Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Advance Wars: Dual Strike: Jumping on the Wagon a Little Late

Although the game has been on shelves for almost a year, Advance Wars: Dual Strike is still one of the best strategy games on the DS right now.

How it Looks: Poor/Average
The graphics of Advance Wars DS aren't much of an improvement over Advance Wars 2 for the GBA: battles are still sprite-based units moving on a grid-based map, though for the DS the map is tilted down slightly instead of being a fully top-down view. This actually makes moving units with the stylus a little difficult since you may not touch the proper square because an adjacent unit is slightly on that square. The mini-battle screen that shows up on the bottom screen when battling an opposing unit is also sprite-based, but looks a fair bit better than the map graphics. The top screen is used for details on the square selected or any units on the square (it can show an alternate map for DS battles, but those look the same as normal maps). Menues aren't very detailed as well, but they are simple and easy to navigate.

How it Sounds: Good
The music used in Advance Wars DS varies a great deal, depending on menues, battle sequences, and so on. Each CO. (character that leads their units) have a different music playing on their turn, which reflects their character. The main character (Jake) is very upbeat and uses a lot of modern slang, so his music is more hip-hop in style, where one of the enemies (Jugger) is a robot, so his is more a technical sounding beat. Some music is very good, while others are somewhat annoying to listen to over and over again. Sound effects, however, are used very effectively in the game, and listening to the sound of explosions, gunfire and missile shots never truly get old, especially when you're destroying your enemies.

How it Feels: Intuitive!
There are two control schemes for Advance Wars DS: buttons and touch screen, and while both are constantly on, both have their pros and cons. Whichever one you use, though, you will have no problems maneuvering through Omega Land. Using the control pad and buttons, menus are much easier to navigate through and actions are much easier to select. Movement of units are a tiny bit slower, since for each square, you need to push the appropriate arrow key. Not hard by any means, but if you have to move 10 spaces, it takes a couple of seconds. Enter the stylus and touch screen. Movement is easier: touch a unit and its move distance is shown. Touch where you want it to move and it will move there. Then touch its action to do there and bam! done. Menus are still easy to navigate, but I find it's easier to memorize button calls then to find it on the screen.

How it Plays: Fun
If you've played any other Advance Wars game for the GBA, then this game will feel similar to those games. For those who haven't, the game is a simple turn-based strategy game where you move units in an attempt to take out the opposing units, or to capture their Headquarters. For the most part, units are well balanced: certain units are stronger than some units and weak against others, so no unit is unbeatable. New to this game are Tag CO missions and powers, and DS missions. Tag CO missions are what they sound like: You get two COs fighting in the mission as opposed to one, and at the end of each turn, you can switch them. It is wise to pick two that compliment each other, or have strengths that the other doesn't. As well, each CO has a power meter that fills each turn they are used and take out an opposing unit. When it fills to the max, it can use its Super CO power (They can use a CO power when it's half full, but the Super CO power is much better). When both COs have their meter fills up, they can use a Tag CO power, in which both COs use their Super CO power, one after another. After the current CO is finished, you don't end your turn, you switch to the other CO, and move everything again, making an unfair advantage for your opponent by giving you two chances in a row to crush him/her/them. Just remember that your opponents can do the same. DS missions are also pretty obvious: a mission that takes place on both screens. You only have control over one screen (can be changed in the options after a certain mission), and the second CO takes command over the second screen. This adds another dynamic to the battle: win the second screen battle, and your second CO helps you on the main screen, giving you the ability to use Tag CO powers while your opponent can't. If you lose, your opponents can use their Tag CO powers and you can't.

Game Length: Infinite
The campaign goes for 28 missions of increasing difficulty, plus the multitude of other modes (Survival - continuous battles with limited resources/time/money, War Room - fight on a multitude of maps for the high score, Combat - everything is in real-time, and Design Room - chance to make your own maps to use in multiplayer) makes this game have an immense lasting appeal with a lot to do. The only downsides to this is that the gameplay doesn't change overly much to really drive you to play for a very long period of time and single-cart download play is very limiting. While it states up to 8 players, only combat is multiplayer on single-cart download, with the rest of the modes singleplayer.

Verdict: Try before you buy
The game is good. Very good. But not everybody is going to love this game. If you are into turn-based strategy games and are not familiar to Advance Wars, this is a great game to get into, since the campaign has some built-in tutorials to help you get started. If you are a fan of Advance Wars, this game is more of an add-on than a new game, since it plays a lot like the others. If you're not a fan of turn-based strategies, at least give this game a try before you shut the door on it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm I love the idea behind this website, very unique.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Tim Ashdown said...

It's odd that there was little to no grphical imporvement from the GBA to the DS. The DS is capable of sooo much more than the simple cutsy sprite graphics found on the GBA.

11:31 AM  

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