Jumping into Advance Wars with Re-Boot Camp

I have mentioned it countless reviews here on Hypertext and I will mention it again: new games in a franchise, including reboots / remakes / rewhatevers, should have two main goals: to satisfy old fans and create new fans. You can’t have old fans without new fans, and the old fans need a reason to stick around.

As I squarely fall into the newcomer category, having missed Advance Wars titles in the past, Re-Boot Camp should be a great way to turn me into a fan. Was it successful? Well that’s what we’re here to find out.

Before that, however, what is Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, aside from a clever way to work in the fact that this is a reboot, right there in the title?

Re-Boot camp is both a reboot of Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, remade for the Nintendo Switch and packaged into one game. This new version brings with it several changes and a fresh visual style, both of which you can see in the overview trailer below.

The art style has caused some contention in the old fan community, and I can definitely see why. A very cartoonish, almost toy-like aesthetic has been chosen complete with the fact that the edges of the battle screen look like table, implying a board game or table top miniature war game.

This clashes against the fact that this is, at the end of a day, a game about war where a hell of a lot of people die. As you may have guessed Advance Wars has a bit of light hearted tone, but it still clashes by just how cute and chibi your soldiers and war machines look.

I am loathed to roll out the ludonarrative dissonance card but there is definitely a disconnect here between this game and its own art style.

I would have liked, instead, for it to lean more heavily into the table top / war game aesthetic. Why not make the battle screen and the actions of the player a kind of war room simulation or planning that real soldiers will then carry out? This would make the almost toy-like look work in its favour while saving on the serious side of things.

The art mismatch aside, the presentation is still really fun and nice to look at. One of the best parts of unlocking new units or facing new enemies in combat is just seeing how they look.

A favourite of mine is the bomber aircraft which takes up most of the screen due to its crazy proportions and seeing it for the first time made me laugh… before the enemy using it turned my soldiers into corpses.

A last word on the art that ties into the gameplay here is that the cute look betrays how difficult this game is. You can screw up fast and irreparably and the game has almost no handholding to help you win. This brutality isn’t something I would have expected and while you have some features to help like the ability to reverse one turn’s worth of actions, you really are on your own.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a turn-based strategy game which has you commanding units in various scenarios to beat your opponent. While there are some varied win conditions most victories are obtained by either outright killing all the enemies on the board, or capturing their HQ.

The game is rather complex and only increases in this complexity as the game progresses and more is revealed.

Movement range, firing range, ammo and fuel levels, health, captured areas, income, factory production, terrain types, fog of war and more all need to be juggled. There’s also a Commanding Officer (CO) which is in charge of each mission, which will grant you a special power every so often. Powers like repairing units, moving units further than usual or even taking two turns in a row are all available and much more, adding even more variety.

That may sound overwhelming, but the game balances this out by not giving you access to everything in every mission. Each mission is unique and only uses a handful of the available mechanics to create a strategy combat puzzle that needs to be solved.

One of the biggest differentiators in my experience is what unit types you will be given access to. Almost every mission gives you ground units (especially because ground soldiers are the only type that can capture an enemy HQ), but then powerful air and water vehicles really mix things up.

Access to facilities that can build new units also mix things up, so loading up into a new mission is always something new. You can fight tooth and nail in a grinding land-based skirmish in one mission, to swap everything out for a mixed offensive using all manner of soldiers and vehicles next mission.

After getting past the complexity here I did find myself having fun, to an extent. Some parts of the game design here feel like they’re just not tuned for a good experience. One of the biggest example is enemy AI. Enemy units can move and shoot just like you, but it seems that the way this is done is random in a way that isn’t enjoyable to engage in.

So many situations I found here resulted in either the AI being dumb so that I win by luck, or by insane precision that defeats me by unfair programming.

This isn’t a “get good” situation as, in reading up past versions of the games, I saw that a common complaint from even old fans is that the AI needs to be abused to properly win. A strategy that is implemented in almost every mission is surrounding your high value units with low value ones. This is done not really to soak up damage, but to trick the AI into wasting ammo on the wrong target.

It’s a bit difficult to explain without playing it yourself but it boils down to this: many times while playing Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp it didn’t seem like I was playing a game to enjoy it, I was playing against the game design to defeat it. It’s a subtle difference where the former is friendly relationship with the game design, and the latter is a hostile relationship.

Because of this I found myself wishing that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp was on my phone instead of the Nintendo Switch, as I was enjoying playing a single mission once per day casually instead of sitting down to play for longer where the annoyances could add up.

There’s other annoyances too such as several missions that can turn into a deadlock where restarting entirely seems like the most prudent option, even if you have already wasted a lot of time on it.

The rest of the game warrants less discussion with the music decent but the story, writing and characters extremely tedious and quickly skipped over.

So did this reboot win me over to Advance Wars? Not really. I had my fill of what it had to offer and I am happy to say I went through the experience – and maybe I would pay attention to an entirely new game in the future – but I won’t be choosing to play this again. I can’t speak for old fans but for them I think this does really deliver on rebooting the older titles, especially for modes like multiplayer and the Design Room map maker.


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