Nintendo and WayForward took the risk of bringing Advanced Wars back from the scrap heap with Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, releasing a set of strategy-heavy games in a genre now defined by character relationships. The remake changes little from the original release and doesn’t deepen the story or cast, but they don’t need to change anything. Advance Wars’ unique features are as evident as ever. If anything, they’ve grown even stronger from the series’ extended absence.
Compared to other tactical RPGs, Advance Wars is light on story. The nations of Wars World are on the brink of conflict as a sinister figure draws them from the shadows. Your job is stopping the war from going to… war. The setup doesn’t put too much thought into it and has Saturday morning cartoon vibes, a feel that these new updates help elevate. Re-Boot Camp features new Toybox-style graphics, a remastered soundtrack, patched voice acting, and a slightly tweaked script that brings out the most of each character’s personality.
That new cartoon style also helps offset a grim setup, where officers send hundreds of soldiers to die in battle without a thought for their welfare. Technically, that’s still what happens, but the new look makes each map look like a toy game of soldiers, with the map resembling a tabletop board when you zoom out.
What hasn’t changed is the series’ take on style, which still feels fresh and innovative more than 20 years after the first game was released. Advance Wars games combine both traditional strategy elements, such as a rock-paper-scissors system of unit strengths and weaknesses, with features typically found in real-time strategy games. Resource and fuel management are important in advance battles, for example, and controlling specific parts of the map is often essential to victory. The attention to detail is so intense that you even have to think about how the tire and tread interact with the terrain.
Each battle is a tense mix of smart planning and wild improvisation, where victory feels well earned – even if you barely make it past the objective. Each map has an optimal approach, but strategic depth and variation means you can experiment with unorthodox ideas and still earn high rankings.
The remake also includes a feature that lets you reset your current turn as many times as you want. It’s a helpful but clunky way to make both games more accessible. If a choice you make turns out to be wrong three times, the only option you have is to quit and start the mission again. You can speed up the motion and delete animations to save time, but a Fire Emblem-style rewind feature would have been a more elegant solution.
The range of options can seem overwhelming, but Advanced Wars does a great job of teaching you the basics and even some advanced strategies at a steady pace – though it does it almost too well. Most of the first game plays like an extended tutorial, where you don’t get the full range of equipment at your disposal until halfway through the campaign.
However, Advance Wars 2 is a stronger and more confident game. This time, you control different COs from each nation, so each mission requires a thoughtful new approach, taking into account their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a brilliant exercise in iteration, with a well-designed set of new officers, clever new CO powers, and complex, sometimes disjointed, maps that make the most of the series’ unique mechanics.
Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp may not include much new content, but it presents a strong case that classic games don’t always have to be changed to be relevant again. Sometimes, all they need is a second chance.