A Brief History of Advance Wars

It's Fire Emblem, but your Tank units are literal Tanks

09 March 2022
by johnnyguitarn64 3
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Advance Wars is back. After 14 years of radio silence, Nintendo is finally reviving the beloved turn-based strategy series with Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, a remake of the first two games. The game was most recently set to release on April 8th, 2022, but received an unspecified delay in light of recent world events. Still, with Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp arriving sometime in the near future, let’s celebrate with a brief rundown of the series’ development history. We’ll start at the very beginning, which is always a very good place to start!

In the beginning...

On August 12, 1988, Nintendo published the first game in a Turn-Based Strategy series developed by Intelligent Systems. This series was known as Nintendo Wars.

Note: There seems to be a lot of confusion on what the series should be called. In Japan, it’s called Nintendo Wars, since every game leading up to Advance Wars was named after the console it was on. However, in the US and Europe, every game outside of the spin-offs was called Advance Wars, so we call it the Advance Wars series. I will be calling it the Wars series from here on out since every game ends with “Wars”. Got it? Good.

Famicom Wars

Famicom Wars title screen
Famicom Wars title screen

The first game in the series, known as Famicom Wars, was released for the Famicom in Japan, and only Japan. Gameplay and aesthetics-wise, it can be described as Fire Emblem: Modern Warfare. However, this game was released two years before the first Fire Emblem game, so let’s properly explain the gameplay.

Famicom Wars, and every game in the Wars series, can easily be described as Chess, but with the modern military. Players control one of two teams: the Red Star, or the Blue Moon. The player’s team is spread across a battlefield, and the objective is to wipe out the other team’s units. All in all, a very simple experience, with gameplay only slightly changing from entry to entry.

War, war never changes

Game Boy Wars

Game Boy Wars title screen
Game Boy Wars title screen

Famicom Wars sold well enough for a sequel to be released on the Game Boy three years later, officially debuting May 21st, 1991. Since this game was not on the Famicom, the name was changed to Game Boy Wars. Despite this name change, this game also wouldn’t see release outside of Japan.

Wars for the world

As the years rolled on, it genuinely seemed as if the series would never escape Japan. The next four installments skipped worldwide releases, and a planned international version of 64 Wars was halted when the game itself got canceled.

Advance Wars

Advance Wars box art
Advance Wars box art

Finally, on September 10th, 2001, Intelligent Systems and Nintendo finally broke the curse by bringing “Advance Wars” to the Game Boy Advance in North America. It was also slated to release in Europe and Japan in late 2001, however, the game was delayed in those regions due to the terrorist attacks across America on September 11th. Europe would see the game in January of 2002, but Japan wouldn’t get the title until Game Boy Wars Advance 1+2 was released as a double pack exclusive in 2004.

With nines and tens across the board, Advance Wars was both a critical and commercial success. Critics praised it for its easy to learn, hard to master gameplay, while audiences loved it for the addicting gameplay.

Fun Fact: The success of this game is also one of the reasons why Nintendo and Intelligent Systems felt it was time to release the Fire Emblem games internationally

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising box art
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising box art

With the success of Advance Wars, a sequel was bound to happen, and two years later, it came to fruition. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising was released on June 24th, 2003, in North America, and on July 10th of that year in Europe. Japan would still have to wait another year for the double pack.

In terms of what was added or changed in the sequel, there were only minor differences. The story was new, taking place after the events of the first game. There are also eight new commanding officers and a slight change in graphical style, but other than that, everything remained close to the first GBA outing.

War has changed

Battalion Wars

Battalion Wars box art
Battalion Wars box art

2005 brought about the release of two more games in the Nintendo Wars series. A mainline title for the newly released Nintendo DS called Advance Wars: Dual Strike (I see what you did there), and a spin-off for the Gamecube.

The Spin-off, Battalion Wars, was not developed by Intelligent Systems, but rather, Kuju Entertainment. This was fairly obvious, as the game is quite different from a typical Wars game. Instead of being turn-based, Battalion Wars was a real-time tactics game where you’re actually in the battle, as opposed to assigning units (think Total War or Odama).

Battalion Wars received mixed to favorable reviews, with most critics citing an absence of multiplayer and clunky controls as detractors.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

Advance Wars: Dual Strike box art
Advance Wars: Dual Strike box art

Dual Strike, however, was a true Wars game, Turn-Based Strategy and all. The game was announced in October of 2004, and its working title was Advance Wars: DS. Wireless Play was considered for the game, however, due to time constraints, only Local Wireless was implemented.

Dual Strike, like most Wars titles, received universal acclaim. Critics praised the use of the console’s two screens and the multiplayer additions.

Battalion Wars 2

B Whee!! box art
B Whee!! box art

Three years later, in 2007, Battalion Wars received a sequel on the Wii. This game took everything from the first Battalion Wars game and improved upon it. Strangely though, the game barely uses the Wii Remote’s IR pointer functionality. Battalion Wars 2 received a much more positive reception overall.

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin box art
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin box art

Three years after the release of Advance Wars: Dual Strike and one year after Battalion Wars 2, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was released for the Nintendo DS. The game had a much darker tone and a completely original cast of characters. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin also added online multiplayer, a first for the series, and a feature that will return for ReBoot Camp.

The game was well-received, with mostly unanimous praise from critics. Reviews applauded the inclusion of online play, but noted that core gameplay was starting to feel a bit stale. A fair point, as this was the fourth mainline game released in the span of just eight years.

War is Over?

After the release of Days of Ruin, the franchise went dormant. It would take 13 long years for Nintendo to finally share the next step for their Advance Wars series.

What's next?

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp promotional artwork
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp promotional artwork

At E3 2021, Nintendo announced that WayForward would be developing a remake of the first two Advance Wars games for the Nintendo Switch. This was originally planned for release on December 3rd of 2021, but on October 22nd, announced a delay of the game until an unspecified time in Spring of 2022. Finally, during Nintendo’s February 9th, 2022 Direct, the new release date of April 8th, 2022 was revealed. However, on March 9th, 2022, Nintendo announced that due to current world events, the game would once again be delayed. The current release date for the game is unknown.

The current success of the Fire Emblem series and Switch itself seem to bode well for Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. Fire Emblem’s breakthrough sales outside of Japan indicate a Nintendo fan base much more open to, and accepting of strategy titles. Over a decade removed from the last installment, the future’s looking brighter than ever for Advance Wars.

About johnnyguitarn64

johnnyguitarn64

As a certified comic nerd and Nintendo fan, Johnny sounds like someone that should be avoided at all costs. And that's because he should be.
He enjoys playing strategy and puzzle games because of the sweet dopamine rush he gets when something goes well.
He has horrible opinions.

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Comments (3)

humanfart

7M ago

I am so pumped for this title! Advance Wars was my favorite GBA game.


hypnomancy

7M ago

@humanfart

Given how the Ukraine war looks neverending we might never see this title :(


humanfart

7M ago

@hypnomancy

Hopefully that isn't the case. This series has a history of unfortunate timing.