Today in Gaming History: Advance Wars

The 7th game of the Nintendo’s Wars series was released 15 years ago. Aptly named Advance Wars (for the Gameboy Advance) it was the first of the trilogy which involved the Black Hole Army’s battle to conquer the world. Advance Wars was also the first one to reach the shores of the United States. To the surprise of many Gameboy Advance owners, AW turned out to be one of the gems of the little console that could. This day in gaming history we visit Advance Wars from the Nintendo Wars series.

The Blue Moon nation has attacked Orange Star! The commanders of the Orange Star nation won’t take this sitting down; it is time to defend their nation! Join Andy, Sami, or Max alongside Nell the commander-in-chief of their country as they fight back and protect everything they hold dear! But, wait what’s this? The other nations are joining in the conflict, and what’s more? An organization called The Black Hole Army hidden behind a veil of lies and manipulation is pulling the strings? What is the answer to all these problems? Well, war of course says Andy!

This is all you need to know about the storyline in the series and that last bit applies to all three games of the trilogy. The world of Advance Wars is a strange one, where people actively celebrate war as the only mean of solving conflict instead of diplomacy. As a teenager playing these games all I cared about the strategy of the series, but as an adult I realize that the universe of AW is terrifying. I wouldn’t doubt that farting during a diplomatic meeting in this universe is grounds for a war. While the characters themselves are enjoyable and funny, they’re all too eager to lead a war and this especially worrisome since they are COs thus very far away from combat.

There is a surprising amount of depth and strategy to these games. The COs you choose during battle can also alter the tide of battle via their specialties and powers. These powers range from healing to directly hurting your enemies and even granting extra turns some can even affect the weather. Certain COs fight better at a distance and others do better in close combat. You can use the fog of war to hide behind forest or reefs in the ocean, you can climb a mountain using foot soldiers to gain further visibility. The player can even use strong tanks to create chokeholds from which to pelt the enemy via distance using long-range units.

There a many useful strategies you can use in Advance Wars, but if anyone has played the series previously, they know Sami is a beast (she is the Zerg rush of this universe). While I was never particularly good at the strategy aspect (most of my battles consisted of hit it until it dies) and had heavy casualties; I still loved Advance Wars. Between the Commanding Officers being fun (Eagle is the best!) or the tension which some stages actually provided AW is a terrific series on the Gameboy/DS. Once you finished the Advance Wars story there were challenge stages available to further improve your skills. You could even go to the in-game shop and buy more of these maps which become increasingly difficult. There was even a level creator system in which you design the map of your dreams to battle it out with the different armies/friends!

While the “original” was good, I have to mention that the sequels were much better and definitely improved on the formula established in Advanced Wars. I don’t know why Nintendo stopped producing games in the series, perhaps Days of Ruin sold poorly? But, this series stills holds strong in the retro market. If you want to experience the war mongering world of Advance Wars consider purchasing a digital copy in the Virtual Console.