Intelligent Systems' long-running Famicom Wars series didn't arrive in the west until the release of Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance, but the colourful turn-based tactical gameplay quickly acquired many fans. A GBA sequel arrived, followed by this DS entry. Like the two proceeding GBA instalments Advance Wars: Dual Strike is now available on the Wii U eShop, and like the two proceeding GBA instalments you take control of the Orange Star Army using a variety of different units and a cunning plan to defeat the opposing forces.
If you've played the previous games you know what to expect here as it's much the same as before, with happy-go-lucky CO characters (and some insufferable prats) sending the various troops and military vehicles into battle. Capture buildings to increase your income (and decrease your enemy's) to help fund construction of new war equipment and either wipe out the opposition or capture their base to complete the missions. Being a new game there are fresh units on offer, and these include powerful Megatanks and sneaky Stealth Fighters.
As well as the gameplay, the appearance (putting aside the dual-screen approach for a moment) is just like the GBA entries with plenty of detail and variety on show. The close up view of the action matches the terrain and surroundings shown on the map; exciting, adventurous music and some satisfying bangs and explosions accompany the on-screen action.
Where the game differs is with the presence of a second screen. Initially just used to show some stats, it is soon used to display a second battle as you wage war on two fronts. Here two COs are used and units can be sent from the primary to the secondary front to help out; success on the second front will see an increase of power on the first. Action on the top screen occurs automatically, but from the menu you can adjust the tactics employed. In Tag Battles you can switch Commanding Officers at the end of your turn, building up both power meters and ultimately using both Super CO powers at once.
Originally designed for viewing on the DS there is the issue of how to display the thing on Wii U. The "Large Screen Display" option works well, but does limit the main action to the GamePad. For TV play one of the side-by-side options works best despite an odd look when artwork is split across the two screens. For Off-TV play a vertical option is preferable. Presenting both screens stacked (and displayed at the same size) combined with the touch controls makes for an experience similar to how it was on the DS. Of course it's not quite the same as you could take your DS further than the next room; as always this something that will cause the GamePad to display a connection lost message.
The touch controls work very well with the ability to simply tap your way through commands, speeding up the gameplay. Quick tapping can lead to incorrectly selecting an option however, so don't get too tap-happy. The touch controls are optional, so if you'd prefer to simply press buttons there is that method too.
The main campaign mode features 28 missions, starting very easy and getting steadily more difficult as you work through the game, with an occasional mission cleared more easily than the couple proceeding it. Should you fail on a mission your allies will discuss what went wrong, giving you a good idea for what to try next time around. Of course there are multiple ways to win a battle, so ignore them if you have a better idea. They also like to waffle on during battles, typically whenever some new element is introduced. This has the potential to annoy, but luckily a tap on the Start button will skip the dialogue if you know what you are doing.
The different abilities of your units and those of the opposing force keep things interesting as you consider where best to send your troops. A few wrong moves and you can find yourself overrun by enemy forces; newly constructed tanks blown away before you've had chance to dispatch them. On the other hand, move your army around skilfully and you may be overwhelming the enemy. Sometimes it's just a matter of keeping them occupied with your tanks and ships whilst some cheeky soldier chappies sneak behind their line to take the base.
A lot can go wrong on missions so you'll be kept busy with the main mode, either just trying to clear it or trying to attain a higher rank. Like its predecessors there's a lot of enjoyment to be had and then there's additional fun to be found with the other game modes. Multi-card DS wireless play (involving up to eight players) is unsurprisingly absent, but there's plenty of other content to keep you occupied. There are the smaller "War Room" missions and a two-player versus mode (in single battle or dual-map variants) against either computer or human controlled opposition. There's also Survival where you are given a limited amount of money, time or turns to complete a series of missions.
Combat mode is quite, quite different. You pick your units before the first mission and carry them through to subsequent ones. The big twist, however, is that the action takes place in real time. You pick a unit then weave around the screen with the d-pad or control stick trying to blow up the opposing forces whilst dodging the bullets flying your way; lose a unit and pick one of your others and hope for better luck. Although not as engrossing as the other modes it does provide a fun change of pace.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike isn't hugely different to its two GBA predecessors, but when they provide so much fun a new set of missions is no bad thing. There are some additions such as having two CO characters in a battle - fighting a battle on two fronts work well, adding extra variety to the already enjoyable gameplay. Additional modes including the new Survival and Combat options add to the replayability, ensuring that like its predecessors there's a lot of entertainment to be had.