Last week I had some time in which to better myself, maybe gain a new skill, perhaps grow as a person. Obviously, I neglected to do so and decided to play Advance Wars 2 instead. The Advance Wars series is one which I have come to very late in its life cycle. I have many friends who have been raving about it for years but, for one reason or another, I never got around to trying it out. That was a mistake. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the series, the concept is a now somewhat familiar one nevertheless. The game is a turn based RPG where you take on the role of a commander directing units on a grid-based battlefield. Units have limited movement each turn and can only fire, capture a building or re-supply a friendly unit once per turn. To begin with the introductory levels allow you to use infantry and APCs only. Each level after that adds another few units each with their own specific strengths and weaknesses. After a few levels you realise that the game is actually surprisingly complex and offers a huge variety of tactics and strategies for defeating the enemy. Some levels allow you to build more units, others restrict you to using only what you are given at the beginning of the level, so the variety offered by each of the missions is not too shabby at all.
The strategy aspect is made even more compelling by the fact that each commander has unique strengths and weaknesses which affect how certain units handle on the battlefield and also have special CO powers which, when used at the right moment, can turn the tide of a battle. Certain terrains can give defensive advantages or field of vision improvements or can even be used to hide in, but can also largely restrict mobility and movement. The great thing about this game is that it is simple to pick up and learn, but fiendishly difficult to master. There is something satisfying about suffering a resounding defeat requiring a new strategy to be formulated and then implementing this new strategy to a thumping victory as your units sweep away all resistance on the battlefield. The game-play rarely feels boring or slow or frustrating which can sometimes be the case with other turn-based RPGs. The turns move along at a brisk pace making combat feel fluid and entertaining. The majority of the Wars series has a lovely cartoonish style with bright colours and well designed units combining to make a visually appealing game, but this is particularly the case for the Gameboy Advance editions. For those who no longer have the hardware to play these games, fear not, there are emulators online on several sites. Be warned however, the game is ridiculously addictive. It is certainly one of those games where you just can’t resist having another go at a failed mission or just quickly looking at the next mission but then results in you playing for another 2 hours. If you are thinking of playing this make sure you have some free time to do so or children will be ignored and jobs will be lost. And you won’t care.