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Whatever Happened to… Advance 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.

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