There was a period of time when my Game Boy Advance was used almost exclusively for turn-based strategy games. Many, many hours were lost to Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics, but the game that sucked me in the most was Advance Wars and its sequel. There was something about its cartoonish take on warfare that made it feel like you were playing a tabletop game, moving little pieces around a board, and its small scale was a perfect fit for playing on the go. Advance Wars is also one of those Nintendo franchises that’s been largely dormant for a long time — and it turns out, I really missed it.
I realized this while playing through the opening missions of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, an awkwardly titled remake that bundles together those first two GBA titles on the Switch. (Yes, I know: another remake in a year already stuffed with them. It’s only April!) This return to the franchise has been a long time coming — and not just because of the lengthy delay due to “recent world events,” which almost certainly involved the Russia-Ukraine war. This will be the first new(ish) entry in the series since 2008.
But even with all of that time passed, the Advance Wars gameplay still pops. I won’t get too deep into the hows and whys of the experience right now — stay tuned for our full review when I’ve played more — but the gist remains the same as always. A blue country invades an orange country, setting off an ongoing conflict. You control the orange military through a series of skirmishes, partnering up with a series of commanding officers who have special powers. In each battle, you have to either defeat all the opposing units or capture their HQ, all while dealing with terrain, weather, fog of war, and a Rock, Paper, Scissors system with the different types of ground, aerial, and naval units.
I’m jealous of anyone who gets to experience these games for the first time, but for me, booting up the original Advance Wars again was like slipping into a comfortable old sweater. Even if it looks different now — the games have been given a slick makeover, and the more detailed battlefields now actually look like they take place on a tabletop — it’s adorable. I especially love much more expressive characters that make reading through the storyline a lot more enjoyable.
But in terms of how it plays, it’s just like I remembered it, with short yet incredibly strategic battles that really force you to think a few moves in advance. I actually died on the first level because I was trying to rush through it. It feels like a perfect fit for the Switch, with a screen big enough to show off the enhanced visuals but still portable so you can play on the go as it was meant to be.
I’ll have a lot more to say about these games as we get closer to launch on April 21st. In addition to sprucing up the originals, the remake also features local and online multiplayer and the ability to create and share maps. That should give it some longevity. But for now, I’m just happy to know that these games are as good as I remember them — though now, I can’t help but think about what other Nintendo franchises need to be revived as well. F-Zero, I’m looking at you.