Advance Wars: Dual Strike (Nintendo DS) - Review by skarma
Hailed as one of the best strategy game series available on handhelds. Advance Wars doesn't really need an introduction, unless you have been living in a hole for the past 4 years of your sad, deprived life. Advance Wars: Dual Strike is not a major upgrade to previous instalments, but it doesn't really need an upgrade since it's fine the way it is. The developers, Intelligent Systems have gone from strength to strength with their strategy games, starting out with Famicom Wars on the NES (only in Japan) and continually making sequels that get better each time. They also made this little gem called Fire Emblem.
The gameplay of Advance Wars has never really changed - build & destroy. Similar to other Turn Based Strategy games out there, but extracts the boring bits and injects big hefty doses of fun. If you've ever played any other Advance Wars games, you know what to expect. If you haven't, then go out and buy Advance Wars: Dual strike this minute. Bought it? Good.
Well there are a few upgrades to Advance Wars: Dual Strike, most noticeably is the Dual CO missions. Where you can pick from 2 CO's and power them both up. You can then use the "Tag Power", which allows you to execute both CO's Special Powers and control your units two times in one turn. Pretty nifty. Another noticeable upgrade is the unique use of two screens. In some Dual CO missions the CPU controlled CO will be on the top screen, usually with planes and fighter jets in the air. You can send units up to help your ally and defeat the enemy. This is just the story mode, there is also War Mode, Map Creation, Versus and even a Real Time Combat mode.
In Combat mode, you choose 8 or so characters with your limited funds and control one with the D-Pad and move around and fire Real Time. Although this takes away the point of Advance Wars, it's still fun for a "pick up and play" session.
Previous instalments of Advance Wars required you to use the D-Pad, and this control was perfect and well suited for it. Advance Wars: Dual Strike adds the functionality of the Touch Screen to control your units. Which, does feel more natural, but I'm not even sure it speeds up the process. Map Maker makes very good use of the Touch Screen, and after playing with the Map Maker with the Touch Screen, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it.
To be fair, Advance Wars graphics have never been good, or bad. Dual Strike isn't even much of a graphical upgrade from the NES version. And that is why the game is so good. It doesn't need a major upgrade, if Advance Wars went 3D and realistic, it would lose all its charm. The graphics are supposed to be simple and cartoony in Advance Wars, and this version is no exception. The playfield is slightly slanted, giving a kind-of Isometric look about it, the units get smaller as they're further away. Also the little cut-scenes where the fighting goes on have been made simple 3D for the terrain, although it isn't really noticeable.
A lot of the music in Advance Wars: Dual Strike is taken from both Advance Wars for the GBA and spruced up and made a bit more "rocking'". Each character has their own theme, and new characters means new music. Most of the music in Advance Wars: Dual Strike is rock, which perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game. The music gets especially loud when you use "Tag Power", to give it the 'eXtreme' feeling.
Dual Screen usage in Dual Strike is more of a privilege than a requirement. Advance Wars 1 & 2 managed to display the stats and land all on one screen, but with Dual Strike, there's more space for stats, and more space for action. The Dual CO missions also couldn't have worked without the 2 screens, since they actually need the 2 screens to display all the action. It's much easier having two screens as instead of pressing a button to display stats of vehicles or terrain, it is displayed on the top screen for easy viewing.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike builds on the successful franchise it has become, and adds many more features. With more units, maps, characters and action then any other Advance Wars before it, this makes it an essential purchase for strategy fans and non-strategy fans alike.
Pro: Builds on past AW games and has loads of features.
Con: Can get frustratingly hard.
Final score: 9.4