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Advance Wars: Dual Strike Review

Developer: Intelligent Systems Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: August 24, 2005 Also On: None

The Advance Wars series is the best handheld strategy series to date. Using a simple interface but complex tactics, Advance Wars has always been a game that the hardest of hardcore or the newest of newbies could pick up and enjoy. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have managed to bring all of the strategic action to the Nintendo DS in the best way possible, Advance Wars: Dual Strike.

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Advance Wars was great, but Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising took everything and made it better. Similarly, Dual Strike is basically AW2 with a lot of new stuff and a continuing story. The Black Hole army was defeated but once again they’re trying to recover and gain power. It’s up to the Allied Nations of Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth to rise against the Black Hole forces and silence them once and for all. New Commanding Officers come into play and mix up the story, but the old protagonist Andy has been replaced by an annoying new guy named Jake. Jake wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t an Orange version of your typical suburban wannabe…but that’s a different story.

The gameplay remains largely intact, with the same turn-based stuff we’ve all played and loved for four years. Each side gets a turn and the battle cycles around until a headquarters location is captured or all units of one side are destroyed. There are 25 units (which includes six all-knew units) at your disposal, ranging from infantry units to stealth planes. Using different types of terrain for transportation and defense, the goal is to finish each battle with as much success and as few casualties as possible. Every once in a while during the campaign, players are forced to complete missions within a certain number of days or before a missile explodes overhead. These different parameters require for near-perfect strategizing, so progression through the game takes a lot of skill. Capturing different properties is as vital as ever, especially when you factor one of the new properties. Also, using COs and their CO Powers effectively makes things much easier or harder, depending on your skill. As I said, there are several new COs and getting used to their different strengths and weaknesses is going to take a lot of practice.

Some big things that really change the gameplay are the introduction of dual-screen combat as well as tag-team battles with multiple COs. Sometimes it’s up to you to win the war on two fronts and defeat an enemy CO while also fighting a completely separate battle at the same time. These matches require a lot of attention and detail because they’re essentially two battles in one. Choosing the proper CO for each battle is only the start, because victory or defeat can make or break the whole battle. Fortunately you can control both COs if you wish, but there’s an option for AI-controlled COs for newer players. I found myself controlling the other CO myself, because the AI-controlled COs usually went and got themselves killed pretty quickly.

The tag-team battles make up the second half of the game, where you fight a normal battle with two COs. You can switch between the two at any time and take advantage of their capabilities, which makes things interesting. For example, series veteran Max has always been good with tanks but is terrible with indirect units like Rockets and Artillery. If I were getting pounded away by enemy Artillery, I’d probably want to switch Max for another CO so I could counter the enemy without having to get too close. However, if the enemy decided to change its plan and send tanks after me, Max’s superior firepower would take care of them with ease. Furthermore, the multiple COs can now unleash what is called a Dual Strike (hence the subtitle in the game’s name), where both COs use their CO Powers and attack in the same round. Being attacked with a Dual Strike can ruin an entire battle, but hitting your foes with a Dual Strike gives a much higher chance of winning.

In addition to a 28-mission campaign, there are several other options that deserve credit. Nintendo provides an excellent multiplayer option, allowing up to eight players to wage war using only one cartridge. Also, the War Room mode from the previous games makes a return. New gameplay modes include Survival and Combat. In Survival mode, you are given limited time, funds, or turns and you must finish the battle before that limit is reached. Combat mode is interesting to say the least. It’s basically a real-time game where players drive around manually and shoot with the A button. Capturing buildings and destroying units is as simple as before, but you don’t take turns doing it. It’s not a big enough experience to call a full game, but if anything, it might be interesting to call it a very basic handheld preview of the GameCube’s upcoming Battalion Wars.

Something that surprised me was the fact that Dual Strike has good music. Nintendo has never been known to develop the best MIDI handheld tunes, but Advance Wars sounds pretty good. Finally I can play a Nintendo game without turning the music off. The sound effects pack a punch for such a small game, as well. In the graphical department Advance Wars excels with updated graphics from the previous games in the series. The map itself looks similar, but the archaic structures now look a little more modern with a slightly three-dimensional look. The actual cut-scenes through which battles are shown look much better than before. The animation is cleaner, the color is brighter, and the explosions look much more fiery.

I’m just going to come out blunt in conclusion: I love this game. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have served up three straight strategic masterpieces. The Advance Wars series has always been good, and fans of strategy or the AW series should definitely buy Dual Strike. It’s easily the best DS game, and I might go out on a limb to say that it’s my favorite strategy game. Advance Wars rocks.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9.3
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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