Review: Advance Wars: Dark Conflict

It might seem strange for a sequel to be better than the original but the sequel to the Advance Wars: Dual Strike on the Nintendo DS might just break tradition by being better.

It might seem strange for a sequel to be better than the original but the sequel to the Advance Wars: Dual Strike on the Nintendo DS might just break tradition by being better.

A lot of gamers are probably aware that while there are a lot of games out on the Nintendo DS, very few can keep your attention long enough to keep going back and playing it. I’m talking about a game you can come back to tomorrow, the next week, and even a few months from now and know it won’t really ever be boring. The original Advance Wars that appeared on the Nintendo DS – Dual Strike – did just that. I still go back and play it and gamers & critics everywhere both applauded it’s long lasting gameplay and wonderful campaign, story, and art. It was one of those games that just worked.

Well the team that brought you Dual Strike are back but this time there’s a cold chill in the air as Advance Wars is very different… and it’s better than ever.

Much like how the Final Fantasy movie ignored the Final Fantasy games, Advance Wars ignores the story built up from its predecessors by going for a darker post-apocalyptic edge.

On a very Earth like planet, the heavens have rained down on a war ravaged world and have covered the atmosphere in a thick dust blocking all sunlight & stopping life from surviving. Alliances are quickly formed and wars return to their state as the world goes back to hatred and revenge even if they don’t know why. You’ll take the role of several commanders as they start looking for survivors in a world where there’s a fight for power between good and evil.

While the original Advance Wars took on a very Anime sort of feel with an ongoing war that could have seen itself in a cartoon of its own, Dark Conflict is a game more for mature audiences. Instead of people killing because they’re in battle, some of the characters now kill because they want to. The shift from a PG rating from its predecessor down to an M rating for this new entry should tell you that Advance Wars is all grown up this time around.

The mood change has actually served to make Advance Wars just that much better. You don’t feel as if you’re playing something for kids and it’s nice to see a more mature game for the DS after all this time. It feels as if Intelligent systems – the creators of Advance Wars – have put a breath of fresh air into their series with this title.

The graphics have also taken a step up as have the game mechanics. You’ll now be able to step back by zoom in and out one level and seeing more of the map. The menus are cleaner and the options for using your units just feel that much better designed this time around. Every time a new unit is introduced, there’s a quick tutorial taking you through what it is in a way that doesn’t make you feel patronised and is actually well scripted.

It should be noted that if you’re looking at Dark Conflict expecting a different playing style than the previous Advance Wars’ use of a turn-based real time strategy, you should look elsewhere. While the tone and mechanics work better than ever, the gameplay is still as engaging as it ever was without needing to change. As a result, the gameplay is fun and interesting but it’s not a thrilling ride like so many other games could be.

Multiplayer too has been beefed up as have the extra options. For instance now you can design your own maps which is quite a fun feature. Playing against a friend is there as is the use of online services which should serve to make for some interesting action on a rainy day.

Overall, Advance Wars: Dark Conflict is an evolution of where the game could go. They haven’t pushed the game into 3D and that’s good because it doesn’t need it. It’s still as good as it ever was and in some ways better. An excellent title to check out.

Should you buy it?: Yes. Yes you should. Especially if you liked the first one.

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
Classification: G
Formats: Nintendo DS
URL: Advance Wars: Dark Conflict

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark