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Catching Up To My Game Backlog
Published on April 25, 2007 By iTZKooPA In Gaming
Again I will deviate on my gameplaying updates from days gone by, only this time its to cover a game I just wrapped up. Being that I can carry and play my DS almost everywhere I tend to get most of my gaming in via that machine, which has the best feature for handheld gaming since the introduction of the Backlight screen (with good battery life) some years ago. Of course I am speaking about its save state feature which was built into the hardware (some GBA titles sported the feature as software, such as The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap which will be covered later, but it wasn't as awesome since it wasn't a de facto standard).

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, its the feature that allows you to shut the DS at ANY TIME and have the gameplay automatically pause there. Upon reopening the system the gameplay will start wherever you left it, whether it be stomping on a turtle shell or dieing in Final Fantasy III. Needless to say I make use of the feature liberally since I play all over the place including while my girlfriend is shopping (I am pushing the cart/holding the bags and staring at a screen) or waiting for a computer to reboot at work. Also the built-in pause feature turns off the screens, saving battery power, and can allegedly can stay in the state for days on a full charge. I actually haven't tried to use the feature with a GBA cart in the DS to my recollection but I wouldn't think that it would be supported.

Enough with praising the stupid feature you say? Get to the game? Fine. Again you will have to travel back in time with me to the summer after the launch of the Nintendo DS for this is when Advance Wars: Dual Strike was released. Now move back to the future about 1.5 years. As I pointed out I was pretty busy with another game at this time and didn't pick up this title until the annual Toys'R'Us post-Christmas sale of 2006. And man should I have picked it up sooner. I loved the previous two incarnations of the direct series, being the turn-based strategy fan that I am, and couldn't wait to crack this puppy open after getting him for the discounted price of $10. Unfortunately I was still sans-DS since it was stolen some months before causing me to wait weeks as I scoured stores for a Black unit.

Although the depiction of war in the Advance Wars series, and ultimately the entire Nintendo Wars series, is depicted in a childish, possibly even a happy-go-lucky manor, the strategy is solid. Even though it may not be as deep as the many 4x PC titles, or even something like Disgaea on Playstation 2, Dual Strike mixes a good element of complex strategy to keep you thinking, while still being easy enough for the casual gamer to enjoy. All together the gameplay and balance of the title is top-notch and the introduction of new and powerful units, the movable repairing Black Boat probably being my favorite, made the gameplay as perfect as its predecessors.

Developer Intelligent Systems pushed the title and players further by offering up two-fronts to the war via the dual screen. To handle this player's are given the choice of acting as both their selected Commanding Officers, one on each front, or simply letting the AI take over the secondary front and one of the COs. Upon winning the secondary front players can regain control of both COs, swapping their command to garner both COs abilities and charging their devastating Tag Team attack.

The story mode doesn't stray far from the generic Advance Wars formula of the great nations of Macro Land, this time its Micro Land (ingenious!) teaming up to stomp the warmongering nation of Black Storm. Setting aside the annoying CO that is Jake (and the first one you get to use) all the characters are solid with many returning faces and interesting super powers. Campaign maps are well designed, especially the last few which can really put you to the test by forcing you to use all the defensive positions you can to chip away at the enemy while still pushing forward against the clock.

Once you finish the lengthy campaign there is PLENTY to do. Intelligent Systems took a page from Xbox Live and added in “achievements” for players to show off to each other. The amount of data captured and retained by the game is quite staggering, ranging from how many units you've joined and repaired to how many ambushes you walked into. For every data set there are three medals of different difficulty to be awarded, a total of 300 to collect. Beating the campaign alone may garner you around 50 medals, a far cry from completion. Even though I don't often go for perfection in many games, I am at least willed into going for more medals because I know I can, they aren't hard to get and will only take ten minutes. Those sly bastards.

For those who don't want to just 'grind' medals there is also the DS Download Play, allowing you to go heads-up with someone else, even if they don't own the title. There's the War room, with pre-set mission much like the campaign but without a story, a Survival mode broken down by money, turn amount or time based, a real-time Combat mode that was a lot of fun and naturally once you beat the campaign you unlock hard mode. And you thought those last few missions tested you.

The title is a sure fire must have for anyone who enjoyed the previous Advance Wars titles or likes TBS strategy games in general. The only things that I could possibly speak badly about are that there is no Wifi play and the AI for COs controlling the secondary front is not the best. They will often sacrifice units for a kill which wasn't needed or to simply block a unit from moving forward even if it won't harm the stability to the overall front.

Although not a killer-app like I consider Mario Kart DS to be, Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a solid title that any self respecting strategy gamer should own. It would also make a good entry title for anyone who never really tried strategy games due to its blend of casual and easy to grasp aspects accompanied with deep gameplay. Did I mention that it has LOADS of re-playability?

Currently Playing:

PC:
F.E.A.R. Extraction Point
Titan Quest

DS:
New Super Mario Bros.

Gamecube:
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Playstation 2:
Star Ocean Till The End of Time

Wii:
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz

Xbox360:
Dead Rising

Comments
on Apr 25, 2007
Star Ocean Till The End of Time


I remember seeing trailers for this one...I haven't played any of the other games in this series. Is it any good?

~Zoo
on Apr 25, 2007
I just started diving into it with my girlfriend (it has Coop and I have heard good things thats why I was drawn to it) so I can't really form an opinion on it yet since I am maybe an 30mins in.
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