Also available on Wii U via Virtual Console
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/08/2018 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Advance Wars seems like the first in the series to those of us in the West, but it’s actually an entry in a long-running series called Famicom Wars; this is just the first entry that got localized. It’s a turn-based strategy game, but don’t confuse with an SRPG like Fire emblem because Advance Wars has none of the traditional RPG mechanics such as levels or experience or changeable weapons. It’s much closer to a 4X strategy game; you take control of cities and factories, manage your resources, and build up your units while balancing power and cost.
One of the big differences between Advance Wars and most strategy games like it is the tone of the story. Its story is inherently fairly silly. The nations involved are Orange Star, Blue Moon, Yellow Comet, and Green Earth. The COs are all unique and have their goof eccentricities, but none of them really give off a “serious” realistic vibe you would expect from an army general. While it’s obviously understood, the concept of death is never mentioned explicitly; your units just fly off-screen during the battle animations, and when a unit is defeated, it just explodes and disappears. No blood, no gore, no remains. It’s about as non-offensive a presentation as war could possibly have.
The basic story is that you play as Orange Star fighting off an invasion from Blue Moon. As you’re pushing back Blue Moon’s advance and retaking Orange Star territory, you end up a couple of skirmishes with Green Earth. Eventually, you find yourself fighting Yellow Comet, too, and start to realize that something’s off about the whole situation. That’s as far as I’ll go into the story, but it’s a pretty decent story despite being fairly silly all around. The characters are likable, and the frivolous world minimizes the importance of lore. While I personally consider that to be a negative, it does allow one to jump straight into the action without worrying about each nation’s background or anything.
Advance Wars is a fun, fairly light-hearted strategy game. It starts off extremely easy, but the last three or four missions will provide some legitimate challenge (especially the last one, dear god). It’s not a gritty, serious war story, so if that’s what you’re wanting, look elsewhere, but the strategy gameplay is solid, and it’s definitely a lot of fun to play. You can also save in the middle of battles, so it’s perfect for short bursts (or save scumming if you’re like me and suck at games). Given the ease of access on Wii U, I’d definitely recommend a playthrough for folks who enjoy strategy games especially if you’re also a general fan of Nintendo.