ADVANCE WARS : DUAL STRIKE / Nintendo / DS
Dual Strike is the third game in the Advance Wars lineage, being a direct follow-up to Advance Wars 2 on the GBA. Once again the Black Hole Army has miraculously pulled some crazy power source out of their asses and rebuilt their empire in record time, and now all the old war heroes from the first two games have to take to the field one more time.
The game is basically the same as before, except now there are certain battles that utilize both of the DS screens to basically conduct two seperate battles simultaneously. In some of the campaign battles, the "second front" is handled for you by a computer AI ally that you can tweak, but in others you are allowed to command both fronts directly. Once the "second front" has been won, the commander of that side gets to join the commander of the "main front", and they can do a tandem super attack that basically gives you two turns in a row (with the super power of one of the commanders in effect during each turn).
Aesthetically the game hasn't been enhanced much from the GBA past. The battlefield has been given an isometric slant to make it quasi-3D, and there are little touches here and there like birds flying overhead. Battles pretty much look the same as before, but there is now a Mode 7-esque zoom-in as they begin. The soundtrack also has a fair bit of recycling, as all the old COs have their old theme songs with little enhancement (which does nothing to help Max's corny MIDI guitar noodling, which is STILL present in this third game. Why must a character I want to use so often have such crappy music? Is there an Action Replay code or something to change his theme song?). The new music is almost uniformly excellent however, continuing in the same industrial/rock style of the previous game but using the improved DS sound system for much better instrument samples.
The battles are also identical to those of the second game. The units are pretty much straight recycled except for the addition of a Super Ultra Duper Neotank that is a little ridiculous, stealth fighter and improved battleship, and a new lander that carries a bunch more crap and auto-refuels any boats around it. There's also a few new little neutral things that can be captured like a communications tower that boosts the firepower of your units, but the strategy doesn't deviate much from the previous game. Most maps end up being the same ol' Wars Of Attrition as before; the computer holds a pocket of resistance until you can worm a couple of heavy units in to sit on their bases and stop them from churning out crap units every turn (that's the theme of most maps, anyway).
I've seen a lot of complaints around about the "Dual Strike" feature making the game too easy. It kinda does on some maps, and sometimes the focus is simply on rushing to get it so you can bowl over the enemy. It's not the Automatic Win that some people make it out to be though, and you can completely waste it if you use it at the wrong time. I didn't play any 2-player with this one, but I could see where if you choose certain COs it would totally unbalance and break the game. So don't play the game against jerks, basically.
As mentioned before, almost all of the old COs make a return (a couple of the Black Holers sit this one out in campaign mode). Black Hole has a handful of new COs, each Allied country gets a newb as well, and the two new main characters of the story are Rachel (Nell clone) and Jake (club kid). Jake is by far the most hated Advance Wars character and for good reason - in the English localization he talks like a GameFAQs kid crossed with a wannabe suburban hiphopper and is consistently annoying as hell. I guess Nintendo's localization team was trying to pander to who they thought the primary audience would be, but they failed miserably. Anyone either young enough or stupid enough to think Jake is cool is not going to be able to get a handle on the complexities of this game.
You've got all the expected extras here - Hachi's shop with all it's unlockable stuff to buy, and then you can play two-player over the wireless.
Pretty much the whole game can be controlled with the touch screen now, which is nice, though "Fire" and "Wait" commands are close enough that I got one when I wanted the other a fair number of times. If you prefer you can still use the gamepad, but I liked the stylus for moving quickly around the map. On the whole, it's an improvement despite the occasional bout of touch finickyness.
The game ends up pretty much just being an extra levels/characters pack for the previous game, however in this case the previous game was one of the most solid strategy games ever made so it pretty much gets away with that one. I got bored with the Wars Of Attrition style back in Advance Wars 2, so this one didn't exactly grab me by the nuts and keep me playing into the wee hours, but I understand a lot of people like that stuff so I won't be too hard on it. You get a Good rating this time, young Advance Wars, but if you come back again without significant gameplay changes I won't be so nice next time.
* Black Hole HQ - Comprehensive fan site
* GTTV Video Review