Advance Wars: Dual Strike
War. It is an aspect of human existence that never seems to die out. For thousands of years, people have clashed and fought over ideals, resources, and anything else that may hold special meaning. Countries have won and lost, spilling the blood of countless individuals who believed their sacrifices would make for a greater good. Lands have been razed, cultures destroyed and replaced, and the very course of humanityís history redirected by the survivors. But while the spoils do indeed go to the victors, the future of the defeated can be pretty bleak. Thatís why strategies have been developed and refined over the centuries, allowing the opposing forces to adapt to the times and circumstance and helping them achieve the much-needed victory. And while many places in the modern world are still being ripped apart by war and conflict, most of us can sit in the comfort of our own homes and appreciate what we have. But for those of us that still want a little piece of wartime action, we can at least delve into the latest installment of the Advance Wars series and wage our own portable bloodshed.
Itís been months since the Allied Forces wiped out Sturm and the Black Hole Army, restoring peace and tranquility to Macro Land. Thanks to the efforts of Andy, Max, Sami, and a handful of other commanding officers, the Sturmís reign of terror was brought to a screeching halt. But while the all the good guys were off celebrating the victory of their massive world war, evil revived itself in the far-off continent of Omega Land. Though the Black Hole Army was licking its wounds from its devastating loss at the hands of the Allies, it was ready and willing to conquer some new territory and exact some nasty revenge on its adversaries. With yet another invasion underway, it seems that this evil military might is on the verge of taking over, leaving nothing but despair and chaos in its wake. With only a few talented commanding officers in charge of Omega land, itís a real wonder how the Allies are going to win the day again. Luckily, youíll be right there beside them on the battlefield and guiding them to the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Youíll be immediately thrust into the war effort, giving combat training with new commanders. Youíll meet Rachael and Jake, two of the most promising leaders of the Allied Nationís Omega Land forces. These young ruffians are eager to get their hands slicked with the blood of Black Hole Army scum, and theyíve got plenty of ways to dish out the pain. Held bent on defending their home against the invading forces, the Allies will roll out the infantry, tanks, battleships, cannons, missiles, helicopters, fighter jets, and anything else they can possibly get their hands on. Using all of the available resources, youíll have to develop strategies depending on the situation. Will you send a massive army of soldiers to conquer every city and base in sight? Can those tanks handle the rough terrain of the surrounding landscape? Can your troops survive a single turn against some fortified long range rocket attacks? What about that tree over there? Will it give your units enough cover to last a few crucial moments? What about the headquarters that you forgot to defend? All of these questions swirl and blend in your mind as you try to make sense of the chaos around you. Itís up to you to learn and adapt to every situation, leading your troops to sweet taste of victory and your enemyís bitter defeat.
However, thatís only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While wartime tactics have always been the most fundamental aspect of the Advance Wars series, Dual Strike offers a few new twists to the tried and true combat system weíve learned to love. Not only do you get to run things with Jake or Rachael, but youíll also be introduced to a full cast of commanding officers, ranging from old school veterans like Max and Grit to slightly newer faces like Colin and Lash. All of these officers come complete with their own special abilities and powers, which can easily turn the tide of any battle. Some commanders excel at offense, while other have better firing range or other tactical advantages. While these may not be new concepts for the series, there is one addition to the latest installment. Living up to its namesake, Dual Strike allows you to choose two commanders for a single battle, letting you mix and match some dynamic duos for some truly awesome bloodshed. Youíll be able to switch between commanding officers at will, applying one commanderís advantages to the otherís forces. Also, some of the battles will take place on two fronts, conveniently depicted on the DSís two screens. And with a fair amount of new additions mixed in with your already powerful arsenal, itís a safe bet that this latest war will be truly something worth fighting for.
But the fun doesnít end with double the combat. Every aspect of Advance Wars: Dual Strike is meshed perfectly with the capabilities of the DS. The main front of every battle is on the Touch Screen, allowing you to command troops with the simple tap of the stylus as well as the usual button controls. For those of you looking to wreak some havoc on your friends, the game uses WiFi connectivity to its fullest extent, allowing up to eight players to wage war with one another for some truly excellent multiplayer bliss. Just in case the superb multiplayer isnít your cup of tea, Dual Strike offers a few other game modes to whet your appetite for destructions. Youíll be given access to the War Room, allowing you to wage war in old favorites like Spann Island and other classic battlegrounds. Thereís even a Survival Mode, testing your skills based on the amount of funds, turns and time you spend winning a battle. But for those of you that yearn for something a little more retro, the Combat Mode allows you to conquer Omega Land Atari style. The game will let you choose your weapons, then sets you loose in a free-for-all battle of wits and itchy trigger fingers. Needless to say, itíll be quite a while before Dual Strike goes stale.
Considering that the Advance Wars series has made the jump from the GBA to the DS, one had to wonder how the portable war would look on the double-screened handheld. Thankfully, the resulting presentation is a sight to behold, complete with revamped character designs, combat animations, loud and fiery explosions, and tons of other graphical touchups that make the older games seem a little stale. The attack animations have been redone yet again, giving an almost three-dimensional perspective to the combat. The very battlefield itself seems more vibrant and lively, complete with drifting clouds and soaring birds. Characters new and old come complete with their own attitudes, flaws and styles, adding plenty of humor and entertainment to the few moments between the bloodshed. The soundtrack has been redone as well, treating us to grand overtures and some techno mixed in. Many of the sound effects remain the same as their predecessors, but that wonít take anything away from the awesome presentation of a world drowned in the blood of tiny soldiers fighting for a cause.
Looking back, I honestly never believed that Nintendo could ever improve on the Advance Wars series. But theyíve gone above and beyond expectations with this latest addition to the DS library. Advance Wars: Dual Strike takes everything that we hold dear about the series and redoes it for a smooth and stylish game that is sure to impress, amaze, and possibly confuse many a DS owner looking for that next great game for their handheld. This game has it all; the gameplay is solid and far more balanced than those of previous games, the many characters both return and make memorable debuts, and wide variety of new weapons, features and gaming modes will keep you coming back to quench your thirst for mass destruction. Accordingly, this game blows the competition out of the water. It may not be quite the same as actual war, but itís far more fun.
Ten out of ten