Advance Wars: Duel Strike – 1 June 2013

Today I beat Advance Wars: Duel Strike. Let me start by saying I’ve been a fan of the Advance Wars series since I was a kid, when one of my best elementary school buddies Jason showed AW2 to me. I still recall his voice trying to explain to me the concept of the game “its strategy, kind of like Starcraft, but it’s take-turns… and you don’t really build a base, you just go and take bases over with your guys.”  I was so confused on what to expect, but once I started playing on that GBASP, I was hooked instantly. I liked it so much, I went out shortly thereafter and bought it for myself. I really could not get enough of the game. Well some odd years later in high school, I remembered that old handheld game, and no longer having any sort of handheld, I looked up how else I could play it, which is when I discovered ROMs. Now here I am, two years into college, and a wave of nostalgia gripped me again, but this time, two more recent games have come out, Duel Strike, and Days of Ruin. I got them both, with the intent to play them in order.

Now on to what I thought of Duel Strike. It was AMAZING! Everything I loved about AW2 is back and better. I love how they kept a bunch of the old COs for a nice little reunion, especially my old favorite, Colin. I remember AW2s campaign was infuriatingly hard, but I breezed through this one pretty easy. Maybe I’m better because I’m older and more calculating, or maybe they eased up on the difficulty… perhaps both. There were just two levels that I thought were annoying, the only two that I didn’t beat on the first try. There’s one where you have to race using 3 armies to nine silos all over the map, and if the enemy reaches a single one before you, you automatically lose. It took me like five tries to pair my COs for each army just right, and figure out the absolute fastest was to get to each silo; Even then, I took heavy casualties because I had to throw away all strategic caution.

The second was the volcano map. Somehow it seemed really familiar; I think they might be recycling map ideas from previous games… Anyway, on this map, the turn limit was always such a bitch. I actually had like a whole army against one factory with like 5 turns left, but they kept churning out one cheap weak unit every turn, and I was across a river, so I couldn’t sit on top of the factory to stop it. What I ended up doing on this map, is turning the game play speed to 25%, and then carefully watching and writing down every place that the volcano hit, then avoiding those spaces. Is that considered cheating? I don’t think so… Also I thought the entire campaign was way too short. Maybe they spend too much time putting replay value into the game, and not enough on the first play through.

The new units were very interesting, some I liked, and some not so much.

The Piperunner was an interesting twist on pipe scenarios. I don’t know if they’d want to include this as an official unit, though, because I see its use as extremely limited. There aren’t too many pipes to build one of these on in actual fights, so I saw it as part of the obscure antagonist-only weapon niche. Maybe they could keep this concept and apply it to a railroad or something, although that might be difficult as well.

The Oozium was interesting as well. It gives you like a creeping death sort of feel as it inches toward you. It also introduced some interesting new run-and-shoot, hold back-and-surround gameplay.

The carrier was definitely something I could see coming. I had always wondered why there weren’t actual aircraft carriers in the game, and I wondered if the cruiser was the game’s rendition of an aircraft carrier since it held copters, but then the actual carrier came out and it’s nice I got to say.

The Megatank is a cool concept, but I feel that the line of bigger tanks is something that’s kind of being beaten to death. Now there are four tanks that all fulfill basically the same purpose, but each one is better at it than the last. I think 3 are enough for tanks. I think they should maybe get rid of the med or the neo, or perhaps just have the neo be the Black Hole skin for the med.  

The stealth is one of my faves, definitely a fun toy. It looks absolutely gorgeous and the whistle its missiles make is like death’s catcall.

The black boat is a little iffy to me. For one, I think it puts to shame in large part the lander and the APC. Not only does it transport infantry and refuel units like the APC, it also heals units, which makes the APC look a little useless. It can’t transport vehicles like the lander, but it goes a space farther than the lander, is a lot cheaper, and has the healing power. What makes it even weirder is that it can even repair non-naval units, like fighter jets or infantry, which physically is a conundrum. Anyway if I’m storming the enemy’s beach with some infantry, trying to get a blitz on capturing some of their undefended bases, I’m going to going to choose the ship that not only gets the infantry across the sea, but can repair them as well, should they run into trouble.

The black bomb was a little awkward for me. It’s basically a buildable nuke that can idle in the air, even trying to imagine what that looks like is hard. I don’t like the unit that much.

The Duel Strike feature was a little unnecessary in my opinion. It takes your focus off of one battlefield and puts it on another, and then you forget what units were where, and what you had planned for the first field. If I wanted to play two maps at once, I’d open the game in another window and play that too. 

Trying to take advantage of the double CO powers was weird as well. Having a double super CO power give you two turns is a little cheap, and totally ruins the purpose for some powers. Eagle, for example, cannot make full use of his power if he uses it as a tag, if he is the second partner. Eagle’s super gives your mechanical units another move, so you use it after you’ve moved all of them, but with tag powers, it automatically starts the turn with the power used, thus negating the whole effect. Trying to make full use of CO unit specialties made it awkward to play too. For example, if I had Colin, (cheaper, weaker units), paired up with Hawke, (stronger units), I would always try to buy units on Colin’s turn, and then switch over to Hawke to attack. This meant sometimes I waited an extra turn before buying something just to get it cheaper, or waited an extra turn to attack to get more firepower, which both often did more harm than good.

I think this is definitely something I should mention: the CO theme songs, they are absolutely brilliant. They are all in handheld style low-quality, but each one is just magnificent, and perfect for the CO they represent, seriously. I remember Jason used to sometimes turn on the game and start a level just to leave it on and hear Grit’s theme. Whenever any of the songs start up, in my brain I hear tracks, tires, and gunfire, my brain just associates those sounds so much, it’s crazy! Out of all the themes, Lash’s is my favorite, even though whenever I used to hear it, it meant big trouble for me, haha.

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