After a string of delays, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp (lord, that’s a mouthful) is nearly here, bringing the classic GameBoy Advance strategy titles to Nintendo Switch.
Recreated from the ground up by developer WayForward, it’s a pleasant surprise to see Nintendo revive these old turn-based games for its modern console, especially as the series lives in its oft-neglected tier of titles, alongside the likes of F-Zero and Golden Sun, fated to only see the light of day in token Smash Bros. cameos. Yet even after said delays, I can’t help but feel like this collection still needs more time in the oven.
That’s not to say Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is devoid of value or fun. The games maintain their engagingly high difficulty, while providing a more laid-back option for new and casual players. Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch performance curse has struck again. Paired with a bland, almost Fisher-Price-like visual makeover, this remake sorely lacks the charm and polish of the GBA’s classiest turn-based strategy games.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp: cut to the chase
- What is it? The return of Nintendo’s cutesy, turn-based military strategy game
- When can I play it? April 21, 2023
- What can I play it on? Nintendo Switch
Lose the battle, win the war
Credit where it’s due, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is a feature-complete remake. Both the Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising campaigns are here in their entirety, though you will need to complete the first game to unlock the second.
There’s also a staggering array of bonus maps you can purchase from Hachi’s Shop with in-game currency. Throw in a sound test and unlockable art, and you have a package that’ll keep completionists busy for weeks, if not months.
I also love the commitment to keeping the series’ nauseating difficulty intact. It’s particularly refreshing if you’ve found sister strategy series Fire Emblem’s recent entries to err on the easier side. That’s something I felt even in the early stages of the game; where I misjudged the placement of an enemy missile unit, which then destroyed one of my tanks, causing a domino effect of misfortune that handed the win to the boisterously smug enemy C.O. Olaf.
The new casual difficulty setting makes enemy AI more surmountable, but it is by no means a cakewalk. Here, WayForward has done a fine job of dialing back on the madness while still encouraging you to utilize your army to the fullest. It’s definitely the setting I’d recommend for players getting boots on the ground for the first time. The remake never penalizes or shames you for opting into the casual mode, and if you’re breezing through stages, you can switch back to classic difficulty from the campaign map.
Baby's first army
If you’ve had no prior experience with the Advance Wars series, you’d be forgiven for looking at screenshots of this remake and thinking it’s primarily aimed at small children. WayForward’s given maps and units a 3D makeover, but they have an unnatural, plastic sheen that clashes with the various biomes you’ll be fighting in.
The original GBA games had a sprite-based cartoonish aesthetic, which both looked charming and made units more distinguishable. It just doesn’t translate well to 3D, and the busier maps turn into a near-illegible visual soup.
It’s a rather strange choice considering Re-Boot Camp’s primary developer. WayForward has put together some of the best 2D visuals in recent memory with series like Shantae, River City Girls and Mighty Switch Force. That instantly recognizable style could’ve worked wonders for Advance Wars.
Thankfully it’s not a complete disaster in terms of presentation. There are some lovely 2D character portraits, animation and decent voiceover work. The remixed soundtrack is also superb, and it’s been a real treat hearing Advance Wars’ iconic tunes given a modern sheen.
All stuttery on the Western front
Overall, Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp would’ve been an easy recommendation despite its questionable visual overhaul. But as with Bayonetta 3, this remake also suffers from frustrating performance issues.
The game has an unlocked, inconsistent framerate that looks to jump anywhere between 30-60fps during gameplay. That’s particularly aggravating when selecting units on the games’ larger maps. Navigation feels staggered and sometimes unresponsive. That makes long-term strategizing far less satisfying than its two-decade-old predecessors, where performance was much smoother.
As a result, transitions from the map screen to combat feel less natural. Throw in longer load times and we have an abject downgrade to what Intelligent Systems was able to achieve all those years ago.
Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp is distinctly lacking some much-needed polish. I sincerely hope the remake can receive some impactful performance patches, as there’s certainly much fun to be had in its calculated approach to strategy. As it stands, though, Re-Boot Camp is a lackluster imitation of its source material.