Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/09/01 | Genre: Strategy
Advance Wars is one of those games that you'll just pass by in the display case, because it lacks a brand name or fancy packaging. But Advance Wars is one of the most engrossing and lengthy titles for Game Boy Advance yet. This game is packed with so much to do, you'd be hard pressed to finish this game anytime soon, especially with replay-value modes such as the various multiplayer options and the map creator. Even if you're not a strategy fan, AW is designed for gamers of all ages with different tastes.
The game plays a lot like a giant game of rock, paper, scissors with more variations, or even chess. You are given control of over a dozen different types of units, each with their own strengths and weaknesses against opposing units. Terrain and fuel affect how these units may move, and ammunition supply affects their firepower. For example, bomber planes are an excellent choice for attacking ground troops because of their heavy firepower and the fact that terrain doesn't affect an aircraft's movement. However, a bomber cannot attack other units in the sky, and therefore, are susceptible to them.
The game is quite complicated, because each unit has its own movement and firepower rate, so a tutorial is included and is required to complete before progressing into the meat of the game, the Campaign Mode. The Training Mode spans over 10 missions and is about 3 hours long. Yeah, I was thinking what you are thinking...3 hours is a long time to be just training, but remember that the US Army spends several weeks in Basic Training, so I think 3 hours is quite laid back. You learn about almost everything in Training through actually doing it, usually with the odds stacked against you. Once the Training Mode is complete, you may proceed to Campaign, which has branching storylines and missions based on your actions as an advisor to your Commanding Officers.
Multiplayer is excellent, and can be done using 4 Game Paks for up to 4 players, 1 Game Pak for up to 4 players or even 1 Game Pak and 1 Game Boy Advance passed around for up to 4 players. Of course, the latter option will have you screaming "Hurry up!" while others take their turns. An option called Fog of War will cover your actions up until an opposing unit is close in to see what you are doing. Extra maps for multiplayer can be bought by earning money in Campaign and War Room Modes (the War Room is a single battle mode, no story involved).
If you do complete every map, which you'd have to be a hermit with about 3 dozen AA batteries to do, you'll be pleased to find out you may create your own map, with every option, unit and terrain type and your disposal in an easy-to-use interface. Create a virtual Afghanistan with measly Taliban ground troops on the opponents' side, and heavy bombers on yours (just don't hit that civilian Afghan target, that's not nice).
Japanese anime is obviously the influence for AW's graphics, which are quite impressive. You'll be staring at a minuscule battle map most of the time, and while the small units are clearly represented, it can get a little annoying. When you attack other units, or your opponent attacks you, the screen changes to a close-up of the battle field as the units exchange blows. It's very cool to see infantry troops blasted to smithereens by a tank shell, and the CO blinking in disbelief.
To tell you the truth, I really haven't paid much attention to the sound, and quite frankly, neither will you once you get into the game. The music is well done, and fitting, with drum marches and high-anxiety fast-paced mixes. I especially like the "guitar" riffs before each mission. The sound effects are excellent, ranging from simple menu clicks to machine gun shells ricocheting across the pavement.
To sum it all up, save up your allowance and go buy Advance Wars. As of right now, and probably until a Zelda Advance appears, you probably won't find a more intricate game with so much depth and replay value.