of sending Bazooka men into a fire fight with the enemy Infantry, they’ll be slaughtered, but you see those Tanks over there? Go get ‘em boys. Yes, it’s essentially a more advanced version of rock/scissors/paper, but it’s how you deploy your men that’s important here, and unlike Advance Wars where tricky situations could be considered for hours if necessary, decisions here must be made instantly. Intense is too mild a word to describe some of the frantic situations in which you will find yourself. In addition to learning how to use all the buttons on your controller as quickly as possible, anticipation is the key if you want to achieve good scores on each mission.

bw_003_thumb.jpg
Battles often become an incredible melee of men and machines
embroiled in deadly combat – sometimes it’s hard to see
where everyone is

As with all other games in the Wars series, there’s a gentle learning curve to start with and things are always explained as new units are thrown into the fray. Having said this, the simplicity of selecting a new unit or directing others to given locations is a little confusing at first and I was a bit fingers and thumbs for a while, but I soon got used to it. Rather embarrassingly though, and wholly due to my inexperience with what the screen was telling me, I managed to "lose" a few of my men the first time I played the second mission, and I only found them again near the end of the battle whilst my last redoubt was being hammered from all sides, all armour support having been long since stripped away. A quick panicked shuffle through the buttons revealed the missing men loitering with intent around an ammo’ dump, and as it happens, the sudden appearance of 2nd Squad over the hilltops like the avenging 7th Cavalry resulted in my Tundran enemy being completely annihilated. Yes, I won that battle, but my score was rubbish. So I played it again to get a better one.

It’s the replayability that adds to the game – at the end of each mission, scores are awarded, ranging from S for Special through A, B and finally C for…well I’ll let you decide what C might stand for, but it’s not in the manual. Where S and A Ratings are awarded for superb performance straight from the textbook, C Ratings tend to be awarded for Pyrrhic victories where the meagre survivors in your force would probably rather be dead after what you just put them through.

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