Review: Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp – A Mixed Bag

The Game Boy Advance has had something of a resurgence lately. The Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection dropped earlier this month, bringing almost every entry in the Blue Bomber’s franchise to modern systems. Earlier this year, we also had the arrival of the Game Boy Advance to the Nintendo Switch Online game library, bringing with it the original versions of a bunch of hit GBA games. Now, we’ve got a full-blown remake of a GBA gem with Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp, and it’s a fun time with some room for improvement.

Full disclosure here, I’ve never actually played the original Advance Wars on the GBA, but I had heard good things and researched a lot for this review. As a fan of strategy games like Civilization, and a certified Turn-Based Combat Enjoyer, I had high expectations heading into Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp. Developed by WayForward, known for their Shantae series, the game is a remake of the first two titles in the Advance Wars series. This sees the games getting a complete visual makeover, as well as the addition of new multiplayer features and a map maker.

Advance Wars 12 ReBoot Camp Hachis Shop
There’s plenty to do and unlock in ReBoot Camp.

We’ll start with the visuals. Whilst the original Advance Wars used pixel art sprites, Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp embraces a fully 3D style. What used to be detailed pixel art tanks and planes are now brightly colored toy-like 3D models. The units used in combat have a reflective, glossy look that makes them look like they’re made of plastic, with smooth textures on all sides to complete the aesthetic. In the whole context of the game it does work cohesively. That being said though, from a subjective angle I’m just not a big fan of the look.

I’m absolutely open to visual upgrades and stylistic changes from old pixel art games, as long as they make it look better, or else what’s the point? Sadly, I don’t really feel that the new stylistic interpretation of the Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp models look any better than the originals. Whilst the original pixel art still had the soft reflective highlighting to make the models look harmless and more fun, they also had plenty of texturing on the models and environments they exist in. The pixel art would look a lot worse if they just filled the lines in with solid colors, so there are a lot of carefully placed pixels that aim to make the models and landscapes look more 3D and realistic, and in doing so, give the visuals a lot of life and depth. It’s just not the same in ReBoot Camp, where, as the models and environments are already 3D, the models have to have very flat and featureless textures to keep their innocent appearance.

Advance Wars 12 ReBoot Camp Battle
The cartoonish and smooth textures of your units is a little too simplistic.

Looking past the graphics though, the gameplay is absolutely the main draw of Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp. Being a turn-based strategy game, most of the focus is on combat. Thankfully, the combat starts out easy to understand, but gets increasingly harder to truly master. Different types of units are added to the game gradually, allowing you to get to grips with how they work and how they should be used, leading up to a point where you’re able to fully grasp the advantages and disadvantages of using any unit in a certain situation. Some of these introductions of new units can feel a little rushed to be introduced, with completely optional text boxes just briefing you on how they work instead of giving you a deeper explanation on when best to use them, but part of the appeal of the gameplay is the trial and error of different responses to different scenarios.

It can become quite addicting to get yourself into risky fights where you’re not sure if your units will survive the move you’re pulling, but the potential reward of clearing space on the map is too tempting not to try. There is also the added layer of CO powers to keep track of, a rechargeable ability available to both your and the enemy’s Commanding Officer. A well-timed use of a CO power can tip the scales of the battle in your favor, such as a sudden burst of healing across the map, or a surge in firepower to storm guns blazing into the opposing frontlines. Managing when is best to use your CO power adds yet another element of consideration into the combat. It’s a great feeling to really need to sit and ponder your next move, making success for the right choices all the more rewarding.

Advance Wars 12 ReBoot Camp CO Power
The flashy and beautiful CO Powers can turn the tide of war.

Failure though, that can be quite annoying. Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp comes with two difficulty options, which are ‘Casual’ for new players and ‘Classic’ for those seeking challenge and the original experience of the games. I just had to go for Classic to try and experience the original intended difficulty of Advance Wars, and it’s certainly a challenge. I don’t have any issues with the difficulty itself, and I applaud the game for having options in the first place, but some kind of options for those who want a harder experience without being too harshly punished for failure would have been a welcome addition.

Getting a game over after a long and tedious mission is pretty disheartening, especially when you took your time with it to try and get it right. Going all the way back to the beginning feels pretty brutal, especially when so many recent collections of classic games offer new options to make them more digestible whilst maintaining their challenge, such as rewind abilities, checkpoints or save states. Whilst the Casual mode is a good option for those who want to take it easy, ReBoot Camp does feel like it’s too unforgiving for those seeking anything more than the most simple and easiest experience, and who aren’t already strategy experts. If you were a fan of the Advance Wars games you might not have this problem as much, but if ReBoot Camp seeks to introduce more people to the series, I’d have liked to have seen more options.

Advance Wars 12 ReBoot Camp Factory
The game may start simple, but it gets harder to manage rapidly.

While we’re talking about a lack of options, the multiplayer really misses the mark by restricting games to only being possible between friends. There is no matchmaking system, meaning unless you have friends who are also playing Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp, there’s not really much to do with it. As one of these people whose friends don’t play ReBoot Camp, I can’t really comment on the quality of the multiplayer gameplay. It seems like a glaring omission, especially compared to the other recent GBA classic Mega Man Battle Network which went out of its way to add online matchmaking to the re-released games. In the case of Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection, these weren’t even remakes of the games and Capcom found a way to add it. Advance Wars is a remake from the ground up, so the lack of matchmaking in 2023 is a little shocking.

Despite the issues with the multiplayer, difficulty and personal gripes with the presentation, Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp is still a good value deal for what it offers. There are collectables to purchase like art, music pieces and even new COs, along with two lengthy and enjoyable campaigns of deep strategic combat and a fun story. For hardcore fans of Advance Wars it’s absolutely worth the money to experience the games again with new features, though for those new to strategy games it may be a little on the hard side. I enjoyed my time with Advance Wars 1+2: ReBoot Camp, but with a few changes it could have been better.

Bobby played Advance Wars: 1+2 ReBoot Camp on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by Nintendo.

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29 days ago

No multiplayer matchmaking?!?! Hahahahah!!! GG Nintendo… what another letdown. Half the reason I bought this system was for this release and to compete with others on this game. What an absolute joke. Last time I’ll be buying Nintendo products for a loongg time, if ever again.