Content Continues Below

Nintendo’s tactical endeavors have been firmly vested into Fire Emblem. It makes sense too – greater narrative possibilities, gameplay that maintains a core identity while trying new things, hundreds of characters to put into a gacha game. It was the right call, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. In the west at least, Fire Emblem’s current level of success is owed to the grunt work of a Game Boy Advance gem that introduced a whole generation of grid-based greatness.

As an Advance Wars fan, it’s been a tough, decade long ceasefire. Thankfully Nintendo saw fit to enlist WayForward to lead this latest operation. While Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a fantastic reminder of what made the GBA pair so satisfying, it doesn’t exactly push beyond that. Instead it doubles down on reintroducing this cast of Commanding Officers and its own brand of strategy heavy gameplay, serving up nostalgia and possibilities in earnest.

What’s immediately apparent when playing through Re-Boot Camp is that its new developers understood the assignment. Intelligent Systems are legendary with respect to the genre, and WayForward has managed to faithfully recreate the experiences of both Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. More importantly, some choice improvements create a more enjoyable experience, like removing “locked” content based on choices made during Campaign. AI behavior is also improved with respect to player experience (particularly when it comes to Fog of War based maps) without truly deviating from the series’ idiosyncrasies – sorry APCs.

If you’re coming in fresh to these games though, that paragraph might feel a little like coded intel. Rest assured it’s all to your benefit, just like the choices made when it comes to these characters’ designs and personalities. I’ve always had a soft spot for Advance Wars COs despite their minimal presence in the games (from a narrative perspective at least), and everything I loved about them is retained here. They may be looking a little more in line with Shantae and River City Girls, but to me that’s not a bad thing. The same can be said for their voice acting, with solid (albethey somewhat infrequent during Campaign) performances all around.

It is worth noting that while the COs feel fully realized and bolstered by the aesthetic update, units themselves somewhat go in the opposite direction. Nothing’s exactly ‘wrong’ with the way troops are portrayed (I always did love that each army is based off of some kind of real world equivalent) but something’s lost in translation from sprites to models. I’d call this more of a compliment to Intelligent Systems than a dig at WayForward, though.

The bulk of my time playing this one was in its Campaign mode, where the stories and missions of both Advance Wars and Black Hole Rising can be revisited. While AW2 is the tighter and more robust experience thanks to its additions, both titles hold up well even two decades later. Most maps play out almost like puzzles, with a set amount of pre-deployed units at your command to (in most cases) either rout the opposing army or capture their HQ.

I’d argue the truest form of the game is when you’ve access to buildings and war funds, putting more weight on your decision making and ability to secure fronts. Campaign shies away from these scenarios for the most part, instead tasking you with understanding the situation you’re in and the troops you’re given while leveraging your COs unique day to day traits. As stated, this shoves aside any surface level similarities to Fire Emblem and lets Advance Wars thrive in its own way – one that I’d love to see Nintendo and WayForward take even further in the future.

Fueling all of that are the series’ CO Powers – flashy shows of force that further emphasize the uniqueness of each CO. Ace mechanic Andy can heal every one of his units on the map while long range expert Grit gets an increase to firepower and shot distance. Getting a sense of when these will occur and planning around them (both offensively and defensively) is yet another piece of the Advance Wars puzzle, with AW2 taking things a step further with even more potent Super CO Powers. The only means with which these falter is that some powers simply feel more impactful than others. Summoning a localized blizzard is probably the more notable feat, but it can’t exactly compare with letting the bulk of your army take a second action.

Beyond Campaign, you’ll find multiplayer modes dedicated to both local and online play. If you’ve never gotten the chance to engage in a four player Advance Wars match you’re missing out on a premier, formerly link cable locked experience. Not only can you take the fight to a whole suite of pre-made and unlockable maps within the game, you’re also able to put your own skills to the test in designing ones of your own.

Another benefit of the remade, compilation nature of Re-Boot Camp is its gallery features. Plenty of character artwork and music is available from across both games, though there’s one small catch. In proud, series tradition all of these things (maps, music, art, COs, and more) have to be purchased from the in-game shop. Likable as Hachi the merchant is, this kind of double unlocking is a bit frustrating in the long run.

My other main gripe is that if you’re aiming to play through both of these campaigns back to back, you better like repetition. You’re in for dozens of missions that can oftentimes feel reminiscent of situations you’ve been in before, with some tactics feeling universal despite the ever altering circumstances. Trudging through forests and reefs cloaked in Fog of War in particular gets old fast, particularly in how it encourages a slower and more cautious pace. The game at least has awareness of its difficulty most of the time, working in some less stressful maps between other more grueling gauntlets.

As a last aside, while combining Advance Wars and its sequel provides a robust amount of content, it does feel like it falls just short of a comprehensive compilation. The absence of Advance Wars: Dual Strike, the series’ first sortie onto the DS, feels like a missed opportunity to unite the entire trilogy. Even if not every feature could be maintained, having its COs and units as extras would’ve at least been a nice touch. Perhaps in the future we’ll see a follow up, be it as another release or some kind of download, but for now Wars World is at peace.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a satisfying and nostalgic return for the series, and a shining example of Nintendo entrusting another developer with their IP. I’d love to see this partnership continue, particularly if it means more of or (dare I say) a new Nintendo Wars. With some further fine tuning and some freedom to experiment, we could have something great in the making here. For now though, these touched up and faithful remakes bolster this genre on Switch and bring a beloved piece of handheld history back from near obscurity. If that’s not a victory then I don’t know what is.

Leave a Comment
  • Marks the return of two legends from the GBA days
  • WayForward injects their own sensibilities atop of true to the source remakes
  • Plenty of maps and unlockables to encourage replayability and multiplayer
  • Playing two Campaigns worth of maps gives way to repetition – especially with Fog of War
  • Double unlocks, while true to the source, are a minor annoyance
  • Something’s lost in the transition from sprites to models with respect to units

System: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: April 21, 2023

Categories: Strategy

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Intelligent Systems, WayForward

Written by Ricky Berg

When he isn’t writing for Nintendo Wire, Ricky’s anticipating the next Kirby, Fire Emblem, or if the stars ever align, Mother 3 to be released. Till then he’ll have the warm comfort of Super Smash Bros. to keep him going.