Advance Wars, as a series, is a choice pick to resurrect on Nintendo Switch. The console’s portable nature is a perfect fit for its quickfire military strategy. And indeed, WayForward’s Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is a welcome return for the long-dormant franchise, regardless of the fact it’s a bundled pair of remakes.
For the most part, it’s a solid translation to Nintendo Switch. Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp retains the original’s nail-biting tactical gameplay, where strong enemy AI capitalizes on mistakes as tiny as one of your units being just a single tile out of place. Advance Wars remains refreshingly hard, and hasn’t lost its edge two decades on.
I wish I could say the overall package was a slam dunk. Yet alas, despite being as fun now as it was way back then, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is hampered by choppy performance brought on by an unlocked framerate, a questionable 3D makeover that’s bound to prove divisive, and lengthy load times that’re a far cry from the instantaneous action of the GBA originals.
Just about salvaged by a wealth of content, wonderful artwork and a fantastic remixed soundtrack, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is still well worth your hard-earned time and money despite its notable setbacks.
Off to war
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp remains identical to its GBA counterparts. But if you’ve yet to be drafted into the ranks of its various commanding officers, here’s a quick rundown.
Advance Wars pits two (sometimes three or four on the harder maps) armies against each other. And each take turns to position their units around the map, with opportunities to attack if you’re within range of enemy units. Each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses, so certainly don’t expect to steamroll the competition with a couple of tanks and copters.
Infantry, for example, are understandably weak compared to vehicles. But they’re versatile, able to be transported by APCs, and can spend turns to capture neutral or enemy cities and bases. The mechs are slightly more powerful infantry, able to deal solid damage to vehicles, with the tradeoff of having less movement range.
Tanks are your army’s workhorses. They’re powerful against a range of units and can take a beating in return, but crumble against larger tanks and long-range artillery and missile units. Air-based units, like copters, have huge movement range and can decimate infantry, but are easily wiped off the map by anti-air units.
You’ll need to become deeply familiar with each of your unit types to succeed on the default Classic difficulty, as the AI opponents certainly know theirs. You’ll have a different selection of units from map to map, and the game does a great job of familiarizing you with each unit before ramping up the difficulty later in the game.
If things start to get a little much, fret not. The new Casual difficulty dials back the intensity. It’s still no cakewalk, but you’ll be given more leeway and I recommend it for first-time players. The best part is that Re-Boot Camp won’t shame or penalize you for dropping the difficulty, and it can be reverted from the overworld map screen if you so choose.
The glue that holds your army together is your commanding officer (or C.O.). Each C.O. has their own colorful personality, but also a special ability unique to them. Andy, for example, is a great all-rounder, and can apply a map-wide repair to your units. It’s a fantastic crutch that can help you squeeze out a desperate victory. Olaf, meanwhile, can transform the map into a snowfield for a turn. That greatly boosts his own units’ movement range, and significantly nerfs yours. There’s a huge amount of variety with these C.O. abilities, and witnessing each for the first time is a fantastic way the games spice up their campaigns.
Outside of some of the more powerful C.O. abilities, both titles here remain astonishingly well-balanced. Even the most powerful units have hard counters. The difficulty curve is relatively smooth throughout, so expect few jarring spikes (well, so long as fog of war isn’t in play).
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is unfortunately more of a mixed bag when it comes to presentation and performance. I love the new 2D artwork of the game’s characters, animated slightly to give them a buoyant breath of life. It’s an extremely colorful game, too, looking fabulous on the Nintendo Switch OLED’s vivid display.
However, it doesn’t remain all that pleasing to the eye forever, as the gorgeous 2D art clashes quite starkly with the new 3D models for your units. They’re serviceable, but I feel they lack the charm of the originals’ chibi-like sprites. The models have a bit too much sheen on them, too, making them look like plastic toys. Worse still, on busier maps, the chunky 3D units can blend into one another if you’re not paying attention.
The choice of 3D models here may have even impacted Re-Boot Camp’s performance. At the best of times, the games hold steady at 30fps. However, the framerate is uncapped, meaning it’ll jump around quite often. This is especially noticeable when you transition from the map screen to combat.
It’s not all bad news, though, as Re-Boot Camp’s wonderful soundtrack helps to lift spirits during gameplay. WayForward’s signature high production sound and bassy oomph is present and accounted for here. If you’re familiar with Jake Kaufman’s work with the Shantae and Mighty Switch Force franchises, expect more of that goodness here. Every track has been lovingly remixed; they’re recognizable, yet sound completely fresh and new.
The long war
Despite its performance issues, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp certainly brings its A-game when it comes to content. Both the Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising campaigns return in their fullest, and every single bonus map is present. Map mode returns, too, letting players build and share their own levels with an intuitive editor. Throw in unlockable art and music and you have a package that’s filled to the brim with cool unlockable content.
For the most part, Nintendo and WayForward have done an excellent job bringing Advance Wars into the modern day. Its strict-but-fair, fast-paced strategy has proven timeless, and it’s been well worth the wait after weathering multiple delays.
Still, I can’t help but feel Re-Boot Camp could’ve used an extra month or two in development just to polish performance up a little more. I’m hoping a patch or two down the line can help to streamline performance and improve load times. But for now, do expect gameplay to be choppy, especially when you get to the more hectic maps in each campaigns’ latter half.
Overall, though, if you prefer your strategy less fantastical and more grounded in reality, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is well worth your time.