Strategy titles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. While the variances between them can come from the setting or scale of the battles, each basically boils down to commanding troops in a sequence of battles where the choices the player makes ultimately influence the outcome. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp follows that philosophy with medium-sized battles and a cartoon-like art style that—although not intimidating at first glance—offers deep, tactical gameplay and a set of goofy characters that the player can easily get to know and enjoy.
Originally launched over 20 years ago and developed by Intelligent Systems (Fire Emblem, Paper Mario), Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising were released for the Game Boy Advance and now come back together in remastered fashion via Shantae-developer WayForward. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp combines these two GBA releases and adds online multiplayer, as well as an updated look and feel for the Nintendo Switch. This long-dormant franchise has been out of commission since 2008, but now, players can jump back into the classic strategy franchise that began in 1988 in Japan.
You’re the commander of the Orange Star Army. Using the various COs (commanding officers) at your disposal, you must take the fight to the Blue Moon Army, who have been at war with the Orange Stars for years. After the main protagonist, Andy, makes his way through several battles, he provokes war with the Green Earth and Yellow Comet armies as well, causing global war.
Following this conflict, the second title has the Allied Nations taking on the Black Hole with the mission to drive them out of Macro Land. The stories behind each title are quite shallow, but the characters are incredibly unique and diverse, making each encounter an interesting one.
“The soundtrack for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is phenomenal…”
Besides just the personalities of the characters, each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, Max utilizes close-up combat boosts while taking a hit on the power of units that attack from afar. Every character allows for different sets of strategies, and in specific maps where some tactic might be more useful, combining that with the proper CO can give you an edge.
While Andy tends to be the most-used CO due to all units being balanced out evenly, he can only heal the damaged units every few turns, so he isn’t all that exciting. Regardless of who you use or the tactics you prefer, a CO is there for you to gravitate towards.
Once your commander has been chosen, it’s time to enter the fray. Every map is quite different, with spans of water allowing for water-based units, mountains blocking the paths of some vehicular ground units, and forests providing cover in the Fog of War. Towns scattered across the map are one of the big goals, allowing additional units to be built faster when captured. This mechanic is only present on certain maps, but adding to your final score total at the end of each match still makes it worth doing.
The only ways to win each round are to either defeat all the enemy units or to capture their HQ, which tends to be on the opposite side of the map with tons of enemies between you and it. Focusing on clearing the map out is generally the better strategy, but some maps allow for creative ways to bumrush the HQ and hold back the enemy long enough to quickly swipe the win away. The allowance by Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp to let the player make those decisions make it a perfect strategy game in those ways.
One of the few ways it isn’t a perfect strategy game is in how the gameplay can get monotonous from match to match. While a win feels good, and gaining the coveted S-rank means you’re even more of a gifted commander than you thought, following the disbursement of coins, all you have to do is spend them on some collectibles or additional maps to continue the cycle. Changes in map design make things pretty interesting with each battle, but at the end of the day, you can find yourself getting into the same base strategies over and over again once you figure out which units you prefer and the method you’d like to go about using them.
The real way to avoid this is to consistently switch up your COs and game plans from battle to battle. Not only does this make you better at the game overall, but it allows for that monotony to decrease. For those trying to get S-ranks in every fight, this would also be the better way to go about things, as sometimes, a different strategy might be faster and more effective, but for those that find themselves finding their niche, it may come at the cost of ranks, coins, and entertainment value.
“Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp perfectly matches the handheld gameplay of the Nintendo Switch with a deep, tactical strategy game that keeps the player on their toes from start to finish.”
The soundtrack for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is phenomenal, so getting those coins is definitely worth your while, but the cartoony art style isn’t going to be for everyone. As a handheld strategy title, it works more effectively graphically, but it might be a turnoff for those used to more gritty experiences like XCOM. While that’s a piddly knock on Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and won’t be an issue for most players—especially those used to Nintendo games in general—it’s honestly hard to find a ton to complain about.
Other than the main campaign, you can also experience Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp with several multiplayer options, such as Versus, where you can challenge players or the CPU locally, or Online, where you battle friends anywhere around the world. War Room allows you to battle the CPU in a high-score battlethon and the Design Room lets you take all of the knowledge you have attained from this game and create your own custom maps to share online.
Hachi’s Shop lets you grab some collectible goodies, like music files and artwork, battle maps, or additional COs. The Gallery lets you take a look at everything you have collected thus far. All of these added modes and features make completing your playthrough, making money from high-ranked wins to unlock collectibles, and putting your own creativity to work a must, even if it’s mostly the same content you’ve already experienced through the campaign. Extra content is always good.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp perfectly matches the handheld gameplay of the Nintendo Switch with a deep, tactical strategy game that keeps the player on their toes from start to finish. While the gameplay can get a bit monotonous when utilizing the same strategies from match to match, the number of units on offer, map variance, and COs available to use make for a ton of replayability—especially with the online multiplayer options. Even though the story is a bit weak and the art style might not be for everyone, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp does a good job of making me stretch for complaints due to being such a complete strategy experience from top to bottom.