With pressure mounting on Nintendo to show footage of Breath of the Wild 2 and the long-rumored Switch Pro, it was the surprise announcement of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-boot Camp, coming on December 3, that stole E3 2021 for me. The new game marks the first entry in the series since 2008’s Advance Wars: Days of Ruin for the Nintendo DS.
While the sequel to the Breath of the Wild dominated news coverage, a new Zelda game was very much expected to make an appearance in some way. Metroid Dread, a game that started development in 2004, was unexpected and appreciated. But nobody saw Advance Wars, a series that helped carry the Game Boy Advance throughout its life cycle, coming to the Switch. I don’t think even the most optimistic fans of the series ever expected the strategy game to return after so many years in the Nintendo vault.
For those who are unfamiliar, Advance Wars is a turn-based tactical strategy series that pits armies against each other on a grid map. Created by the same studio behind the Fire Emblem series, Intelligent Systems, Advance Wars is arguably one of the most beloved Nintendo series not starring Mario or Pikachu, with a fandom that obsesses over the games as much as Nintendo’s other franchises. Unlike Fire Emblem, which has seen its popularity skyrocket ever since its 3DS debut, Advance Wars has remained dormant for more than a decade. Now, fans and newcomers alike can experience the first two games in the series, revamped from the ground up.
Modern warfare — The game is being developed by Way Forward, who are the fine folks behind the underrated platforming series, Shantae, so it’s in good hands. They also developed River City Girls and are working on the upcoming sequel. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-boot Camp includes Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, which originally launched on the Game Boy Advance. While the game is sticking with the original mechanics, it’s getting a complete makeover, with a new art style and updated graphics.
The new art style is not a pixel-for-pixel recreation of the original, but I like the sharper visuals and textures even if it does skew more kid-friendly. There’s also online multiplayer for up to four players to battle against each other. Goodbye, messy link cables (remember those?) and meeting up on the playground to battle in person. Now, you can play with friends anywhere in the world (a Nintendo Switch Online membership is required, of course).
A classic reborn — A new entry in the series would have been well received, but remaking both games for the Switch is even better news since it’s so hard to find genuine Game Boy Advance versions these days. While the first two games were available to play on the Wii U via Virtual Console, the Wii Shop Channel is no longer in operation, making it impossible to download them. It’s possible to buy the GBA cartridges used, but it’s not a cheap option.
Personally, I have a copy of Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising for the GBA, but I’ve held off on playing it because I want to play the games in chronological order. Like movie sequels, the story continues from the first game to the second, and I don’t want to jump in mid-story. Advance Wars 1+2 Re-boot Camp is finally an accessible way to do so without ponying up on eBay.
Turn-based goodness — Advance Wars 1+2: Re-boot Camp may have come out of left field, but it wasn’t the only turn-based strategy game announced for the Switch at E3 this year. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, the sequel to 2017’s Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, is coming in 2022. The series is another collaboration between Nintendo and Ubisoft that sees Mario pair up with the adorably manic Raving Rabbids once again.
Metal Slug Tactics is another tactical strategy game that was announced at E3. The game combines the art style of SNK’s popular side-scrolling shoot ‘em up series with the mechanics of a turn-based strategy game. Dotemu is publishing the Leikir Studio-developed game; there’s no release date as of yet. Dotemu is one of the studios behind my favorite game of last year, Streets of Rage 4, so I have high hopes for this game. It seems that Metal Slug Tactics is coming to PC only, which is a damn shame for all Switch owners.
Between Advanced Wars this December and Mario + Rabbids (and likely Metal Slug Tactics) for 2022, the coming year is shaping up to be quite packed for tactical strategy game fans. If you’ve never dabbled in this genre, there’s no better time to dive in.