For fans of Advance Wars, the franchise’s return has been a long time coming. The most recent title, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, came out on Jan 21, 2008. Over 15 years ago. And while that compares favorably to the likes of F-Zero (coming up on 20 years since F-Zero GX on the Gamecube; 19 since F-Zero Climax on GBA), it’s a helluva break relative to Nintendo’s heavier hitters.
Which is why, with every new Fire Emblem, we’ve eagerly anticipated Intelligent Systems’ return to their bright, cheery, and tactical strategy gem.
WayForward has beaten them to it with the remake of Advance Wars 1+2, Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp. Brand new visuals, music, voice acting, and quality-of-life improvements make this the most affordable, attainable, and playable version of the GBA classics.
Advance Wars originally captured my family’s adoration with its multiplayer skirmishes, a turn-based take on RTS resource gathering, army building, and combat that was only rated E for Everyone. Handy, when we were still in elementary school. We’re all grown up and mostly in different states now, so the new ability to play online is an exciting way to bring back the patient passing of the Gameboy Advance.
(Hot-seat multiplayer is also made easier when you don’t have to pass around the console. Just make sure you aren’t watching what your friends are up to if you’re playing on the big screen, you cheater!)
Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp brings with it the classic map maker of the original games, but with some extra, modern conveniences: chiefly, the ability to save more than three maps. The campaigns are cute. The War Room passes the time. But it’s this Design Room that elevates Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp into one of the most fun versus and co-op experiences of 2023.
You just have to be prepared to put in the work.
It’s made easier by the simple interface available. Place map tiles and starting units, and you’ll be ready to go in no time. The controls do take some getting used to due to the number of menus, but it’s not as intimidating as, say, Warcraft III’s World Editor (nor as versatile).
You can design your maps for 4-player free-for-alls, 2v2s, and anything in between—my recommendation, of course: 3v1. By crafting imbalanced maps, my local group has created countless (alright, 4, so far) co-op experiences that pit us and our meager resources against a battle-hardened bot. Difficulty can be adjusted even after the design process is complete by changing everything from weather to resources to your opponent’s CO. Beating Olaf is a simple matter of waiting out the snowstorms, but fighting against the likes of Hawke or Sturm and their enormous Super Powers can test our expectations for how a map will go.
Our first map loaded up the bot with high-cost units and tasked us with defending on three different fronts, each designed to be a different kind of battle. Wide open plains to the north favored mobility and direct firepower, while clustered forests and mountains to the south rewarded vision control and distant barrages. Meanwhile, the third player was tasked with defending all three HQs from an immediate beach invasion.
Our second map saw us surrounded by fifty enemy infantry units and impenetrable fog of war. After getting absolutely swamped by Sami, a CO specializing in infantry, we made some quick changes to the map and our personal CO selections to better weather the storm.
That’s one of the nice things about the Design Room: it lets you iterate on your ideas, finding the right balance between vision and difficulty so that every map ends up fun in all the right ways.
Next we made “The Great Divide,” where each player was provided access to only one type of unit-creation facility for a division of air, land, and sea.
Our latest was “3-Pronged Surprise,” where each player secretly selected an equal number of enemy units and placed them in the fog of war. When it came time to defend our compact base, none of us had a complete idea of what to expect. Though I can’t say the relentless Neotanks and Rockets were too surprising!
The possibilities are limitless. Next, we’re planning to make an impenetrable stronghold that we must break down with relentless spirit (and probably a lot of long-range Rockets). After that, we’re planning to design themed maps, restricting our CO choices to one nation at a time. As someone who grew up playing Eagle exclusively (and Sami, when Dual Strike came around), I’m looking forward to learning the ins and outs of the likes of Lash, Adder, and Flak.
We’ve been turning the map-making process into a cooperative experience, as well. Typically, we’ll spend an evening planning out our vision and bringing it to life, contemplating advantages and disadvantages and upgrading the bot’s provided units until we think the ensuing fight will be fun. During the next visit, we’ll actually put the map through its paces, losing or winning based on the battle we built ourselves.
Of course, as Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp is a remake of a GBA title, we’ve got to work for our multiplayer. That means completing both single-player campaigns in order to unlock all of the characters and custom map pieces for multiplayer. It’s still a work in progress for me. At over 35 hours combined, I still have a dozen maps to go to 100% Advance Wars, and (fortunately) four left to 100% Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising.
There’s a lot of game here, whether you play alone or with/against your friends, and thanks to the Design Room, there’s only so much more. We’re likely to be designing and playing out cooperative missions for the foreseeable future. It’s too bad we can’t share our maps with strangers, or find like-minded co-op designers, but right now it’s been enough that we can share with each other.
As with any late, over-due franchise return, the real value of Advance Wars: Re-Boot Camp will be in proving there’s a place for a new game in today’s industry climate. I am desperately hopeful that the foundation has been built and it’s only a matter of time.
Until then, I suppose I wouldn’t say no to Dual Strike and Days of Ruin, either…
Whatever kind of strategy game you’re looking for, you can make Advance Wars 1+2: Reboot Camp your own thanks to the versatile Design Room!
Looking for other cooperative Switch games to play this year? Try the latest Theatrythm!