Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS Review) by Jason D.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Developer: Intelligent Systems
System: Nintendo DS
Release: August 22, 2005
September 6, 2011, by Jason D. - Let me start this off by saying that throughout the years, I have sunk about 200 hours into this game. I bought it launch day August 22nd, 2005 when the DS was still in its infancy. For someone starved for a DS game this was a god send. I had played the other Advance Wars games and loved them and Dual Strike took the standard Advance Wars formula and made it a whole lot better.
For those of you not well versed in Advance Wars, it is a tactical war game where in the same vain as Final Fantasy Tactics. The main difference between the two is that Advance Wars incorporates a money aspect. You start out the mission with a set number of buildings under your control already and they will each give you $1000. There will be many other of these buildings spread out across the map that you must try and capture to increase your spending power. The money is then used to purchase stronger units such as tanks, artillery and mega tanks to help out your infantry soldiers who have very limited range and firepower.
The graphical style of the maps is very basic. While the units you actually control look great and certain units seem very imposing, the detail on the ground is almost non-existent. Once you get into a battle with another unit, that changes. Your units are then surrounded by a big forest or standing high on a mountain. For a game that came out on a system less than a year after its launch and comparing it to the other games that were out at the time, this game looks great.
The object of each mission will vary slightly but essentially you are either supposed to destroy every single unit your opponent controls or capture their headquarters' (HQ). While the first few missions prove to be a breeze as they are set up to be training missions. To complete each mission, you will use a sort of Rock/Paper/Scissors strategy. Certain units are good against air but weak to tanks, others strong and obscenely powerful (the mega tank!) but have low ammo, low fuel and low movement. This will always make you think about which unit is perfect for the current situation and which will help you push forward. It's seems simple but once you get further into the game, it gets increasingly harder.
You will begin facing members of Black Hole whose special advantages aren't that significant but as you progress, you will face tougher enemies who receive terrain advantages or who have certain units gain a major damage boost or defense boost.
Along with each CO having their own tactical boosts, they all have unique CO Power's. For every time you attack the enemy or are attacked by the enemy, your gauge will grow. The first stage of the CO power is a limited power up for that turn such as you get to move 1 extra space per unit. The second stage is a much bigger advantage such as you can now move 2 spaces and all your units' fuel and ammo supplies are restocked. The CO Power's make the guy extremely hectic but always give you a chance to win each skirmish. Regular CO Power's are no match for Tag CO Powers though.
After you have gone through the first little bit of the game and been introduced to the use of airports and seaports, you find out about Tag CO Powers. The basics of them are that you will have 2 CO's in the mission and once both of their gauge's are completely full, you can activate an almost always game winning ability. Not only do you get the boost from the individual CO's power, you then get a second turn immediately following. I will admit that the first few times the opponent used them against me I thought it was like the game was cheating. Fortunately for me, I had survived their onslaught and triggered a Tag CO Power of my own and won the match.
That is where a lot of the fun of the game lies. In Tag CO battles, you are always on edge and trying to pick the right CO to match up against the opponent and always have a defense against their Tag Power while having enough fire power to retaliate the next turn. It is a gameplay trait that I am now very pleased to say I enjoy whole heartedly and it has helped me more than it has hurt me.
The game also takes advantage of the two screens on the DS by giving you two different battlefields to control. The bottom screen will always be the main objective but on the top screen, if you win, you are given a huge bonus. By sending units from the lower screen to top screen, you will win that front keeping the enemy from getting two CO's. In return, you receive two CO's and will be given a ton of power for your CO gauge and nine times out of ten, you will start a Tag CO power right after.
That is just a small part of the giant campaign. Once you get half way through, you are introduced to Oozium. It is a unit that only the enemy is allowed to control. They move just one space at a time but have extremely high defense and they swallow any unit they move onto. This will make the regular player who likes to sit back and gain a major army before attacking rethink his strategy. You now have to decide if you want to isolate an Oozium and surround it from all 4 sides to kill it and then repeat this for every single one. Or put an infantry unit in an APC and try and get them past the Oozium so they can capture the HQ for you. Oozium makes for many tense moments and you will learn to hate them.
While the game play throughout the campaign always stays fresh, the story and its characters are quite the opposite. The characters are very one note and unlikeable such as Jake who thinks he's a gangster but instead he's just a kid with headphones. The bad guys are just evil for evil's sake and while there are a couple curveballs in the story, overall, it just feels uninspired. This isn't too much of a problem because you can skip the story completely and just enjoy the missions or laugh at the hilarious character design on some of the bad guys. All in all, it is a very bad story but at times it's almost so bad it's good.
Now, after you beat the original campaign, you are really only about 10% done the entire game. You can replay the campaign this time on a harder difficulty and the missions are now changed up and will give even the smartest players a run for their money. Or you can go to the Battle Maps and purchase a ton of characters with all the points you have earned and use them in War Room. The War Room is a giant place where you can play a seemingly infinite number of maps with any type of mode you like and any type of rules you like. I personally have spent about 50 hours just in this room and have barely played half of the maps… Yeah, there are a lot.
And that's not all. There is the Survival mode where you are given limited money, turns or time and have to last as long as you possibly can. For those trying to get the most points to spend on battle maps, I found this to be the best place to do it because it's easy to cheat. Otherwise, you will be in for an extremely tough time trying to beat your high score over and over again.
As a weird little add-on as well, there is a real time battle mode known as Combat. You choose one of four units (Infantry, Recon, Tank, Artillery). As you guide your unit throughout the maps, you must destroy all the enemy units. While it is nothing like the rest of the game, it is a fun distraction that I play from time to time.
Lastly, if you somehow get bored with playing the pre-made maps and playing against the computer, you can link up with a friend and play against them. You can also create your own custom made maps. I personally rarely used this feature because the pre-made ones are just so brilliant I didn't feel the need to add any. It is still an amazing feature that they didn't need to add but did.
I do have to mention the sound in the game. While it does repeat the same songs over and over again, I never got sick of them. I still hum the rock style song played during the first mission because it is just so infectious. Also, the sound when you activate your CO power just makes you feel like you are going to win the match no matter what. The sound is just an icing on an already amazing cake.
12/15 - While it does repeat often, it is extremely memorable and fits the mood of the game.
18/20 - DS games look much better nowadays but back in 2005, Advance Wars looked great.
23/25 - While I had to take a couple of points off for the story, this is still the perfect game for any gamer looking for a challenge.
40/40 - Perfect. The game never feels too hard or too easy and it is so polished that you will never get frustrated.
93/100 - So, after playing Advance Wars: Dual Strike for almost 200 hours, I can safely say that it is the best value you will get out of any DS game that has come out since. While certain games like New Super Mario Bros have a higher fun factor, Advance Wars gives you a complete package. A game that is extremely fun, extremely rewarding and extremely replayable.