Advance Wars: Dual Strike Nintendo DS Review

One of the GBA’s top games (and one of my most played titles) finally makes the leap over to the DS. New missions will now have you taking the fight to the enemy on both the DS’ screens. Not only that, there is the new Survival and Combat modes and a slew of original COs. Have Intelligent Systems struck gold again? You’re damn right they have!!

Gameplay

Those who have played any of the AW titles over that past few years will no doubt feel right at home once you boot up the game on your DS. Everything about the game feels very familiar, the layout of the menus, the distinct graphics, the layout of the missions, the layout of the map and the trademark music are there to greet you straight from the start. For those not as familiar, then fear not, the game guides you through the first few missions and helps you find your feet until about mission 7 when it will pull the mat from under you and the game leaves it up to your own skills. Veterans to the series may find the first few training mission a bit boring but the game tries to rectify this by advancing the story mode through these sections and introducing some of the games characters.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike takes place on land, sea, and air. As players take turns at advancing units around a grid-based map they either attack enemies, advance to a more strategic location or capture a building. Each side also has their own Commanding Officer (CO) each of which has their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. Each CO has two “CO Powers” which can be built up and unleashed multiple times over the course of a game.

There is a vast selection of both units and CO’s available in the game. Each unit has its own attributes and these attributes can be improved if combined with the right CO but can also be lowered if accompanied by the wrong CO. For example, if you plan on using a lot of tanks but chose a CO who has a strength in long range combat then the tanks’ effect will be lowered. Thankfully none of these units or CO’s are in no way overpowered, with each having a good chance of winning if you plan ahead correctly. Even if an enemy deploys loads of their most powerful units you will still have a chance at victory if you play your cards right. This equality has also been a staple of the AW series and thankfully nothing has changed for its DS incarnation.

AW:DS comes into its own in missions that use the DS’ two screen cleverly. At most times the top screen is used to just display info on the current mission, including information on the units, terrain and enemies but at times the top screen can be used during the dual screen battles. In dual screen battles there is combat happening on both screens at once so you have to take it to the enemy on two different fronts. This is a great addition to the series and offers a lot of different opportunities during battles.

It is also now possible to fight as a “tag team” pairing two of your CO’s together and alternating between them after each turn you take. If used correctly, this can really turn the tide in a battle that otherwise may be very difficult to complete. Another addition is the “tag attack” that can be used once both CO’s have their power meters filled up. This is similar to the CO Power but can deliver huge damage or give the player a huge advantage during their turn as it lets CO’s take their turns one after another before your enemy is able to act. This tage feture is also open to your enemy CO’s to use and it is not very nice being on the receving end of! Another one of those new features sees CO’s now gaining experience points after every victory resulting in them getting promoted when they have earned a sufficient amount. This promoting will result in the CO learning new skills which is nice!

Graphics

Although Advance Wars: Dual Strike is on a significantly more powerful machine than its predecessors it does not take a huge step up in graphics than the previous editions of the game. The game uses much of the same styles of the games that came before but has a slightly 3Dish look to the field of play. It looks as if all the units have been slightly updated and at times display brand new animations. The maps have also been updated and to my eyes look significantly better. The explosions and other effects also all look a tad better than the GBA version. All in all I believe a little bit more work could have gone into the graphics department, but that is not saying the graphics are terrible, in fact, far from that.

Sound

The game sounds great with loads of different tunes and sound effects being used. Each CO in the game has their own composition (with some remixes from the previous titles), resulting in some fantastic scores to be heard, my favourite being Max’s but a lot of the others are very catchy as well. None of the characters are voiced in the game but that really does not matter as you can make up your own personalities from the words they say in text form. All the units in the game also have their own sound effects, whether it be engines, guns, propellers or explosions, all of the sounds are full and powerful through both the DS’ speakers and headphones.

Lifespan

Apart from the fantastic campaign mode, AW:DS offers many other modes to hold your attention. These new modes include war room, a versus mode, and a survival mode, each offering short-bursts of both single and multiplayer gaming. One of the games actually plays completely different than the main game offering real-time strategy version of the game which takes advantage of the stylus. I personally was not very impressed with the RTS mode but it is only a small blemish on an otherwise near perfect title.

To improve the lifespan of the game even more you can earn credits with continuous play which can be used to unlock maps and new CO’s. Lots of different multiplayer modes are also available with an option of a “pass the DS” mode that lets gamers pass the console to each other as they place their units, which is great if some of your mates don’t have their own handhelds. For those that have mates with their own DS there is also an option of Wi-Fi battles, you can also trade you created maps via Wi-Fi as well which makes the title fantastic value for money.

Overall

Although the series was far from becoming stale on the GBA Intelligent Systems has reinvented Advance Wars on the DS. Although only subtle changes were made to the formula and it still has the distinct Advance Wars feel, it manages to feel both new and exciting. During the course of writing this review I noticed that the whole game can be played without using any of the “innovative” DS features, the two screen aspect is the only real big change to the formula. Infact I never took the stylus out of its holder during the whole course of campaign. Regardless of this Advance Wars really is without doubt a must have game and some would argue the first must have game the DS has brought us. With a great single player experience and a respectable multiplayer mode Advance Wars: Dual Strike is highly recommended and also a perfect example of touching not being good!

9.4 out of 10

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