DS: Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Intelligent Systems
Rated E for EveryoneReviewed by: Craig Bryan | Contributing Writer Gamer’s Perspective
Advance Wars has finally taken the step up to the DS with it’s latest title Dual Strike, showing us what this series can really do when it has the hardware available to it. Dual Strike builds on what the previous games have done and makes everything that much bigger and that much better in pretty much every area. Fans of the series will feel somewhat comfortable here; the game follows the same pattern as the ones before. However now there is much more depth to the gameplay and the story; it very much feels like the last piece of the jigsaw has been placed.
Anyone who is unfamiliar to the turn-based strategy genre the concept is simple. You take turns to build and control an army which you will ultimately use to go to war with your opponent; building various infantry, vehicles and buildings on your way to victory. Each unit within your respective armies has their own unique abilities complete with their own strengths and weaknesses, the key to success is knowing what unit does what best. Advance Wars holds a nice balance, no unit feels ultimately better than another. The Megatank is a prime example of this. It will pretty much destroy anything in its path yet it is very slow, has low maneuverability, limited ammunition, high fuel consumption and most importantly costs a fortune to build. It’s getting the balance within your army right which is the key to any battle, every move you make could have possible repercussions later on in a battle so use the turns you do have wisely.
The campaign may start off like your standard Advance Wars campaign however as it develops you realize you’re playing something that is much deeper and much more diverse than anything you have done before. It throws twists and turns at you faster than an F1 race track and keeps you on your toes from start to finish. This is most definitely the games strong point, it creates equilibrium between story and action and will keep you entertained throughout. You don’t just feel like you’re playing skirmish after skirmish , it actually feels like it has an overall point to it all. You actually feel for many of the characters and live the experience along with them. This is thanks to a story that is very well written and intertwines characters old and new into the plot with exciting consequences.
This game offers a whole host of new modes for you to enjoy, not only do you get a huge campaign but also a harder campaign upon completion of the first. This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination and will put even the most experienced of players in their place. In addition to this the game also offers a Survival Mode, a Versus Mode, a Design Room, a War Room and a Multiplayer mode which sees you battling your friends using the DS’s wireless functionality. You will only need one copy of the game; which seems to be a common theme amongst DS games of late. The WiFi can also be used to trade user-created maps with friends that you have created via the Design Room. While this isn’t the most creative of map makers it gives you just enough options to make it interesting for the user.
There are an array of new battle types for you to sink your teeth into here, there are Tag Team battles. No longer will you need to rely on one CO to lead you into battle, you now have the option of using two. This adds absolutely huge depth to an already deep game, you can now mix your CO’s to suit your gaming style or the way you want to approach a battle tactically. These abilities can now be key to winning any match as you have to find that right balance, it’s no good having a CO who is good at close-range combat if you’re miles away from your opponent and being bombarded by their artillery. A quick tag could now see you switching to a CO with long-range attacks or good maneuverability in order to get to your opponent; ultimately tagging back to crush them with your powerful close-range attacks.
As well as the Tag Battles you also have the addition of Dual-Screen battles, this sees you battling with both screens simultaneously. Before you just used your bottom screen to view the battle; now you will have to manage both. This sounds pretty overwhelming at first but just like everything else the game guides you through it at a comfortable pace. Once you have got the hang of it you will begin to realize why this is such a welcome addition, it opens up so many more options within a given battle. With a Dual-Screen Battle you can choose between controlling the second screen manually or you can command the computer to do thy bidding. There are different variations of these battles, both screens may be part of the same area and moving up from the bottom screen will simply take you to the top screen. Alternatively there are some battles in which sky and land battles are going on at the same time. Sending troops such as planes into these sorts of battles will aid you in your attempt to defeat whatever challenge you may be facing. What happens on the top screen will usually have some impact on what happens on your primary screen, for example destroying an orbit controlled force-field will then allow you to attack protected units in your land battle.
There are many more units available here than in previous editions and this adds huge variety to the gameplay. The type of map you battle on will also have a major impact on proceedings, different maps will suit certain units and even certain CO’s. Different types of weather will change the tide of battles also, for example you could become engulfed in a sandstorm which will slow your units down and drain fuel faster than normal. Fog of war maps add an even different challenge again, your vision will be severely restricted and hiding amongst trees will give you the advantage in battle; plus the potential opportunity to carry out an ambush.
The games AI is frighteningly good, it takes advantage of what forces it has at it’s disposal and then proceeds to exploit your weaknesses with them. They will attack when they need to attack and perhaps more importantly they know when they need to back off, you won’t find the computer marching mindlessly at your defenses here. It is so important in a turn-based strategy game that AI like this exists, so many games attempt to incorporate it into their games and fail spectacularly. It makes for a much healthier challenge, don’t let this put you off though. The game takes you from the beginning and holds your hand as it guides you through the basics of battle. My only criticism of the AI within this game is sometimes the computer can be a little excitable with it’s powers, infact any time the computers power bar is full they will unleash it; regardless of whether the time is right or not.
There’s no doubt this is a great looking game, it has impressive artwork, some great 3D effects, wonderfully smooth animations and is all put together into one neat handheld package. Unfortunately the game does use a lot of the same old pictures, animations and textures already seen in the last two games of the Advance Wars trilogy. The soundtrack is suitably entertaining and makes for a rousing backdrop in the heat of battle. Each CO has their own individual theme too and some of them are actually really pretty good and match the respective CO pretty well. A lot of the sounds have been recycled too but they still sound as good as they ever did and that’s good enough for me.
If all that wasn’t enough you have a lot of unlockable content here too, this can be purchased as you earn points through the various modes the game offers. This again adds huge value to what is already a huge game and will surely keep even the most hardcore of gamers busy for a good few weeks. Most importantly the gameplay is there to back it up and can become highly addictive, all this adds up to a very solid handheld game. If you’re a veteran to the series this is going to give you a big challenge, if you’re new to Advance Wars this is also a great starting block into the series and will gradually improve your skills as you go.
Gameplay – Same addictive gameplay with new modes and huge depth.
Graphics – Impressive by DS standards, does what it sets out to achieve.
Sound – Great soundtrack that fits the theme of the game pretty well.
Value – Huge value here and I mean huge, so much to see and do.