Format reviewed: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Submitted by: Craig Hawkins
Nintendo and Intelligent Systems planned their attack with diligent precision. Watching our every move, biding their time; secluded in their homeland, shaping the perfect army. In 2001 they launched their assault, taking us by surprise with Advance Wars, and we've been held captive ever since.
Advance Wars is gaming's answer to chess. Kasparov can stick his rook on his f4, this chess comes with guns, tanks and battleships. After hyperbolic reviews filtered through, a common theme was of gamers admitting how they'd never cared for the strategy genre but adored Advance Wars.
It was a feeling I shared and it's easy to see how the crossover occurred: it's the perfect videogame, full of humour, death and humorous death. Nothing is more satisfying than
your toy soldiers squaring up to the enemy's toy soldiers and your toy soldiers blowing them off the screen. NOTHING. And this war is acted out with a ruleset that's both simple and refined.
Each side begins with a number of military units at its disposal to be moved strategically across the map in an attempt to outwit and outmanoeuvre the enemy. There are two ways in which victory can be achieved: by destroying all enemy units or capturing its headquarters. Terrain, weather and the special abilities of the armies' commanding officers have to be taken into consideration during battle.
Each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses: lowly infantry units can traverse mountains and rivers but offer little firepower; tanks are effective at moving long distances but can only fire when next to an enemy; rocket launchers are used for long-range attacks but become defenceless in close combat. Battles also take place in the sky and on/under sea.
Nintendo was never going to go all out blood and guts on us, though. The clinical gameplay is wrapped in a colourful anime blanket and friendly interface that has seen the game rightly go down in history as a beloved classic for gamers of all types, abilities and ages.