In a world awash with reboots, remakes, and remasters, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is something of an oddity. It is, in essence, the two original games – Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising – stuffed into a modern shell with a new coat of paint. And while it could present as disappointing or frustrating in other circumstances, the simplicity here is actually kind of nice.
If you're unfamiliar with Advance Wars as a franchise, the premise is simple. A variety of military units, like infantry or tanks or submarines, square-off against each other with turn-based movement and combat. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp simply reintroduces new audiences to the old wheel all cleaned up and shiny. The sparse quality-of-life bells and whistles are purely designed to prevent friction and bring things more in-line with modern expectations. I, for one, used the ability to reset full turns many, many times – a feature commonly found in modern Fire Emblem games, which are basically Advance Wars But Fantasy.
But beyond that, some window dressing to make sense of the fact that it technically contains the whole of two previous games, and online multiplayer? It's the same campaigns with the same units. It's Advance Wars, and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. The promotional material claims that they have been "fully remade from the ground up," and while that might technically be true, in order to bring the titles to the Nintendo Switch it's effectively all of the same mechanics at play.
And that makes complete sense. Advance Wars, at its most basic level, is complex chess. Each piece has an assigned value to produce it, a certain distance it can move and a range it can fire, and certain weaknesses and strengths. These all play against each other in a tight, sophisticated network. Exploiting the ways in which each unit is vulnerable to another as well as defensive positioning is the fundamental core of the game. Everything else, including magical CO powers that can do things like repair all of your units or make them hit harder among other abilities, is just gravy.
Scale and polish
That is, however, also the problem. If you do anything wild to the math, if you change the numbers in any truly significant way, it's possible that you completely whiff the entirety. With the Advance Wars games built like a stacked set of bricks, changing out any single building block can have truly disastrous results.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp instead opts for an entirely new art style with 3D graphics. That's nothing to scoff at: it's a major overhaul from the original titles. But it's also not exactly a mechanical change. Other modern remakes and reboots often fiddle with the actual gameplay in a more significant way, but not here. And maybe there's some point further down the line in the campaigns that does truly shake things up, as I've yet to finish, but not so far at least.
And that's… OK, actually. All I really needed out of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp was the ability to play these games on a modern console in a way that wasn't terrible. If adding the ability to reset turns and speed up combat animations are really the only major gameplay changes, I'm good. I seriously doubt every single person is going to be willing to shell out $60 for that, but I imagine a not-insignificant number of folks will, like me, be happy to see the two earliest Advance Wars games liberated from from their Game Boy Advance prison with a new coat of paint without the timeless gameplay being compromised.
Does that mean the game will be successful? Who can say. The year-long delay likely won't have helped. As noted above, the price could be a barrier. The lack of truly new or impressively eclectic features might hinder its ability to draw in new audiences. But for someone that obsessively inhaled all four previous Advance Wars games, it's enough to just be able to logic my way through all of the war puzzles of my youth once again.
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