When Nintendo unveiled Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp a couple of years back, it raised more than a few eyebrows. Sure, I was just as surprised as you were that Intelligent System’s other turn-based tactics series was finally getting a revival, but I was also glad to see that development was being spearheaded by WayForward. The studio’s catalog of games goes back three decades, and while their recent titles have always proved popular on Nintendo systems, they’ve yet to collaborate with the Big N on a joint project — until now.
If you happened to peruse our preview of Re-Boot Camp, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of the series — heck, I still keep a few copies of Advance Wars: Dual Strike and a couple of Nintendo DS’ on hand in case someone wants to sink a few of hours into local multiplayer. Needless to say, I was beyond ecstatic to finally get my hands on the long-awaited revival — no thanks to Putin and the Russian army — and I’m happy to report that Re-Boot Camp is everything Advance Wars fans have been waiting for. Well, almost everything.
Let’s get my biggest gripe out of the way: while nearly every corner of Re-Boot Camp is dripping with charm and polish, its multiplayer mode leaves a lot to be desired. I won’t mince words — it’s pathetic by modern standards. Admittedly, local play is serviceable enough with support for up to four players. You can pass around your Nintendo Switch if you only have one console to play on (allowing you to keep your units’ positions a secret when playing with Fog of War), but it’s much more enjoyable if you have one console for each player. For those who fondly remember the original Advance Wars on Game Boy Advance, you might be disappointed to hear that single-cart multiplayer isn’t supported this time around; each player will need their own copy of the game.
But it’s the online multiplayer that feels completely phoned in. For starters, the only supported mode is 1v1, which means free-for-all four-player skirmishes and 2v2 team battles are off the table. And to add insult to injury, you’re only able to <breathes in> play against those you’ve added to your friend list <lets out a deep sigh of frustration>. That’s right — there’s no matchmaking at all, so you better find a couple of friends who are as passionate about Advance Wars‘ multiplayer as you are.
With many first-party Switch games boasting robust (if not somewhat archaic) online multiplayer modes, the lack of effort put into Re-Boot Camp stings, especially when you take into account that it’s been 15 years since the last entry in the series. This goes without saying, but all of the other options you might have expected are also off the table — there’s no ranked play, no tournaments or support for custom rules, no saved replays, and no asynchronous matches, which means that fights on larger maps might take hours, literally. With other genre contemporaries (namely, Wargroove) offering their own fully-fleshed-out online play, I would be surprised if most players stick with Re-Boot Camp‘s meager multiplayer for more than a few weeks. Heck, Advance Wars by Web, a fan project that’s been running for nearly 20 years, has way more to offer, and for the low, low price of free-ninety-nine.
If there’s any saving grace, it’s that WayForward has accurately recreated the single-player campaigns from both Advance Wars and its sequel, Black Hole Rising. Unsurprisingly, the two have held up surprisingly well over the years, with WayForward’s visual facelift doing a majority of the heavy lifting. The first game’s campaign is decidedly less varied than its sequel’s — you’ll mostly find yourself playing as one of a small handful of commanding officers, and there’s very little in the way of mission variety. Black Hole Rising, on the other hand, will have you rotating between commanding forces across the game’s four armies (Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth), giving you more opportunity to try out different COs to see which playstyle fits you best. Personally, I’ve always been fond of Grit’s superior indirect combat and Sonja’s increased vision range during Fog of War matches.
It’ll take most players somewhere between 40 and 50 hours to clear both campaigns, though there’s a little wiggle room depending on what difficulty you select. New to these remakes is a casual mode, which, as best as we could tell, tones down the aggressiveness of your AI opponents. Of course, once you’ve cleared through a given campaign, you’ll unlock its hard mode variant, which will test even the most seasoned turn-based tactics fan. Thankfully, there’ve been a number of quality-of-life additions to cut down on some of the tedium. The original game’s batch of secret levels — which are infamously difficult to access, seeing as how you’re provided no guidance on how and where to unlock them — are integrated into the main story missions this time around. The ability to move units and attack in one command does cut down on a few thousand button presses, and if you misclick or make a mistake, you can reset your turn and have another go at it.
That being said, these two games play almost exactly as you might remember them. Max is still ridiculously overpowered in the first game, naval units are a complete waste of time in multiplayer matches, and Olaf continues to suck as a commanding officer. Still, the tactics part of Advance Wars shines just as bright, even if the basics have remained unchanged since Famicom Wars debuted back in 1988. There’s something incredibly satisfying about outmaneuvering and outthinking your opponent, and while calling Advance Wars “chess on steroids” is perhaps not the most apt comparison, it’s perfectly serviceable for an elevator pitch.
While there’s no excuse for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp‘s embarrassing, barebones online offerings, the single-player content is just as engaging all these years later, and with multiple difficulty modes, dozens upon dozens of War Room maps to conquer, a (fairly) robust map editor, and plenty of collectibles to purchase, I wouldn’t be surprised if the most diehard fans end up logging a couple of hundred hours with this one, even if the community will have to look elsewhere when it comes to competitive play.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us for review by Nintendo.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a must-play for casual onlookers, and veterans of the series will probably get a kick out of replaying these two classics. It’s just a shame that the online multiplayer is half-baked; this franchise certainly deserves better.
h/t – wegotthiscovered.com