The StarSoldier


Artist touch: The artwork here introduces several new characters to the series but I don't think having a dork like Jake on the cover is such a good idea. Cover art rating: 8/10

(Nintendo/Intelligent Systems, 2005)

Month it won: December 2005

Special note: Although every one is buying a DS for games like Nintendogs and Mario Kart, this is the game here that made me finally get one.

Introduction and Story:
There have been a bunch of great games in 2005 but one of my favourite titles of the year was not a very high profile one. Although war isn't the most popular thing in the world (just ask George W. Bush), Nintendo and Intelligent Systems are still making some of the best war video games on the market today. Advance Wars 2 (or Famicom Wars for Japanese players) was one of my favourite titles on the Gameboy Advance but despite how good it was AW2 wasn't a huge leap over the original game (there was only one new vehicle for one thing!). After a few years later we now have the third edition of this cute but highly addictive strategy series exclusively for the DS but is it just a minor upgrade or one juiced up sequel with tons of new stuff?

So what the heck is going now here? After the four countries of Marco Land successfully pushed back the invading Black Hole army in AW2 it looked like all the fighting was finally over. Unfortunately, even though the former leader of the Black Hole army (Lord Sturm) is dead, that doesn't mean the rest of the forces still can't cause trouble else where. Now the evil Black Hole army has a brand new sinister leader causing havoc and the new plan is to conquer the huge peaceful Omega Land continent and turn it into a desert. You must now act fast
and command the rest of your armies to avoid certain disaster.
Controls and Game Play:

Like the last title Advance Wars DS here is still a turned based tactical strategy game where you command your cute candy coated armies that range from foot soldiers, tanks, boats, and air units in order to regain land taking over by the enemy. Once you moved and or purchased all your units you can then it's your enemy's turn to strike back (much like in other turn based games like Nectaris). Each of you continue fighting back and forth this until there is a winner.

Your Commanders also play a major role in the game play. Each Commander (or CO) has their own way of doing things like for example; the returning Colon may have weaker units but he can purchase them at a cheaper price so you build a large army faster then anyone else while
other guys like Max have stronger overall vehicles but his indirect firing units just plain suck. The game also has a list of new comers like Jake, Sasha, and Rachael as well so there are even more styles and specials to learn and master now. Another new edition to the DS is the role playing elements where characters can gain experience during their battles so you can give your CO up to four special abilities. I tell you this game is jammed packed! That's not it for new features either. Gamers can now use special new units like Stealth bombers, Anti-Air Attack Carriers, the giant Mega Tank and more so you have a lot more to play around with this time. The game not only includes several modes like the returning Campaign and War Room, but you can compete in the new Survival (fight in 11 stages over certain rules) and Combat (the new but very limited real time battle game) mode. If you get sick of fighting the computer you can always fight your friends over cable or wireless corrections which just sky rockets the replay value even further. Perhaps the biggest difference now is once you complete a few levels you can command multiple CO's at one battle. You still have to switch between two CO's per turn but you can use their special abilities to your advantage at the right time. The game can even let you use both characters at one turn if you use the game's new special Tag attack called the Dual Strike. One of the best things about these Advance Wars games here is their controls and interface are amazing. For new players the game can be fairly intimidating at first but once you go through a few of the training missions you'll be a pro in no time. Moving around the cursor is easy enough and it's possible to view everything from the range of enemy fire to movement range just by clicking on a unit. The game even lets you control the action from the touch screen too.

Graphics and Sounds:
Moving this game series to the Nintendo DS also means you don't have to switch between menus anymore because most of the top screen displays it now. You can view game's stats like terrain effects, vehicle information, and how many units are currently on both teams. The second screen is a big help and it can also be used for some of the game's special story line missions too. The actually in-game graphics are also slightly improved over Advance Wars 1 and 2 unfortunately. The view of the overhead maps is now on a slight angle so it looks kind of 3D plus there are other touch ups like transparent clouds and seagulls flying around but other then that everything still looks the same. Even the CO character art still look like basic cardboard cut outs here and there is no voice acting here either.

That brings me to the sound for AWDS here. Sadly when Nintendo took the series over DS they still left the music on the 'suck' setting. Although a lot of the sound effects are more realistic this time around, a lot of the music has just been directly lifted from the older games so the background music for characters like Grit, Drake, Eagle, Kanbei (his is especially bad) and Andy are all still very very crappy. C'mon, the DS can do better that this! OK, some of the newer tracks for Lord Bolt and Sasha are pretty good but I often find myself just turning the volume down when playing. There is no voice acting either but maybe that's a good thing with Jake's lame one liners like how he just served someone or dropped a phat beat. Hopefully the next game (Day of Ruin) will measure up though.
The Bottomline:

Advance Wars Dual Strike isn't a huge quantum leap over the last game. Both the graphics and sounds are not pushing the limits of the system by any means and most of the turn based game play is the same as well but if it isn't broke why fix it, eh? Advance Wars Dual Strike just gives the fans more of what they love of the last games like more vehicles, more maps, more options, better artificial intelligence and less annoying menu surfing thanks to the two screens. Don't worry fans, it is still insanely addictive game of war but now it's just better on the DS. Not only is Advance Wars Dual Strike one of those sleeper hits of 2005 but it is one of the best games I ever played.

overall rating: 99/100

Find Advance Wars DS on eBay here!

For 1 to 8 players
Rated (E) for Everyone

graphics: 7/10
sound: 4/10
gameplay: 10/10
replay: 10/10

(Ryan Genno) 2005

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