Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Review – Warts and All

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Review

I have a lot of fond memories of the Advance Wars games. I also remember a fair bit of frustration. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a faithful recreation of that original experience, for better and for worse. While the visuals have gotten an upgrade, the mechanics are perfectly preserved. Despite my old grievances coming back with a vengeance, I still had a lot of fun with this collection. War might be hell, but Advance Wars makes it fun as well.

This collection looks like a remake but feels like a remaster. Every pixel’s been replaced by slick smooth polygons, and the characters have been given an HD upgrade. The controls and the gameplay feel just as they used to, however. In fact, Re-Boot Camp feels just like the version you remember from 20 years ago. It’s that same neat trick that D2: Resurrected pulled off recently. On the other hand, if you’re not familiar with Advance Wars, here’s the skinny: war has been declared.

Right To The Battles, Then

That’s kind of it, actually. My memories of the original contained more narrative meat, but I have no idea where it came from. Your first real mission involves Blue Moon attacking for some reason. Once you kick them out of your country you just… start digging into other nations in return. There’s no motive given, it’s just understood that conquest time is upon us. The story is that there is no story. It’s simply Time For War. Which is fine! The war in question is pretty fun, so I can easily move past the absent narrative.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Review

Actual combat feels like Fire Emblem. Except you’re not attached to any given unit, and you’re often allowed to make more. That essential rock-paper-scissors type matchup persists, however. Also when I say you’re not attached, I mean it. I had no issue with chucking half an army in the meat grinder if it meant winning the map. The only downside is that your final score is negatively affected. This gave me more freedom to experiment, and take risks.

The downside here is one of pacing. If you’ve got no base to capture, you have to kill every single enemy. Victories and defeats become brutal, grinding affairs. Especially if there are bases or fog of war in play. On the other hand, capture maps move crazy fast. Suddenly every turn is critical, each move is essential. A single mistake means winding back to the turn’s beginning. Or worse yet, restarting the whole map. If you want things to be either breakneck fast or deadly slow, you’re in luck. Don’t hold out hope for a happy medium, though.

Fast And Furious

You can correct this issue, at least a little bit. If you’re feeling extremely impatient, you can turn off every animation. Suddenly, battles aren’t being held back by long sequences and cutscenes. You can also hold a single button to fast-forward through certain sections. You end up with a truncated version of events, but maybe that’s worth it? On the flip side, if things feel like they’re moving too fast, your options are limited. You can reset to the beginning of a turn, yes. But a more serious screw-up often requires scrapping the entire operation. It took some time for me to learn when a battle was properly doomed. You can save yourself a lot of grindy grief by bowing out in a timely fashion.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp preview

This is an important skill. When Re-Boot Camp gets tough (as all games must), you spend more and more time on doomed campaigns. What I mean is that your failures often take tons of time to manifest. I’m a pretty impatient person, you see. If I’ve totally blown it, I prefer to know as soon as possible. I had several missions go wrong in turn two, only for me to realize it in turn nine or ten. Maybe this is a personal problem, a skill issue as it were. But I still found myself frustrated. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by Fire Emblem’s ability to rewind time at will. In that sense, the games’ design highlights what’s been achieved in the genre since their release.

Old-School Mechanics

For the old fans, Re-Boot Camp is practically perfect. The games look much better, while the mechanical guts are properly preserved. On the other hand, if you remember these games being frustrating, that feeling will persist. If you’ve never played the Advance Wars games, you’re in for a fascinating experience. The heavy Fire Emblem influences are balanced with a more brutal, more inconsistent pace that will keep you on your toes at all times. I found myself (an old fan) elated and infuriated in equal measure. If you’re looking for a strategy RPG set apart from the rest, good news! Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp isn’t quite like anything you’ve played before. Love it or hate it, you’ll certainly be engaged.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Improved visuals
  • Engaging combat
  • Useful new mechanics

The Bad

  • Pacing still suffers
  • Missing a better rewind feature
  • Barebones narrative