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The best series in the strategy genre, Advance Wars, makes it's valiant return for the DS, in Advance Wars: Dual Strike.
Not too much about the actual gameplay or look of the game has changed this time around, but that's not to say that things haven't gotten a bit more interesting...There are, of course, a few new modes and units at your control, as well as some new characters. Don't fret though, because all the best characters also return. In fact, Dual Strike starts off right where Black Hole Rising left off. So if you don't have that game, go and get it as well. It's an amazing game, and only like, $10. But onwards with the review.
You get a nice little cinema at the beginning...All pictures though...
Like I said, the gameplay is all the same, except for the few additions I will talk about later. So, if you are unfamiliar with the game, let me explain how things work a little bit. So for all you vets out there, just skip over this section .
*This is a turn based strategy, for those out of the know.*
The goal of the game is simple. In order to win, you must either completely destroy all of the enemy units, or take over their base. You can take over buildings by placing a soldier over it and selecting the "Capture" command. A full unit of soldiers can capture a city, factory, or base in 2 days or turns. However, your units can get hurt, and it will take them longer to do so.
So yeah, you can capture cities, factories, and HQ's, and a few more buildings...If you get a city, they not only provide protection from enemy fire, but you can also recover HP for your units if they are on it. Factories are used to produce more units. There are also airports for aerial units and ports for ships. Also, you get money at the beginning of your turn, and you get an extra $100 for each building you've captured.
These are the possible units, and the highlighted ones are ones you can actually purchase, since you don't have enough money for the others. Don't forget, there are also air and sea units to worry about, but you can only buy those in airports and ports, respectively.
This is no easy task though, don't be fooled. The enemy is well financed and it will take you a long time to win a match, especially in modes other than Campaign. Of course, this is a strategy game, and there is MUCH more depth than the things I have already mentioned.
For instance, each map has a lot of different types of terrain, which offer different amounts of protection. For instance, if your units are in a plain, there is no protection, while there are mountains which provide lots of protection. Also, there are units, like APC's and such that can carry units. So you can load up a few units, and then take them to a farther area faster than just going normally. Also, the APC's can supply other units with gasoline and ammo. Yeah, your units burn gasoline and only have a short ammo supply. There is lots to think about, much more than I have said...It is truly a fantastic strategy game, second to none. There is a lot to think about.
Let's get into the modes. There are Campaign, War Room, Versus, Survival, and Combat. These modes are very nice and unique to Dual Strike. I like how they made some additions, which are pretty cool.
Campaign mode is the story mode of the game. The story is always pretty cool, and of course the missions progressively get harder and harder. The characters and CO's you meet are all pretty cool and each have a unique personality. Fortunately, there are 3 save files this time around, so don't worry about your little brother erasing your file or anything , although he still could....hmmmm.
If you are new to the series, you will want to start in Campaign mode, since the first missions are tutorials and will definitely help you to understand the game and how everything works.
Also, you get money in this mode, along with the other ones, except for the War Room. The money is used to purchase things in the Battle Maps, but I'll explain later. You get this money, or points, by scoring well in three areas: Speed, Strength, and Technique, for a total of 300 points. You also recieve a rating for how many points you get, ranging from S to F. A new feature to the series is that the CO's you use in the missions actually gain experience. This brings into play some RPG elements. For, as you get 1000 points of Exp. for a CO, you can add a power up to him or her. These range from +5% on indirect attacks, and +5% defense and other such things. So this will get you thinking on who you want to use...Also, a cool little table shows the top 3 most powerful CO's; the one's with the most experience.
I know I'm getting off in a tangent, but I might as well explain this here. Each CO, besides their personalities, is unique. By that, I mean that they all have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Max is very powerful with direct attacking units, but isn't very good with indirect attackers, so his range in the indirect units are shorter than others; and so forth and so on. Also, each CO has two powers: A Co Power and a Super CO Power. There are these stars that show how much energy you have and if you can use one of these powers. You gain the energy by either destorying enemy units, or if they destroy you. So, choosing a CO with needed powers is also another strategy point. The powers range from repairing your units, or damaging enemy units, or taking enemy units' fuel and ammo, and so forth and so on.
At anytime during the game, while it's your turn, you can check out the CO's, like their bios and CO Powers and what not. Always a valuable tool.
War Room and Versus are pretty much the same. I couldn't really see a difference, except that you can play the maps in Versus with other players. Yeah, there's multiplayer, naturally. You can do some single or multi cart action, so that's good; 2 to 8 players, although most of the maps are only for 4 players, but whatever. Yes, there are a TON of maps. I'm talking, like, a hundred, at least. Not to mention the fact that you can make your own...Here I go off on a tangent again, gah. Eh, I'll explain that later, but yes, there are a ton of maps that you can purchase, along with the hefty amount you start out with. The maps are divided into different groups, like 2 CO battles, 3 CO battles, 4 CO battles, and a few more, like DS battle and pre-deployed, where the units are already deployed and you cannot make any new ones. The variety is amazing, as well as the many, many options to customize your game.
Then there is Survival mode, one of two new modes. There are three ways to play this mode: with money limits, time limits, and turn limits. So, you choose one, and the one you choose is the thing you are preset with. So you will either be preset with an amount of money, a time limit, or an amount of turns to use to complete the various maps. So that's another cool mode with some interesting restrictions, adding yet another layer of strategy.
And the most unique mode to the series is Combat mode. Now, while all the other combat is turned based, this mode features real time gameplay. I know what you're thinking, "Wha? Advance Wars? in....in....REAL TIME?!?!? MADNESS!!!" But ya know, it actually makes sense, since the upcoming game, Battalion Wars for the GCN will be in real time. Hmmm, coincidence? I think not. Anyways, this mode is very unique and strays away from the regular gameplay. Let me explain how it all works, since it's a little different.
Firstly, your objectives are the same, but you play through 6 maps, until you win, hopefully. You select the units you want from the very beginning, using a limited amount of money of course. Then you play. You can only have one unit out at a time, since you can't control more than one...obviously, however the computer has out all of his or hers. So you move with the D-pad and shoot using either the A button or by tapping the touch screen. So the controls are very simple.
Also, you still choose your CO and you can still do CO powers when you fill your meter, although the attacks can vary a little bit, in a cool way.
You can still take over cities, factories, and HQ's, however the way and purpose of doing so is a bit different. With Combat mode, ANY unit, whether it is a soldier or tank, can capture a building. Also, since it is real time and all, to do so, you simply need to move your unit on the building and wait for the countdown to reach zero. Once it has done so, that property becomes yours. You can regain health if you are stopped on your property, so that is a very important factor. Also, if you capture a factory, you gain an extra unit of the same one that you used to capture it.
Another cool feature is that you can destroy mountains and such, and sometimes they will reveal a power up, like power or defensive boost, and things of that nature. Also, if you go through trees and such, you slow down...and other smart features and things. Good thinking...Intelligent Systems is named that for a reason.
There is what the screens are like in Combat mode. You can see what units are left, and even the damage each has taken, so you know exactly what you are up against.
Other game related features include Battle Maps, which is the store, History, and the Design Room.
You can use your hard earned points or money if you please, in the Battle Maps store. In here, you can purchase numerous maps to play on, new CO's to choose from, colors for you CO's, and a few other treats, such as a Sound Room and Gallery of art, so that's cool.
History is your stat tracker, and let me tell you, it is very detailed. It has stats for everything, it's crazy. What units you used, how many got lost, how many you killed and which ones, and so forth and so on. Another sweet feature of the History, besides of course the awesome stat tracker, is the fact that you can get medals for your good stats. So that's just another incentive for playing and playing well at that. Now, there are 300 medals to get, so yeah, you'll have some fun and major props/bragging rights when you get them all. Good luck.
And last, but certainly not least, is the Design Room. I always liked the DR, but it's been upgraded even more with DS. Did I confuse you with those acronyms? No? Good . So, in the DR, you can change the CO's hair and clothes color. You have about 8 choices from each, so you will find something you like, so that's a pretty sweet feature, since whenever you see that CO, being in Campaign mode or wherever, he or she will be the colors you chose. Also, the new feature is that you can choose from a variety of "desktops". I mean, wallpapers and stuff, so that is also pretty cool that you can customize it like that.
And of course, the map maker. It is a very nice tool. I mean, this makes the game infinitally grand. I mean, there are already like, 200 or so pre-made maps, but now you can make your own. Don't get me wrong, you COULD make your own maps in AW2, not sure about the first, but it's better and easier in this version. Also, you can trade maps, so that's pretty sweet. I mean, ya know....doesnt' get much better. You make your own terrain and set up the buildings and everything. It's a very, very nice piece software.
The map maker in action. It's very simple to use, and fun too...I guess...if you are into that sorta thing.
Ha, you thought I was done, didn't you? Not even close. Now, with the new stuff with the game, gameplay wise; there are a few things.
First thing to mention is that the graphics are pretty much the same. Of course, there have been a few refinements and all, but nothing too special. The map does seem to be tilted just a little bit more though, but doesn't really make a difference. Another "graphical" advice is that there are birds now! Hehe, they are cool; don't do anything, but it's a nice effect. Also, when you win a battle in Campaign, you get a few fireworks over your flag, and when the flags come up, for your next mission, it's action is a little cooler than in previous games. Battle animations are pretty much the same, but the meter to show how many units you have left is cooler, and when you hit your enemies, a little speech cloud comes up and he or she says something. Again, it's the little things. But with the cut scenes, so to speak, and the backgrounds and everything, they are just good. They are very nice and sharp and flashy. It's really nice.
The audio didn't seem to change much, but it's still nice and good. Nothing too much to say about it. Nice effects and what not and the music is cool.
A sweet thing about having Advance Wars on the DS is, of course, the touch screen. You can now COMPLETELY control the game via the touch screen. There is no need for buttons anymore, except in Combat mode. So you can scroll through text and skip the animations even, and move your units and choose who to attack and everything using the touch screen. I know, you are thinking, "Well, what's the big deal?" Sure, it doesn't really add to the gameplay that much, but it's just nice. Of course, if you don't like the idea, you can still use buttons.
"But what about the top screen?" you are undoubtably asking. Well, if you have played a previous AW game, then you would know that you have to go into the menu screen to look up your units strengths and what it can attack and what not, but not anymore baby, not with dual screens, check it out (Yeah, TD rip. They are cool.) So all the information about the units is on the top screen, unless of course something else is up there, like the incoming missle going to blow you away in 30 minutes, or the second front. It's called dual stike, isn't it? Of course there are two fronts. But still, you can easily change to the unit info.
So, in some missions, there are indeed two fronts. Either one on land and one in the sky, or two on land in completely different places. The lame thing about it is, that, from as far as I can tell, you can only control the bottom front, while the front on the top screen is controlled by the computer. I mean, that's cool and all, but if had to control BOTH fronts, then that would be some major, heavy duty thinking and gaming. It just would've been cooler and really made Dual Strikes AMAZING, although of course it is already top notch. However, you can interact with the top front a little, by sending troops there, so that's kind of cool and still implants some strategy.
I hope you didn't misunderstand. You CAN have air units even though you aren't in one of those air fronts...no worries.
Going along with the whole dual screens and dual strike theme, is the new option and opportunity to sometimes use two CO's, instead of just one. Just another element of strategy to the forumla. So, you choose two CO's, and control both. It doesn't change much, I mean, you still have the same units and everything, but the purpose of having two is to implement both of their strengths. Think wisely while choosing. You can switch between them after your turn, but you don't have to. Also, if you completely fill up both of there power meters, you can do an ultra powerful move. Well, actually, it's not extra powerful at all, but each CO gets to move. This can completely turn the tables on your enemy. So, both CO's get to use their Super CO Power, and both get to move your units, so you are getting two moves, to your opponents zero. That's major. I mean, getting to move twice alone is huge in a game like this, you have no idea. And there is also a cool little cinema for it...it's all cool and stuff.
It's a cool little cinema, animation. It is...honest...
And of course, where would a new installment of the game be without new units? So yes, AWS does have some cool, new units. For instance, there is the Megatank, which is bigger than the Neotank, if you can imagine such a thing; a pipe runner, which is an indirect unit that can only run along pipelines and factories; a sweet stealth bomber, I mean, come on, that's awesome; a black bomb, that is an air unit, and a...bomb; and a black boot, for the waters, that can house a few units and repair others. So, you're looking at a nice little selection of new units that can really turn the table, if used properly.
They also changed the way APC's and other carriers worked. Now, you can load them, move them, AND unload them, all in the same turn. So that is pretty major. I know I'm not the only one who was a little frustrated with only being able to load and move in one turn, and then wasting another turn to unload them and not being able to move the unloaded units. So that is a pretty major change.
Now, that is about all. I just wanted to add in here, since it didn't really fit anywhere else, that you can save your game at any moment during gameplay, well, while it is your turn that is, so if you have to go do something, no need to worry; just save and come back later. Also, each mode has its own save file, so no need to worry. You can play and save in all the modes.
Also, there is this Fog of War "mode", where you can only see a few squares in front of your units, so it can be very tricky. If you get a unit ontop of a mountain, then they can see further, and so forth. Also, if you just go moving into an unseen area, then you can get ambushed, and will stop where you were, even if you had more spaces left. You can't see in trees or other environmental areas either, so you can easily hide from the enemy in there. Just reiterating the amount of strategy and thought in the game.
Well there you have it. I am finally done. Yes, the Advance Wars series is most definitely one of the best is the genre, and Dual Strike is not an exception. This game is amazing, with tons to do, play, and unlock. You will seriously have hundreds of hours of gameplay with this one. And, if it is like AW2, then once you beat Campaign mode, you get Hard Campaign mode, as if it wasn't difficult enough...And yeah, the game isn't easy, especially in other modes and the difficulty you can set it as...It's brutual. But don't get scared away, it is an amazing game that I suggest to EVERYONE. Go, get it. Now. It's like, the highest rated DS game ever, for serious.8.9/
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