Nintendo did not give Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp the same marketing budget it has afforded to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. That’s understandable. It didn’t help that Nintendo delayed the finished game’s release by a full year out of sensitivity to the Russian invasion of Ukraine either. Nonetheless, Advance Wars is a fantastic tactical turn-based war game experience that is flying under way too many people’s radar right now. That’s why I am here to beg you, the person reading this, to please try Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp.
For the uninitiated, this is one game on Nintendo Switch encompassing remakes of both Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising from Game Boy Advance. WayForward, the developer of games like the Shantae series, created this remake, and it added a ton of new hand-drawn animated art to represent the characters, in addition to new options to mitigate difficulty. However, the original games and the Wars series in general were created by Intelligent Systems, which is better known these days for developing all of the Fire Emblem games.
Beyond Nintendo’s subdued marketing, which plays a major part, I have a feeling that Fire Emblem might be another reason why Advance Wars is struggling to garner more attention. For starters, those who already love Fire Emblem might feel that Advance Wars is comparatively simplistic. After all, Fire Emblem characters level up, change classes, and sometimes develop complex relationships with other characters. In Advance Wars, you play as COs (commanding officers) with special abilities, but all your player-controlled units are nameless grunts that only exist for that battle. The story and characters are also pretty cartoonish, despite the war premise.
Conversely, people who are not Fire Emblem fans because they think it’s too hard or complex may lump Advance Wars into that same category by association. Nobody wants to play a game that just makes them feel stupid and useless, and the original Advance Wars games garnered a reputation for being quite challenging back on GBA.
To both of these camps of people, or people who maybe fall somewhere adjacent, I want to say that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp offers both a deeper and more accessible experience than you might realize. To begin with, the game has fantastic strategic depth even if no one is leveling up or equipping items. There are a wide variety of unique unit types with exciting strategic capabilities, and it goes beyond the rock-paper-scissors nature of Fire Emblem. For instance, anti-air units will shred both aerial units and infantry alike, and they’re half decent at putting a hole in most things on land — but any tank, artillery, or rocket will tear through it. And infantry with rockets can cut into anti-air units too if they attack first! So maybe it’s more like rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock.
The ground game in Advance Wars is intricate and thrilling all by itself, but aerial and naval units introduce whole new dimensions of complexity. Aerial units can move around so fast, and bombers can be absolutely devastating — yet the aforementioned anti-air units and missiles can strike fear into them quickly. Meanwhile, expensive battleships have absolutely ludicrous long-range capabilities and deal big damage, meaning you have to destroy them with submarines or bombers ASAP or go hide.
“Hiding” can be literal. Some missions have “Fog of War” where you can only see enemy units in a given range of your units, and that visibility factor also adds a huge new dimension to gameplay. Recon units can see for far distances, but it also helps to put infantry on a mountain to greatly expand their sights. Admittedly, I do not love Fog of War missions, as they can be a little nerve-racking, but there’s no denying how extremely well designed every map in these games is from Intelligent Systems.
And once you factor in how every CO has one or two (depending on the game) unique powers that can turn the tide of battle once charged up, it adds even another layer of depth to gameplay. The strategy potential here is extraordinary, and you can unlock an even more difficult version of the campaigns after beating the game if you want the ultimate challenge.
However, to address the opposite camp of readers: Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is probably not anywhere near as difficult and overwhelming as you might fear. WayForward has put two difficulty options into the remake: “Classic,” which retains the original difficulty, and “Casual,” which it straight-up recommends as preferable for people who haven’t played the series before. WayForward literally wants people to pick the easier option. You are not a coward or getting an incomplete experience for selecting it.
Additionally, you can now reset your turn in progress and redo it completely if you realize you made a mistake. You can do this without penalty in both Classic and Casual. And if you find that you simply have to give up, the game gives you genuinely excellent strategic advice about what you should try the next time out. This game is not just forgiving but dedicated to fostering player growth and understanding. It wants you to be ready for Classic difficulty (or beyond) someday.
Honestly, I have yet to even try Casual difficulty. I finished one playthrough of Advance Wars 1 on Classic and finished with an average of S rank, the best rank, and I’m a chunk of the way into Advance Wars 2 now (and quickly remembering that it is a much trickier, harder game). I’m not mentioning this just to boast though (and to be fair, I did redo a turn here and there). My point is that I played these games on GBA (and Nintendo DS), retained my strategic knowledge, and am now being rewarded for my mastery. And there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction from funneling all your brainpower into a mission and coming out victorious.
Advance Wars is basically war as a puzzle game where no one actually gets hurt, and it’s a delightful brain-teaser. In fact, there is even a fantastic corresponding creative element, in that you can make your own levels for upward of four players (though it seems only 1v1 battles can be played online). There is basically a limitless amount of replay value here.
Ultimately, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a game for almost everyone, and it is my simple wish that more people become aware of that. This is a game that deserves to be played by a wider audience. But more than that? I’m also just selfish and really want new sequels from Intelligent Systems. So just do everyone a favor and check this game out, please.