When we think of Nintendo series that haven’t seen a new entry for far too long, the first one to come to mind for many is F-Zero. But Captain Falcon isn’t the only character (or captain, for that matter) to have not received a new entry in over a decade. And in June 2021, fans were finally graced with a new entry of the Advance Wars series in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, developed by the studio behind the Shantae series WayForward.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is not exactly a new entry into the series but rather, it’s a remake of the first two entries which graced the Game Boy Advance back in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Originally developed by Intelligent Systems (the studio behind the Fire Emblem and Paper Mario series), Advance Wars pits you in top-down tactical skirmish combat as you move units around a grid board, capture cities, find strategic defensive cover and defeat your enemy units.
Intelligent Systems are the masters of strategy RPG and even though this game was technically developed by WayForward, the core of its gameplay design can be attributed to the Fire Emblem developer. The tactical gameplay in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp takes a core simplified concept of strategy RPG mechanics and tweaks it to provide its own unique style of depth. Now if you’ve only tried out Fire Emblem you will see some similarities but the strategy aspect is more prominent, especially with Fog of War maps where jumping forwards through forests is paramount to completing the map safely and how units are completely replaceable and spawn in through spending money.
As the Advance Wars series hasn’t seen a new entry in 15 years, this re-imagining is absolutely gorgeous! This is especially the case when you consider that the series has only ever been on Nintendo’s handheld systems, so Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is the first entry to technically be playable (natively) on a TV, and in crisp HD too. WayForward did a wonderful job in keeping the series’ original style while providing its own unique spin. The cutscenes are wonderful, the character animations feel like they’ve been ripped directly from an Advance Wars comic/manga, and the toy-like models for the units are simply ingenious. We honestly couldn’t have asked for a better modern interpretation of this beloved yet niche series.
The base gameplay hasn’t changed across the original releases to the remake, with mainly quality of life additions, like changing the units to be slightly different across each nation in their design. This is especially noticeable in combat or having a speed up button option. While the different unit designs do have the drawback of removing the glanceability of a map, I believe overall it’s more fun to give each nation a specific design to separate them.
Then there’s the map builder, allowing you to custom build any terrain and map with adjustable size, allowing you to put on any number of nations at the same time. So you want just an ocean map with one small island for the headquarters? Sure, go right ahead. You don't want a map with any cities of unit spawners? Go for it. Map building is a creative way to build and have fun with friends. Speaking of fun with friends, you can play with up to three friends on local or wireless connections, although while these matches can really take a long period of time, it’s still a lot of fun duking it out to see who is the master tactician.
- An abundance of strategy options
- Visually stunning
- Custom map building and sharing
While WayForward is working with the source material on a strategy RPG released over 20 years ago, the story is very minimal and farfetch'd. In the first game, the main villain’s presence is hinted at now and then, but you never see them until the very last fight. This makes it feel as though the story is simply shoehorned in in order to check all the boxes. The first game itself also feels more like a tutorial to learn the mechanics and very specific tactical manoeuvres for each map to complete it more efficiently. While Black Hole Rising adds more features and a bit more story.
The music is catchy and bombastic, that much must be said, but boy is it repetitive! Battles can last a while, sometimes up to an hour in the later missions, and when you have the same loud tune on repeat for most of that, it gets old quickly. I even found my housemate humming the tune while they were reading… I may need to wear headphones for this one.
I’m not colour blind, so I never really thought about this much; that was until I learned that my co-writer Alex was and when talking to him about Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp, he mentioned that he occasionally had issues telling the difference when there were green and yellow teams in a single battle. Luckily this match-up doesn’t happen often, but the game’s lack of colour blind mode seems like a swing and a miss. I mean, it’s 2023 and the game got delayed by more than a year, they couldn’t have snuck that one in? While the unit design difference may help just a little bit, it is not enough to really help out to truly distinguish between the opposing armies at a quick glance.
- Minimalist stories
- Repetitive music
- No colour blind mode
Final Score: 8/10
Ultimately, Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp is a faithful remake and, dare I say, the definitive experience for this GBA classic franchise that people can finally place their assist trophy from Super Smash Bros. Brawl and 4. While there are some improvements that would be welcomed for accessibility, and maybe a bit more of a dynamic soundtrack that varied, especially on those longer matches, there are still plenty of features to love here for fans of the tactical genre. So go train up those units, capture some cities and push out those forces as you march your way into Advance Wars for maybe the first time, or return to the franchise after a very long delay in releases.
Thank you for checking out our Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: