Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Score: 9.1 / 10
Iíll admit that Iím a sucker for turn-based strategy games. Some of the most compelling and engrossing gameplay experiences of my life have been wiled away on games like Disciples II: Dark Prophecy and Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business, so bear that in mind when I say Advance Wars: Dual Strike kicks ass in the broader sense of good games, itís also right up with the best of its genre classification. However, even with my bias showing Ė Iím an exhibitionist at heart Ė Iím not alone in my opinion.
Amazingly enough, I missed the GameBoy Advance versions of the Advance Wars series so I canít really draw on any previous experience to tell you if itís better than the previous iterations Ė but it should speak volumes that Dual Strike is so good I plan on seeking out the previous titles.
The Black Hole Army has risen anew after only a few months have past since they were last beaten. To combat the threat the forces of Orange Star, Blue Moon, Green Earth, and Yellow Comet have pooled their resources to form the Allied Nations. And itís up to the gamer to make sure the Black Hole Army gets sent back to wherever they come from with the use of superior tactics, a bit of luck, and the new CO swapping, which is where Dual Strike gets its name from. (Although both screens are used, youíll spend most of the time sweating over the action on the touchscreen, only consulting the information displayed on the top screen, with the exception of two front battles.)
The action in the Campaign mode ramps the challenge up at a quick pace, with just enough in the way of prodding to make the learning curve less steep than it otherwise might have been for novice players. The story, although somewhat forgettable, is peppered with some of the indirectly hilarious dialogue Iíve ever heard in a videogame. One of the COís will often end his sentences with ďWord!Ē Is it just me or did that bit of slang go
the wayside about ten
years ago? At any rate,
itís funny and itís kept to a minimum Ė sets up the mission,
special points of interest, closing the mission Ė so that it doesnít
distract from the reason youíll be playing all hours of the day and
night to play ďjust one more map.Ē
begins simply: start with a handful of units, capture cities and
installations, and attempt to drive back your opponent.
Then the Chess Mentality kicks in.
Each turn is weighed with consideration of what your opponent
will do, which unit should be moved and where, what the next objective
should be and the units to be produced to accomplish that objective.
Should I make a dash for the airfield so I can start producing
aerial units or push south to deter a possible attack?
Even when I became comfortable with Advance Wars: Dual Strike I
often checked the upper screen to get a handle on various attributes of
the units Ė from the lumbering tanks to the nimble and fragile
infantry Ė and ensure they were well stocked with ammo and gas.
(Yes, youíll have to make sure your mechanical units donít
get stuck on the battlefield, or worse, sink to the bottom of the ocean
or drop out of the air.) Then
you have to be on the look out for the most opportune moment to activate
the available CO abilities which can either crush your opponent or turn
the tide of the fight in your favor.
ďQuickĒ games seem to be an impossibility Ė it was not unusual for stages to last longer than an hour particularly for the larger conflicts. Once the troops are out in the field and there are several ďfrontsĒ involved keeping a firm handle on the action can be extremely engrossing and time consuming. Fortunately, developer Intelligent Systems allowed progress to be saved between turns rather than waiting until the end of a scenario.
Campaign will take hours and hours to complete, but Intelligent Systems
created four other modes: War Room, Versus, Survival and Combat.
Room lets the gamer face off against computer controlled opponents on
maps chosen by the player and played with a few other user-set
variables. It doesnít
change up the formula at all and itís more like practice for battles
during the campaign. However,
it can also be a real test of your tactical skill (and luck) since the
player can also stack the deck against
allows four human players to test themselves against each other using
one DS unit. Itís another
take on the previous two modes, but itís great for car trips.
mode is almost a game unto itself. In
Survival there are three sub-modes: Money, Turn and Time.
Simply put each mode puts a restriction of time, turn or money on
the clearing chosen map. This
puts an extreme amount of pressure on the decision-making process.
For the hardcore player, Survival will separate the men from the
and maybe the most radical departure from the turn-based action is
Combat, where you engage in less-than-strategic gameplay by blasting
opponents in real-time. Itís
not quite as fun as the turn-based action in the rest of the game, but
it still manages to provide some thrills.
(This should be in no way connected to how Advance Wars for the
GameCube is going to turn out.)
Intelligent Systems didnít stop there.
They also added a map editor so gamers can share their maps with
friends! Advance Wars: Dual
Strike is a full-featured package any way you look at it.
since youíll be looking at it for a while, Iím glad to say that the
overall look and feel of the game is great.
The presentation is somewhat on the cartoony side but the maps
and units are easy to see -- the screenshot here don't do it justice -- and order around with the stylus (though the
action can be controlled with the buttons and directional pad, itís
just easier with the stylus.) The
animated battle scenes are reminiscent of the Metal Slug series and they
can be turned off in the options menu to speed up the pace of the game.
Wars: Dual Strike does just about everything right Ė in fact, the only
thing I can really complain about is that it sucked up (well, currently
still sucking-up) huge blocks of my time.
If youíre a fan of turn-based games, Dual Strike is at the top
of the heap.
(August 30, 2005)
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