Review – Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

When it comes to Nintendo’s strategy franchises, I have never been a fan of Fire Emblem. Maybe it’s my overall lack of interest towards medieval fantasy, or the saturation caused by the barrage of anime pretty boys stemming from the franchise in the Smash games. I have always gravitated towards the more neglected strategy games developed by Intelligent Systems: Advance Wars. Their simplicity, approachability, and customization options have always captivated me since the good old days of trying to light up the GBA’s screen with a third-party lamp.

Sadly, the rise in Fire Emblem‘s Western popularity also resulted in Advance Wars becoming forgotten by its own creators. Why would Intelligent Systems develop two largely similar franchises at the same time, with one of them featuring cute soldiers blasting each other with AR-15s and other assets that went against Nintendo’s family-friendly image? We had to wait for fifteen years (and endure a long-lasting delay due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine) between the last Advance Wars and this brand new iteration, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, a remake of the first two games released for the GBA.

Advance Wars Visuals

This pushes no visual boundaries, and it’s still prone to an occasional gramerate hiccup… somehow…

Out goes Intelligent Systems, in comes WayForward. I was actually shocked to find out Nintendo was, once again, letting another Western studio handle one of its franchises, especially when you consider that the Wars franchise as a whole had been Japan-exclusive for many years before the release of the first GBA Advance Wars. Sadly, WayForward wasn’t given a lot of creative room to come up with new campaigns or features. This is, by and large, the first two GBA games, with new visuals, controls, and a few new modes here and there. And no, this isn’t a bad thing on paper.

What I have always loved about Advance Wars is its simplicity, its pick-up-and-play nature. The first two games available on the GBA were, structurally-speaking, flawless, being mostly hindered by the limitations of the portable itself. Those limitations included, but weren’t limited to, a clunky interface (a consequence of the small screen and number of buttons on the GBA), a well-composed soundtrack hampered by an atrocious soundchip, long and unskippable cutscenes, and the multiplayer limitations caused by GBA itself. Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp fixes most of those, whilst featuring one glaring issue.

Advance Wars Gameplay

It’s like Fire Emblem, but with a lot more gunpowder.

So, for the fixes. The first one is the fact that Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp isn’t bound to a horrendous GBA soundchip (or lack thereof), meaning that the tunes from those games finally have a chance to shine. There is also a bit of voice acting, but nothing too impressive. Another fantastic fix to the otherwise slow pace of these games is the addiction of a fast-forward function, making massive battles full of units a lot more bearable to deal with.

As for the replayability aspect of those games, the map editor featured in the DS Advance Wars games is featured in this collection, allowing for infinite possibilities and different scenarios. Furthermore, you can play these maps and share them online, in a shockingly competent sharing method not usually seen in Nintendo-published games. Certainly a lot more intuitive than, say, the way levels were shared in the first Mario Maker.

Advance Wars Characters

The only time you will ever see cartoonish Nintendo characters wielding AR-15s.

So all in all, I do like what little changes WayForward was allowed to implement in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. At first I was worried this would be nothing more than just reskins of old Game Boy Advance games sold at a premium. Nintendo has done some crappy work in the past when it comes to its past catalogue (just read our review of Super Mario 3D All-Stars for further information), but this is a competent remake that brings these games to a whole new standard. That being said, I have two issues with it. One of them is just a missed opportunity: not including touchscreen support for portable mode. A nuisance, but not a deal-breaker. The other issue I have with it is a bit harsher.

What I don’t like about this game is its visuals. There is nothing wrong about deciding to remake a game with a particular art style, and cardboard-like visuals have worked well with Nintendo games in the past. The problem lies in how cheap Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp looks. It feels several generations behind the times (the Battalion Wars games for GameCube and Wii don’t look much different in comparison), and to make matters worse, the framerate is not particularly high. Some occasional drops below 30fps are somewhat unforgiveable for a game that doesn’t look much better than most Wii titles. Playing the game on portable mode mitigates some of these issues, however, though it doesn’t make the game less ugly.

Advance Wars Map Editor

Bless the map editor.

Would I have preferred a brand new iteration of Advance Wars or a collection that didn’t cost sixty bucks? Of course. I have my qualms regarding the pricing and the visuals, but one thing’s for certain: this is still Advance Wars, and it’s still addictive. The return of the map creator and online matches ensure this collection’s lasting appeal goes beyond the duration of its two already entertaining campaigns. In short, Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is a return to form for a dormant and forgotten franchise, and hopefully the first step in a new era for the series.


Graphics: 6.5

Even if the carboard-like visuals look cute at first, but I can’t help but think they feel several generations behind the times, all while still not being able to run at even a stable 30fps, let alone 60.

Gameplay: 9.0

For the most part, it retains the fantastic and straightforward strategy system from previous Advance Wars games. The addition of a fast forward feature is a godsend. I do think that the lack of touchscreen support is a huge mistake, however.

Sound: 8.0

A bit of voice acting and some excellently rearranged tunes that had been originally hindered by the GBA’s crappy soundchip. They finally have a chance to shine in this remake.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Two excellent campaigns, the return of the map creator, and online multiplayer. I don’t particularly like how this remake doesn’t feel that much of a natural evolution for the franchise (not to mention its stupid price tag), but I’ve been having a ton of fun with it, and at the end of the day, this is what really matters.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.