Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (Game Boy Advance) review
""Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." "
"Now, I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
- George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr. (Patton - 1970)
And it's with that single quote that the Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising experience has been perfectly summarized. For throughout the coming war, it won't be you with your arse on the line but the poor faceless grunts under your command. You won't know their names, nor will you know of the families that they leave behind. You will however march them off to die on some God forsaken rock for a cause that they barely understand, let alone believe in. And while their innocence will surely be lost, the enemy will learn to fear your name. No matter the outcome though, you, the great General, can rest easy in the knowledge that you'll be thousands of miles away from the bloodshed, sipping fine champagne and directing the war effort from the comfortable confines of your very own bunker... or bus seat... or flight lounge...
For what it's worth, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising at least attempts to carry a story... all of about three yards. The paper thin plot once more revolves around the devious machinations of Sturm, the evil leader of the Black Hole nation and all round public enemy #1. Though recently defeated by the combined might of the four nations of Wars World, Sturm has once more unleashed the dogs of war in the hopes of finally attaining total and utter world domination. Well at least he's keeping his goals simple! To cut a boring story short however, the duty of stopping "he that is persistently stubborn" has fallen to you, the player. Thankfully though you won't have to defend the front lines all by yourself as doing their part for King and country are some of finest Commanding Officers Wars World has ever produced. You'll have the technology, the fire support and access to a variety of CO powers that are as inexplicable as they are useful. Nothing should stand in your way...
War! Huh Good God y'all, What is it good for?
If you were to believe famed 70's rocker Edwin Starr, the answer of course would be absolutely nothing... which would also be absolutely wrong. Point of fact? Well, he probably never owned a Gameboy Advance. For if he did, then chances are that he would have instead sung the praises of Nintendo's turn based strategy game, Advance Wars 2. Now before the term "turn based strategy" sends you nodding off to sleep, there's something that you really should know... AW2 is a strategy game bred for the masses. You won't need to read the rule book, nor will you have to dedicate hours of your time in order to learn the basic functions of each and every unit under your command. Instead, with a little overly persistent help from Orange Star's CO Nell, players can expect to find themselves eased gently into the action long before the brown smelly stuff hits the fan. Jolly good then, which way is it to the motor pool?
Though the pick up and play mantra makes it readily accessible, budding Pattons are sure to revel in the wealth of strategy and technique that AW2 has to offer. In typical genre fashion, the 2d battlefield has been divided up into a series of invisible squares that are used to determine how far a single unit can travel during a given turn. Loosely translated... be careful where you position your men as by the time re-enforcements arrive, they could all be pushing up daisies. From regular ground pounding infantry to tanks, helicopters and submarines, each of the 19 units available has a specific function and ability that when used correctly will maximize its impact on the enemy's front lines... providing certain precautions have been taken first. For example, helicopters are perfect for eliminating enemy tanks but are also highly susceptible to jet fighter attack. Ideally then you would want to move your own fighters through the area before flying in the Apache... so long as the target zone is clear of anti-aircraft guns that is. Mark my words, this game gets deep!
While contemplating your strategies, it may be a good idea to spare a thought for the environment. Any immediate desires to dodge the draft and smoke some pot however can be put to rest as you won't be looking to save the trees so much as taking cover amongst them. Be it high atop a mountain pass or standing in plain sight on a deserted roadway, players will want to be mindful of when are where they initiate combat. Mountains, cities and forests will give your troops extra defensive points while the open plains, beaches and roadways will leave them vulnerable to attack. And as such, the list of variables that can affect the outcome of a single skirmish is nigh on limitless. Even still, through all this AW2 remains incredibly intuitive and simple to play. The care Nintendo have shown in shaping the combat mechanics extends to virtually every facet of the game. Whether it's the beautifully stream-lined interface or the rich and colorful graphics, AW2 is the perfect example of an "A" grade title.
As good as the single player campaigns are however, they manage to pale faster than a raw recruit under fire once the multiplayer mode has been taken into consideration. Here players can expect to go head to head with 3 of their closest friends across a series of ingeniously designed battle maps, each of which can be unlocked with the credits earned during solo play. While players struggle for dominance against each other, once cherished friendships will begin to crumble as the ultra competitive colors of AW2 begin to shine through. Better yet is how all this unbridled gaming bliss can be run, in albeit scaled down fashion, from a single solitary game pack. It's not often that such generosity of the dollar is shown by Nintendo and as such a hearty thank you should be sent out to our friends in Kyoto, Japan. Domo arigatou!
It's terribly unfortunate then that in the end AW2 suffers from a bad case of sequel-itis. The fact that it looks and feels much like its predecessor isn't the issue here. After all, there are some things a sequel should never change. No, what damns AW2 the most is it's single and all too obvious flaw... a total and utter lack of new units. For all intents and purposes this is the exact same game you played 2 years ago, sans the addition of the brutally efficient Neo Tank. While AW2 has a far greater challenge thanks to it's freshly tweaked AI and longer single player campaign, these improvements alone may not be enough to draw veterans back for a second tour of duty. If you've had a chance to play the original Advance Wars then you'll already know what to expect. Cities are captured, money is generated and factories churn out new units who are thusly marched off to meet their maker. Such is the circle of life...
So it may not be all that innovative, big deal. Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is still one of the best portable turn based strategies around. Players new to the series and fans looking for more of the same are in for a treat as once more Nintendo have shown us why war is said to be mankind's favorite past time. With 34 campaigns, 19 different units, 15 CO's, 5 countries, 4 players, 3 terrain types, 2 skill levels and a partridge in a pear tree, Advance Wars 2 is sure to keep players going long after lights out. Whether you find yourself fighting Sturm and his Black Hole forces on the beaches, the landing grounds, or the fields and the streets, you will never want to surrender. Yes, Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising is one of the most addictive past times a gamer could indulge in while keeping his commission intact. And better yet, it may just prepare you for that big day when you find yourself leading your fellow man into battle. Fall in ladies! We're going over the top on three!
''Magnificent! Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God help me, I do love it so!''
- George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr. (Patton - 1970)
* Intelligent strategy gaming for the General on the go
* The number of options and strategies open to the player is nigh on limitless
* With a total of 19 different units available there is a war machine for every occasion
* The huge single player campaign guarantees to challenge all comers
* The beautifully designed visuals hide the horrors of war behind a curtain of cartoon style goodness
* There's a huge amount of battle maps and other extras waiting to be unlocked
* The AI has been tweaked to make it more competitive against the single player
* Advance Wars 2 supports up to 4 players at a time
* Multiplayer can be run from a single game pack
* The story gives new meaning to the term simple
* There's only one new unit for players to control
* Be warned, Advance Wars 2 is less of a sequel and more of an expansion pack
Community review by midwinter (August 22, 2004)
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