Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp Review
For years I have been waiting for this. Advance Wars is among my most cherished games series. Advance Wars was the first time the Wars franchise had released outside of Japan, a series dating back to 1988. The game arrived on the shiny new Game Boy Advance, and I had it Christmas Day in 2001 and played the bejeesus out of it. I played through the campaign before I went back to school. I played it in the back seat of my parent’s car with a link cable with my brother for many hours that holiday. You see, I didn’t get to play games much at home, so a game that I could pick up and play anytime, jump back into a battle, was great back then.
Then two years later, a sequel to continue the story of the Orange Star army. Then another game on the DS another two years after that. We were spoiled when Battalion Wars dropped, then a sequel to that, and finally, another DS game in 2008. It was a good decade to be an Advance Wars fan.
Then just nothing, absolutely nothing, for 13 years. Oh, look, a trophy in Smash Bros! They remembered! It wasn’t until E3 2021, they dropped it, a remake of the first two games, on the Switch, and it’ll be here that year. Hooray!
That never ended up happening. We all know why. But now, 15 years later, we have it. A new Advance Wars release, and I’m now old enough to have almost completely forgotten everything about the original games.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-boot Camp is a compilation and remake of the first two Advance Wars games, you guessed it, released on the Game Boy Advance in 2001 and in 2003. Initially developed by Intelligent Systems (who also make that other turn-based strategy series for Nintendo), this remake has been developed by Wayforward from Shantae fame. They’ve probably forgotten they worked on it by now. The package contains Advance Wars and Advance Wars: Black Hole Rising, both of the campaigns, all the maps, COs and all the other modes that the Game Boy Advance games had all smushed together with a new lick of paint and some quality of life updates.
Despite being two games, the story is one continuing saga. It begins by following the Orange Star and Blue Moon nations, who can’t just get along despite living right next to each other. Eventually, things spiral out of control, and other countries get involved, and whoops, there’s a world war. The second game continues the story with all the characters from the first.
The game’s story plays out in a few light cutscenes, but mostly a bunch of talking heads at the bottom of the screen. This time they talk too, with voice acting for much of the game. Thankfully we now have HD screens, so there’s far less jamming the A button to progress conversions compared to the tiny, low-resolution Game Boy Advance screen.
The story mode for the first game is mostly linear, but the second one has a more open map, and you can tackle things in any order. As you work through the story, you’ll be able to pick your commanding officers most of the time, but there are other times when the story dictates who you have to play with.
The battles in Advance Wars are all turned-based. Most of the time, it’s just a 1-v-1 battle between two opposing forces, but you can find yourself in battles with three other opponents. Each player takes their turn, moves their enemies on the grid, and can capture buildings and/or build factories to produce new units in some maps. Each CO has a different power. Andy can heal his units, Grit is a sniper expert and can expand his range, and Sami can capture buildings faster. Some missions will be easier with one character, but also missions can be completely different depending on who you pick.
Different units on the battlefield have different pros and cons. Infantry and Mechs can capture buildings, which helps your economy and let you build more units. Light Tanks move further than heavy tanks, AA Gun units are good at taking out air units up close, leaving them vulnerable to tanks. Ranged units like Rockets and Missiles are always handy at the back of a pack. As the story of the first game opens up you’ll get access to air and naval units, which further add to the strategies you’ll need to survive.
Battles are completed in different ways depending on what’s required. Some missions need you to take out all the enemy units, or you can be sneaky and capture their headquarters. There are missions where you must survive until reinforcements arrive or keep one unit safe. The game retains its sometimes brutal difficulty from the Game Boy Advance original, so there’s no need to worry if you are a fan of that.
However, for this release, there’s a new Casual difficulty, which doesn’t change missions too much but instead gives you a couple more units, or removes the fog of war. The AI is also paired back a little. It’s an excellent option for newcomers to the series – for which there will be plenty for this release. Also new to Re-Boot Camp is the ability to speed up battles by holding the ZR button. This speeds up all the animations in battles and while the CPU takes its turn. Other smaller changes include the ability to zoom in and out on the battlefield, you can also now reset your turn without penalty as well. There are all these tiny little changes that just add up.
There’s also something new with battles here on the Switch: some fantastic HD Rumble effects. The rumble of tanks and the crackle of explosions are all emulated in the HD rumble, and it’s a really nice addition. It’s not just a rumble but has distinct effects.
The real significant change to the game clearly is the presentation. From how the game’s story is presented, the CO power animations and the battlefield all have received a big glow-up. The fully animated CO powers are well done, although not being able to skip them after seeing them a few hundred times was annoying. The pixel art style from the originals has been replaced with a toy-like 3D appearance for units on the main battlefield map and during combat animations. It won’t be for everyone, but I don’t mind it personally.
For the first time, we get to see the COs and their story and hear them speak. The game is voiced, only part of the script, but enough to get the point across. Andy sounds like an annoying young kid, Max is a big gruff dude, and Sami and Nell sound exactly how I thought they would have a kid. The game’s soundtrack has also been remixed, it’s punchier than the original, but the Game Boy Advance speakers weren’t helping the original at all. All of your favourite themes have returned for each of the COs, despite not hearing these themes for a while. The minute they played, I was back there in the back of the car.
There’s still a bunch of reading to do too. Speaking of, the writing has changed somewhat, with some sentences not matching the originals directly – it is not a problem, just something I noticed. There are also small details now added with different armies having different-looking units. It does, however, reduce the glanceability of the battlefield until you figure it all out.
Outside of the story campaign, all the modes in the original releases, Versus, War Room, and the Design Room, which allows you to make your own battle maps, all return. War Room has you battling against the CPU to finish maps as efficiently as possible, and like story missions, you’ll be scored based on how well you do. There are only a handful of maps, but more can be unlocked using the coins. There’s a leaderboard in the game for just local attempts, while an online one would have been nice; a lot of the War Room maps would be a list of people who got S-Rank, so I can see why they didn’t bother with that.
Versus allows you to play locally, either on one console by passing it around or playing on the TV. Of course, if you have multiple consoles and copies of the game, you can play that way too. The map designer also returns, allowing you to craft your own battle maps; they can now be shared online and locally. Maps above a certain size and complexity seem to lose the ability to play online, with an “online OK” flag letting you know if you’ve gone too far.
Despite it being all these years later, Advance Wars fills the same spot in my life as it did when I was a kid. A game I can play on and off whenever I have a chance – the reasons for it have just changed with a small child now. With a refreshed looked and sound and just a sprinkling of quality-of-life updates on top of two amazing games, Advance Wars: Re-Boot Camp continues the trend of remade games from Nintendo’s past that are solid but just need that little freshen-up for the modern player. Re-Boot Camp is suited for newcomers to the series and veterans alike. Come join the Advance Wars fan club; there are dozens of us.
+ Quality of life updates are small but extremely helpful
+ Cartoon-like character animations are brilliant
+ Two games in one, now with casual difficulty for everyone to enjoy
- Online mode is only 1v1
- Small performance issues on really long and big battles
- Now what will I complain about on Twitter?