Games for Lunch: Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
0:00 I've been a big fan of this series on the GBA, but I was a little scared it was getting too complicated and difficult with the first DS edition (I know, I'm a wimp). Here's hoping this one slows the trend.
0:01 The options screen has a microphone test. This scares me, as I can't imagine talking into the DS improving this game at all.
0:02 "Our world is destroyed. Fire rained from the sky. The land burned. The earth shook. The oceans raged... Dust covered the earth, blotting out all traces of the sun." Cheery! Are you sure Nintendo made this game?
0:03 Will, our protagonist, stands in the ruins, looking for any survivors. He finds some, but they're a band of murderous raiders, led by the improbably named "The Beast."
0:04 I already like the new zoom function. With just a tap of R, you can switch between up-close and far-off views. Handy!
0:05 Military dudes Brenner and Lin swoop in mid-tutorial to help save me from certain, outgunned defeat. "This world's dead, soldier boy, and so is your precious duty!!" taunts The Beast. The writing's not half bad, surprisingly.
0:06 My first attack. The dual screens do a nice attacker/defender split-screen animation thing. The little "No!" word balloon that The Beast throws up is almost heartbreakingly darling.
0:09 There's a lot of info to take in about units and land on the top screen. Mostly I ignore it and just look at the damage potential. Units gain levels and become better as they kill things... a nice new feature.
0:11 Tutorial win! "This will teach them to prey on survivors," says the gallant Brenner.
0:12 Backstory time. Will was a cadet. He got buried in the mess hall when the unspecified disaster happened, and dug himself out after weeks. Brenner takes him into his roving military unit and they have a delicious meal of canned bread. THE END. Oh, wait, there's more game. Sorry.
0:13 Will: "I've never seen so much grey." Me neither... at least not in a Nintendo game.
0:15 The key to this next battle seems to be blocking the road ... and the game then tells me so in so many words. Is there a quicker tutorial for veterans or something?
0:17 Ground units have a fuel gauge to worry about this time around? Call me a wimp, but I think simpler is better with these strategy games. Chess doesn't require you to micromanage a million different stats.
0:19 Mission complete. Seems a little simple... Just plant the tank, fire with the artillery, and win. Yawn.
0:20 Post-battle, we find an unconscious girl with that most durable of lame plot tropes... AMNESIA! Who wants to bet her memory comes back at a dramatically important moment?
0:21 Meanwhile, Brenner and Lin get into an argument about whether law and order shows human virtue or is just survival strategy. It's like my philosophy class in college all over again.
0:23 Brenner asks the Mayor of a struggling town to take in Amnesia Girl. The writing's actually pretty snappy and realistic. I was not expecting this. That said, these cut scenes go on a little long. To gameplay!
0:24 Quote of the moment: "They have tanks! We have sticks and rocks!"
0:25 Finally, a tough battle. We're outnumbered 9 to 5 and they have better units. It's gonna takes smart strategy to win.
0:32 The battle is won without losing a single unit. The strategy was simpler than it seemed -- again, I just had to cut them off at the pass, only this time that takes two units instead of one.
0:34 Good lord. We save the mayor's worthless hide, and still he won't take in our civilians unless we destroy the raiders' base. I mean, we were probably gonna do it anyway, but jeez. Show a little gratitude, Mayor. Brenner could snap you like a TWIG if he wanted to!
0:35 The beast's laugh of "gar har har har!" is exceptionally annoying to me for some reason. Who laughs like that? I ask you!
0:37 Fog of war time. This time it's "dust" in the air that prevents me from seeing far-off enemies. I have to get units into the mountains to increase visibility.
0:38 Interesting... the new "flare" units fire a shot that reveals a large area of far-off land. Neat addition.
0:39 I'm a little confused by the map interface here. It's hard to tell what I can "see" and what I can't. Enemies appear out of nowhere as I pass them, even though I thought those squares were revealed. Grumble.
0:44 Despite the "dirt" of war, the battle is remarkably easy, since they only have like four units, and they're all pretty easy to spot. I know it's early in the game, but come on, give me something to chew on. Give the veterans something interesting to do.
0:45 Even though we took out the raiders, the Mayor is trying to argue that he said he'd only CONSIDER taking in the civvies if we helped. OH MY GOD I WANT TO SMACK THIS MAYOR IN THE FACE!
0:46 On top of everything else, apparently Brenner saved the Mayor's life recently, and still he insults Brenner as a relic of the past. Man, talk about reprehensible characters. It's almost cartoonish, but not quite ... just like the artwork.
0:47 Will gives mystery woman a flower blah blah blah.
0:48 We come across a well-preserved city ... New Wolfington, the doctor calls it. "I used to be a resident ... now I'm PRESIDENT." Groooooooooan.
0:51 This level introduces city and factory capturing, to gain funds and build units. They have a lot better starting position, but no factory. Shouldn't be a problem, right?
0:56 They're making mincemeat out of my units, but I have the factory ... let's hope it's enough.
1:04 None of my original units survive, but I pull out a win because I can create a new tank every turn. Really, what chance did they have?
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Same simple, easy-to-manage tactical gameplay as before, but now with decent writing. Sign me up!
This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by Nintendo.
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