Whatever Happened to… Advance Wars?

Wars

For us more decrepit gamers, Advance Wars needs no introduction. But hey, while I’m typing words at your face, I suppose I could bring you one for your eyeballs to feast on anyway. Buckle up, all.

This much-ballyhooed Game Boy Advance release arrived in 2001, the first installment in a decade-long series (beginning with Famicom Wars) to leave Japanese shores. It was fairly obscure at the time, but gamers soon came to realise what a tiny miracle they had on their hands. Were turn-based strategy games known for their accessibility? Or their toon-tastic cuteness? Or… existing on Nintendo systems in the first darn place? No, no, and no, yet Advance Wars ticked all three boxes.

Here was a title that combined all of those beard-scratchy concepts, managing resources, defensive lines, fog of war and so forth, into a package which didn’t make newcomers want to cry sad tears of confused sadness. With its primary-coloured friendliness and hand-holding-yet-extensive tutorial, it was perhaps the most accessible game the genre has ever seen.

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But once it had welcomed you to the party, it then locked the door behind you and announced that it’s not a party at all. That was just a pretext to get you here, so we could have an intervention for your drink problem. Advance Wars was deceptively difficult, with quite the mean learning curve. Anyone deriding its cutesy visuals would probably be in for a rude awakening when the later missions kicked their butts.

It’s a delicate balance, all in all, but in this way Advance Wars gave us the best of both worlds. Strategy players would feel comfortable venturing in, but so too would younger players and those unfamiliar with such games. The first installment was a remarkable success, as were the three sequels it spawned.

All of which begs the question: where’s our next slice? The franchise has been on hiatus since 2008’s Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, and the time is ripe for another. There’s much clamour from fans for a 3DS release, or perhaps a Battalion Wars sequel on Wii U. Either console is a perfect fit for the series, and there’s a surefire hit staring us all in the face right here.

Whatever Happened To… The Alien Hominid?

Alien Hominid

Ah, this little dude. Many tedious school periods were spent in his company, stealthily knifing and blasting my way through an hour that would otherwise be dedicated to the foreign policy of Louis XIV or some such. In those days, finding a game site that wasn’t blocked at school made you feel like a futuristic space-prophet genius from the year 5000.

Yes indeed, Alien Hominid began life as a humble Newgrounds flash game. A deeply simplistic, utterly uncompromising arcade beat ‘em up, which cast you as the adorable extraterrestrial with an insatiable hunger for blood.

The premise is essentially E.T gone horribly, horribly wrong. When this yellow fellow crash lands on Earth, he doesn’t make friends with a boy called Elliot and cruise about with him on a flying bicycle. Not even slightly. Instead, the FBI swiftly locate the wreakage, confiscate him ship and leave him for dead. Is the Alien Hominid amused by this? He is not.

Your objective is to fight your way to the FBI’s base and recover your craft, which calls for a crop of side-scrolling, deeply violent levels. Think Streets of Rage with suits-and-sunglasses special agents in place of the unwashed punks, and you’re kinda sorta there.

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By beat ‘em up, I really meant more of a shoot-n’-slash ‘em up (because that’s a thing). Both you and your opponents –generally– are killed in a single hit, which you can administer via your ray gun or a close range knife attack. You can also, if you’re feeling theatrical, leap on opponents’ shoulders and bite their heads off. It’s all very Itchy and Scratchy.

The game was a hit for its gleeful, toontastic violence, and its unconventional sense of humour. In the snowbound level, riding a vast yeti through hordes of FBI guys and watching as it barrels through and/or eats them was hilarious. There was great potential to take this concept all kinds of places, and the recent resurgence of games with magnificent 2d art would have appreciated more from the Alien Hominid.

The little guy warranted a console release a few years later, and a port for the Game Boy Advance. Beyond an HD re-release of same in 2007, though, this face-biting fiend hasn’t been seen since. The world needs more hideous, yeti-based violence.