The Wars games have been a Nintendo staple longer than most Western gamers know. There have been entries on the NES, Super NES, and even the original Gameboy. While these games never made it to the West, the series finally got recognized by North American gamers when the entries on Gameboy Advance were released in the early 2000s.
Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Blackhole Rising became GBA classics. These were the must-have games on the portable due to their addictive strategic gameplay, charming pixel art, and high replay value. They were the perfect fit for on-the-go gaming sessions and could be played at an easy-going pace.
The last time Nintendo published a game in this franchise, was Advance Wars: Days of Ruin in 2008 for Nintendo DS. Instead of getting a new entry, Nintendo has set WayForward loose on remaking the first two Advance Wars in a single package. How does this remake fare? Find out in this Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp review!
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp
Developer: WayForward, Intelligent Systems
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Players: 1-4 (Local), 1-2 (Online)
Price: $59.99 USD
When a game publisher is unsure about making a new game in a dormant franchise, they avoid the risk and effort of making a new game and will opt to “remake” or “remaster”, one of the fan-favorite entries. It is hard to blame any publisher for wanting to give customers what they want, but why bother when bizarre changes are made?
In the case of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, the results are mixed. This version is not a lazy conversion like some of Nintendo’s half-hearted attempts like Super Mario 3D All-Stars or The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. There was some legitimate effort to give some purpose to this remake.
Regretfully, some of Wayforward’s decisions were misguided and poorly calculated. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is not on the same level as Nintendo’s best efforts like Metroid Prime Remastered, and is stuck in a limbo of mediocrity.
The core of what made Advance Wars and its sequel are here, but it is hard to not feel like the graphical overhaul is a step backward. The GBA games had a very distinct pixel art style. Everything was very chunky and colorful. Sprites were defined and had a lot of consideration for every single dot used to make the most out of the 240×160 pixel resolution; ensuring no space is ever wasted.
The new designs, art style, and 3D models do not have the appeal of the old graphics at all. The sprites in the old games are timeless; the new 3D graphics lack personality, look cheap and resemble something out of a mobile game. The impression comes off as looking flat with nothing popping like the boisterous sprites with inky black outlines.
The art change does affect gameplay slightly since it is harder to tell apart tanks without having to manually highlight a unit to make sure. The aesthetics also depict the battles as miniatures which could be a throwback to how the box art of Famicom Wars DS used toys to convey battle. This is lame because the increased abstraction of the war makes the story seem like a bunch of larpers are playing board games instead of conducting actual war.
The toy-like aesthetics prove to be the least of the problems facing the new graphics. The character art is drastically inferior to the masterfully drawn originals. In Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, characters are drawn in a wannabe anime-like style that is common in a lot of Western cartoons where the artists do not understand anime art. This results in a flatly-drawn style where volume and anatomy are ignored.
Ryo Hirata’s art from the original games had a profound understanding of anatomy. There was a verisimilitude to his work and it made the characters have a grittiness to them. Max was a burly guy with rippling and defined muscles- it was the kind of art seen in a beautifully drawn manga.
In Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, Max’s muscles look like balloons and he is drawn by an amateur. His facial expressions make him look like a chubby soy boy instead of a lean and mean soldier with sculpted features. All character art is lacking detail and is overly slick, making everything look more artificial- as if it all passed through several hands that scrubbed away all personality.
Not only do the characters look very terrible, but they sound bad too. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp gives the cast voices for the first time and one would think this would have been the easiest thing in the world to do, WayForward horrendously miscasts the entire roster.
Everyone sounds off: Andy is voiced by a 30-year-old woman who is unconvincing as a teenage boy. Eagle lacks the fierce pride his dialogue suggests. Kanbei’s dialogue has been rewritten so he doesn’t condescend toward females. Max sounds like he is a soft-spoken wimp who never lifted a weight.
Nobody puts on a funny accent either, which is a missed opportunity since these characters are all meant to be national archetypes for specific nations. None of the Black Hole guys have any German accents, Olaf doesn’t sound Norwegian, and Sensei doesn’t sound like an old Asian guy. The only character who feels like they were faithfully translated was Nell. Everyone else feels like a misfire.
Any gamer who can get past WayForward’s utterly embarrassing artistic stamp will find that the core gameplay of Advance Wars has been untainted. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp are the same addictive strategic games we grew up with in the 2000s.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is divided into two campaigns, with the first one being the introduction to the core systems. There is a lot to consider when trying to take the field and dominate the enemy’s base or trying to win by annihilating the opposing army. Factors like which unit is effective against one another are simple enough, but when terrain, weather, and adjacent units are factored in, victory won’t come so easily.
The Black Hole Rising campaign is where the Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp compilation truly comes into its own. The first campaign is very restrictive in comparison and limits which CO can be used for most of the experience. Black Hole Rising introduces trickier COs, bigger maps, and enemy-specific factories that can infinitely produce foes. It is a beefier challenge and a longer one too.
The battles in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp are very well-designed (mostly because they are lifted from the GBA games). Even if you are a master tactician, there is still a little bit of a dice roll involved when attacking enemy units. There are ways to stack the odds in your favor and that depends on who you choose to use as your CO.
Every CO has its strengths and weaknesses which affect their units. Max gets boons that can boost the effectiveness of ground infantry and come with a CO ability to support this. Kanbei’s units all come with increased attack but at the cost of all his units being the most expensive to produce. These characteristics do change depending on if playing the first game or Black Hole Rising too.
The dynamic of the battles can drastically change depending on which COs are going to war. A map covered in snow is a map where most characters get limited movement, except for Olaf. Does a map have a lot of water on it? Expect Drake to command the sea and be unbothered by rain… just don’t expect him to rule the sky- that’s Eagle’s territory.
War can last a long time. Thankfully, not all of WayForward’s additions are mistakes. Re-Boot Camp added a fast-forward function to speed through enemy turns to make the flow of battle more exciting. Battles can go on for over 30 minutes to reach past the hour mark and that is when speeding through enemy turns. A suspension feature has been carried over for players who need to take a break mid-battle.
The new graphics in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp do not honor the original vision of the GBA game. At the very least, the gameplay is still solid. The amount of content is substantial- lasting over 40 hours. If you already have the original GBA games and the hardware to play them, then it is hard to recommend this version. If you don’t, then Re-Boot Camp is still worth it if you want a great strategy game.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Nintendo. Additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy can be found here. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is now available for Nintendo Switch.