The exciting E3 reveal of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp shows Nintendo is listening
It is safe to say that Nintendo had a blockbuster presentation during E3 2021. A new Smash Ultimate fighter, a dedicated segment to Shin Megami Tensei V, the unexpected Mario + Rabbids sequel, Danganronpa and Life Is Strange collections, and of course, the stunning Metroid Dread provided a little something for everyone. Eiji Aonuma capping the presentation off with a flurry of Zelda-related news was a nice touch. But where the presentation went from being “pretty solid” to “unbelievable” for many viewers was the reveal of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, a soup-to-nuts remake of the Game Boy Advance titles Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising. By bringing these games to Switch, Nintendo is showing that there is always hope for dormant franchises to rise again.
What makes Advance Wars so special?
Advance Wars was the introduction to turn-based tactical war games for an entire generation of gamers. While Final Fantasy Tactics for the PlayStation had a dedicated following, the Game Boy Advance would not see a version of that particular series until February 2003. In the early 2000s, the Fire Emblem series was hardly well-known outside of Japan. Fortunately, Nintendo and Intelligent Systems made the call to remake Famicom Wars for the Game Boy Advance, and Advance Wars was born.
The strategy title was a smash hit. Released within the launch window of the Game Boy Advance, Advance Wars proved that it was possible to have sophisticated tactical battles in a handheld format. This one game opened the floodgates for similar titles to start appearing on the console and the Game Boy Advance is still thought of as a repository for strategy games to this day. Advance Wars really was the complete package: great presentation, thought-provoking gameplay, and near-endless ways to replay the game.
For a war game, Advance Wars is bright and colorful. There is no murkiness to the proceedings, even in stages that feature the fog of war. Characters are bright and positive, and there is a healthy dose of humor and banter. It is a violent game, to be sure, but also a surprisingly bloodless one. Famicom Wars, the Japanese original that Advance Wars was based on, treated battles more like a board game and that sensibility is carried forward into Advance Wars. Yes, the world is in conflict, with several different-colored armies vying for supremacy in an endless maelstrom of violence; but also, every battle is treated like a neighborhood game of kickball. The tone was fine-tuned to reach the widest possible audience: funny without feeling overly “kiddy”, violent without being over-the-top, and difficult without feeling insurmountably tough.
There are myriad reasons why the game lodged itself in the hearts and minds of players. There are memorable characters, like lovable lug Max and the stern Kanbei. Players can choose a commanding officer to preside over every engagement, and by excelling in battle, can unleash a powerful CO ability that can swing odds in their favor. Every unit on the battlefield has its uses, turning battles into a combination of rock-paper-scissors and chess. Late-game fights are incredibly engaging in every regard.
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is just as fondly remembered by fans, though by the time the sequel released the competition for other great strategy games was greater. The follow-up was big and bold, with more COs and one new unit to experiment with. It featured a lengthier campaign and nonlinear progression, pushing the series towards some new directions. Advance Wars 2 was a solid sequel overall, and it makes perfect sense to include the game in the Re-Boot Camp collection just announced for Switch.
The imminent holiday release of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp has many wondering what other surprise announcements Nintendo has in store for the future. After all, if Metroid Fusion can get a sequel twenty years later and Advance Wars can get revived from out of nowhere, is anything from the golden era of the Game Boy Advance fair game?
Intelligent Systems is most well-known now for shepherding the Fire Emblem series to massive success in the west. Three Houses is one of the best strategy games on Nintendo Switch. Judging from Re-Boot Camp‘s release date, it is clear that Nintendo is banking on the game to be a holiday sales tentpole. It seems that Intelligent Systems has grown to be one of Nintendo’s most valued developers over the years. By partnering with WayForward, Nintendo has placed a valuable IP in very capable hands. Provided this collection is a success, it is likely that future titles in the Wars series will see remakes or remasters. Though both Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Advance Wars: Days of Ruin were released on the Nintendo DS, it is easy to envision these less-beloved later entries coming to the Switch in some form.
Of course, there are a number of unanswered questions about this upcoming collection. How online functionality will be implemented remains to be seen. Hopefully, there is still a way to create maps and perhaps maybe even share them online this time around. This game might add achievements of some kind, or bring in features from future games, though that seems unlikely given that Re-Boot Camp is being touted as a remake of the original games. And while the character portraits are now lightly animated and the game has been given a 3D facelift, there will undoubtedly be fans who prefer the gorgeous pixel art of the originals. Might there be an option to swap graphics, like in the Switch version of Dragon Quest XI? While the recent WarGroove might not strike the same nostalgic notes as Advance Wars does, its pixel art was on point and helped the game feel more like a spiritual successor to the strategy series. Here’s hoping that Re-Boot Camp manages to strike a balance between new and old aesthetics.
Nintendo has always had one of the deepest benches of IP in history. Could the sudden focused on Game Boy Advance titles herald a sudden interest in GameCube games? Might the Switch see an F-Zero game or a Chibi-Robo! title? The future is obscured by the fog of war but if Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is any indication, Nintendo fans have every reason to feel hopeful.