The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

by Alkydere

Part 1: The beginning

The beginning

Hello everybody. Welcome to the new Alkyderp LP. You may remember me from the quasi-failed FFTA2 LP. I learned many things from that LP, including "Don't LP a game that boasts over 300 missions when about 250 of them are filler". So now I'm going to LP a game that has a finite ending: Advanced Wars: Dual Strike. So, let's begin.

And I'm Artix, who you probably know better as that asshole playing like 5 Fire Emblem games at once. Also, I've never played an Advance Wars game, so for once Alkydere can actually be the competent one.

Lastly, I'm ZeeToo, who you won't remember from anywhere, and I'll be tagging along as support and fact-checking. It's a pretty swell position: I get to critique all of Alkydere's tactical errors, and if I make any in turn, I get to claim that it's simply because it's been a while since I played... and I don't even have to prove I can do better!

Pressing anything brings us to the main menu. There's several options here as AWDS came with a LOT of content. To start there's the campaign: one of the longer campaigns in the Advanced Wars/Super Famicon Wars series. Then there's the War Room where you can set up individual battles. Versus is multiplayer, designed so the game can be passed between multiple people for their turns. Survival is a series of battles where you see how many battles you can beat with a set amount of money, turns, or time. Finally we have Combat, which is a rather strange mode. You take control of a single unit and drive it around on a field, fighting other units. It's kind of interesting but rather gimmicky.

Combat is actually really interesting as a change of pace. I'll have to see if we can't manage a video of that later on, because it's not a screenshot sort of game, but it is worth showing off.

Hitting left or right brings us to the second page of menus. Here we've got Battle Maps, where you can buy new maps to play on or COs to play with in the War Room. History shows your records, with your earning Medals for reaching certain milestones like X tanks built, Y tanks destroyed. No, I will NOT be getting all 300 medals. Wireless is again mutliplayer, but unlike Versus it's between different DS's, not people sharing the same one. The Sound Room and Gallery are both unlocked via Battle Maps, letting you listen to the music this game has or look at artwork. Finally we have the Design Room, which lets you make maps, set the main menu background and...

So this game actually has a map creator? That seems like an odd choice. How in-depth is it?

Completely there for normal terrain. I don't believe 'special' installations are there, but otherwise it's the same as any game map.

Dress up your COs! Here we have Jake, he's the "main character" of the campaign. I'll go into why I both like him and want to break his nose later. First let's change his outfit because white-on-white, especially on a white boy like Jake, just doesn't work out. Especially if he's out in the field like he's supposed to be.

Ah, there we go, a nice Yellow Comet Yellow outfit. I'm chosing this for now not because I'm a huge fan of Yellow Star (though Sensei is awesome) but because it looks like a nice Khaki (and it's not white on white). Yes, the alternate color palletes do change his hair color. If you're interested, or if the thread wants to force me to play with some other, horrid color scheme, here are the other Jake colors:

Orange Star Orange.

Blue Moon Blue.

Green Earth Green.

Black Hole Black.

Uh...white on white, only with orange gloves, purple hair and darker skin.

Clone Jake.

Looks like a keeper to me.

Every CO has one of these. Unlocking them was my first priority. My game had a lot of really terrible hair dye/color coordination.

Anyways, now that I've showed off the menu and played a bit of dressup it's time to start the campaign and game proper.

Several months have passed since the war in Macro Land. Thanks to Andy, Nell, and the other COs, the Black Hole Army was defeated. The people can finally live in peace.

I have no idea while Eagle is stuck using a motorcycle in that picture; you'd think if Andy, Sam and Max can fit on the Orange Star tank he'd be able to hitch a ride with Colin on the Blue Moon tank. Or hell, take a jet, he's Eagle.

But in the far-off continent of Omega Land, trouble was brewing. It is from here that Black Hole launched a massive invasion. The enemy army has replenished its might with remarkable speed under the command of a new leader.

Though the games play fast and free with how rough and horrible war can be, the first three Advanced Wars game (Advanced Wars, Advanced Wars 2, Advanced Wars: DS) do have a continuity. Basically, there's the four nations of Wars World's Macro Land: Orange Star (America), Blue Moon (Russia), Green Earth (Europe) and Yellow Comet (Japan) along with a nemesis/alien invasion force faction called Black Hole. In the first game Black Hole successfuly played the nations against each other, in the second the nations had wisened up a bit but fought Black Hole off mostly individually. In this game they've allied together to form the Allied Nations, which really has no effect whatsoever on the gameplay and story as the four factions still have "friendly competitions" (politely bitch and wage "friendly" war) with each other. AW: Days of Ruin has a much better atmosphere about the horrors of war (and the apocalypse).

"Friendly war?" Wha...How...No. That's not how war works!

Well, there is at least one notable casualty: in the first Advance Wars, 'you' get a special post as the Orange Star advisor, and people talk to you as a distinct character who gives tactical advice so the COs can just focus on building their powers. By the time AW2 rolls around? The advisor has vanished, and no one wants to talk about it.

The last great war left many questions unanswered, and so Orange Star, Blue Moon, Green Earth, and Yellow Comet have joined forces to create the Allied Nations. Determined to free their homeland, they launch an attack.

The still squabble with each other. It's like the Allies in WWII but with America regularly sending "friendly invasions" to Britain just to test both sides' armies and to deliver fruit baskets to the King and Parliament.

Anyways, here's our first mission. It is, as to be expected, a tutorial mission. On the top screen we see the most common COs used during the campaign (Jake's probably going to be on the top in most runs), the name of the mission, and our opposion CO. On the bottom we have a very pretty, but mostly pontless, map. For some reason there are birds big enough to be seen from space flying across this map. Anyways, Press A, begin conversation.

Rachel, I want you to be careful. This looks like it could be a tough battle.

This is Nell, she is the Commander-in-chief of both Orange Star and the Allied Nations. She's an unlockable CO who's power is "luck". Every attack can do from 0 to 15% bonus critical damage (most normal COs do from -5% to +5%), which isn't bad, it's just a 1 to 2 bonus to damage she does. The "critical bonus" is a percentage added (or subtracted from) onto the damage a unit does, it's not a multiplication or anything. Of course, if she uses her powers things get nasty. Her first power lets her do a bonus 60% damage, that means with how the game works Infantry can eat half of a Neotank's HP out of nowhere. Her super power lets her do up to 100% bonus damage. Yes, that means her ANYTHING has a chance to OHKO ANYTHING that it attacks. This is on a CO without any negatives to balance things out.

Thank god she's a bonus CO and we won't be facing/using her during the campaign.

Correction: the damage that normal COs do is actually +0% to +10% over the listed, though some of the other COs also change this factor; one has the -5% to +5% Alkydere mentions here.

So her powers are "Kill things," "Kill things harder," and "Just outright kill things." Variety!

Don't you worry about me, Sis, You've got your hands full over in Macro Land. We may not have a big presence here in Omega Land, but we're not alone. With all four of the Allied Nations working together, Black Hole's no match for us!

And this is Rachel, she's Nell's little sister, and gains some Nell's luck, as well as a few other fun things in her CO powers. Since we're facing her in this battle I'll go over her CO information in detail in just a bit.

I'm glad to hear that. Still, I've sent a few of our COs over to give you a hand. Just hang in there until they can arrive, and don't do anything rash, OK?

I've got it, Sis! My Omega Land COs can take anything Black Hole dishes out.

Hah! I know, I know. And with you in the field, I got nothing to worry about. I don't think I'll be able to join you, though. That means you're in charge of field traning any new COs, all right?

Good, stay over there. The normal campaign is easy enough as is.

Let's all make mental note of this so we can laugh when Alkydere has trouble.

Actually, it is a fairly easy campaign, with most of the difficulty coming from trying to achieve ranks, but I remember a couple of maps gave me pause.

Got it!

Good. That is all, soldier! And by the way, don't call me "Sis," not when the other COs might hear.

Oh, yeah. That might get them wondering about your age!

I was more thinking about them wondering about nepotism.

Hey! That's not what I'm saying at all!

I have my orders, Commander Nell! I'll take care of everything. Rachel, signing out! ...Click.

Yes, I realize the click is supposed to be her turning the radio off, not part of her dialog, but it's presented that way.

Or she's pretending to hang up so she can 'accidentally' stay on the line and do some sucking-up. Listen to how she talks about Nell in this next section.

...So Commander Nell is your sister?

And here's our "bad boy" Jake.

Yep. We both enlisted about the same time, but my big s-- I mean, Commander Nell's smarter than me, so she rose through the ranks fast. Luck had something to do with it, too.

Yes, the fact that her Infantry can somtimes one-shot full health Megatanks might have affected her promotion.

What's a megatank? That's later in this game. Even neotanks, the next rung down, weren't around until AW2, and Nell was already commanding back in AW1.

Naw, you're razor sharp, Rachel. I guess I haven't been much of anywhere, but I haven't met anyone smarter.

Ha! Take one step out of Omega Land, and you'll be tripping over COs with way more skill than me! But listen, Jake, Omega Land is in very real danger. And we can't count on getting backup from Macro Land anytime soon. We can't even be sure where all of our allied COs are now, either. You and me are the only ones left to stop the enemy, Jake.

Well, this counter-invasion of Omega Land sure was planned out well.

Hey, they're protagonists, they can handle a little thing like "Complete and total lack of planning and strategy."

Sounds like our backs are up against the wall.

All in all, you're taking this pretty well. You're not worried?

Naw. Well...yeah. Maybe a little. But with you rollin' beside me, I know it's all good.

Don't even think I'm doing all the work. You're going to have to pull your weight! It's time to start training. I'm warning you, though, I'm not going to go easy on you.

What!? Oh, let me turn my music down. Yeah, cool... I'm listening.

And with that, the mission begins. We have three units, a Tank, a Mech and an Infantry against Rachel's Tank and two Infantries. I'm going to skip Rachel's tutorial speech because unlike the game designers I don't have to assume this is your first rodeo. Orange units are ours, not-orange units are enemy units. We need to defeat the not-orange units to win (simplest victory condition). Terrain is mostly obvious, with rougher terrain providing better cover at the cost of reduced movement speed. The only tile that's a bit different is the city tile, as you can see up on the top screen. In addition to providing 3-star defenses for the same movement cost as roads, Cities can also repair, refuel and re-arm ground units and provide the player with 1000 Generic Monetary Units per turn. Cities are very important. Since everything costs in a multiple of 1000, I'll probably shorten 1000 to something like 1k from now on.

Worth noting that there are a lot of things that affect your costs, though. Default costs scale by thousands, but all sorts of stuff can affect them. We'll cover these as they come up; most of them are COs or their powers that we won't see for a while.

Here we have the CO information screen. Up top we can see Jake's Rank (I'll get to that in a moment) and who he has a bonus Tag-teaming with (I'll explain that in a later mission). Below we see a short bio, which displays the main problem with Jake as a characer, and mentions his innate power. The problem? Jake is one of those "cool kids" that people who have no touch with younger people creates. So our main character is a wanna-be DJ. His innate power is that his units gain a +10% to attack on plains. This, and his powers, is why I describe him as the "Desert Fox". He hits hard on plains (which includes desert tiles), and with his powers he moves fast on the plains.

What, you mean you can't relate to a (presumably) teenage war hero who can magically make his soldiers shoot things harder if they're on the plains simply because he likes "Clubbin'"?

Page 2 is the "existing skills" page. This page pretty much sums up why AW:DS is the easiest Advanced Wars game ever. You can earn up to 300 points a mission battle from earning an S-Rank, and you can earn more from destroying certain pieces of Black Hole equipment, or during non-campaign battles by going in with certain "handicaps" (i.e. without skills or a tag-team partner). Every 1k points you unlock a new tier of skills to chose from. The reason this stuff makes the game so easy? The AI NEVER has these. Even if you play a battle, they never use or equip these. Therefore this screen will always be empty when we see a new CO, either because they're an AI and it doesn't matter or we haven't leveled them up to earn skills. Therefore I will never show it again.

No skills for the enemy? But how could you possibly balance something like that without giving the enemies completely overwhelming numbers or positioning? (I'm assuming the answer here is "They didn't." Goddammit IntSys)

Thid page is the Powers screen, showing a CO's normal and super powers. Every time you do damage to an enemy, or take damage, a CO's power meter charges. After a certain threshold you can use a normal CO power, or you can wait and fully charge the meter for a super CO power. Jake's powers make him into a mini-Grit, giving his artillery extra range, and power if they're on plains. The thing is the increased attack range is also applied to his ground units as well, the game magically giving them the movement points to cover +1 or +2 range as long as they can traverse the terrain. This is why I say he's the "Desert Fox" because he can move fast when he's got a power active.

Have we mentioned he's a Desert Fox? He's a Desert Fox, if you hadn't caught that. These are pretty good overall powers, too; all of Jake's ground units get something. If you like tanks and artillery, like me, this is great. Those are good all-around units and get the largest boost from this.

It's also worth noting that CO power charging is the game's attempt at self-balancing; damage taken increases your meter by more than damage done, so just trying to steamroll the enemy can let them push back harder than you were expecting.

Finally we have the unit screen, showing us the relative attack powers of various units. Jake has no unit-specific advantages or disadvantages so everything is at 100%.

Next we have Rachel. She's Jake's direct superior and, after this mission, we'll be able to chose her as our CO. Her perk is that cities and bases heal 3 HP instead of 2 like everyone else. You still have to pay for it though, so you're not getting a discount, but 50% faster healing is nothing to sneeze at. Like Jake, she has no unit specific ups or downs.

Her powers are "Become Nell for one turn" (gaining that 0-15% luck spread) and "Become Nell for one turn and throw three missiles at the enemy". Of course, since this is a power and not the player actually capturing a missile silo, you don't actually get to chose WHERE the missiles will hit. Still, the AI is actually pretty good about finding good spots to drop said missiles, or at least the first two out of the three. Watching the third missile hit a group of 1-health enemies and do nothing is sadly a common sight.

Missiles can't kill units? I don't even know what to say to something like that.

The missiles target (in order) most soldiers, most expensive, most unit count. They're a tolerable bonus, but hard to apply precisely. Her lack of focus on anything except luck means that I'd take Jake over her in most land engagements. Jake gets no bonuses at sea or in the air, though, so Rachel is this game's most generic main CO, able to face anything equally well. Too bad this is a game for specialist COs.

Now that that's out of the way, lets look at our units. I'm sorry for the lots and lots of talking, but this mission is trivially short and easy so I might as well stretch things out a bit and cover everything I can.

First up, we have our Infantry, our common foot soldier. They're dirt cheap at 1K per unit, can only move up to 3 spaces, weak to the point that anything that attacks them will wreck them, even other infantry, and vitally important. Infantry and Mech are the only units that can capture bases and cities, adding their funds and functionality to your army while denying them from the enemy. The can attack choppers and any ground units with their machine guns, but unless there's some special bullshit in effect they're not going to do more than nick the enemy.

Usually they're just mobile walls that technically fire back, in most fights. Don't discount them entirely because of that, though; 'special bullshit' is this game's stock in trade, and they're the best option for capturing buildings.

Next we have our Mechs. Mechs are Infantry that, at the cost of 1 movement speed and 2K money, can actually fuck armor up. Their Bazookas only have three ammo but they hit tanks hard provided the Mechs are on the attack. If the Mech's on defense the beating it takes from a tank will pretty much nullify their effectiveness.

Mechs hit really hard for their price. Keep them from getting attacked before they attack, and they're well worth the money (and movement range frustration).

Finally, we have the Tank. Tanks are, well, they're not "tanks" in the general video game sense of something that can take a beating. Oh they'll do more than fine against infantry, other tanks and light vehicles, but as soon as you start adding artillery, air, or heavier tanks into the equation they soon turn into "chaff". Costing only 7K and having a high fuel cost and movement range Tanks are your fast tier-one armor. Your ground forces will often consist of mostly tanks and you'll rarely care if you lose one or two.

There's properly one more vehicle that fits into the game's combat between the footmen and the tank, but we'll see it in a later mission.

Okay, with that out of the way, we can play. First turn we move the Mech to the woods to attack the enemy Tank, than finish it off with our Tank before bringing up our lone infantry, which probably won't be doing much. I let the Mech take the brunt of the counter attack because a) they're cheaper and less valuable than our armor and b) the damage it did to the Tank and the defenses of the forest blunt the Tank's attack.

My Fire Emblem instincts should be terrified that you just essentially threw a myrmidon against a knight, but I suppose when you've got an Armorslayer, you might as well put it to use.

Here's what combat looks like. The attackers (our Orange Mechs) walk onto the field and fire.

And the surviving defenders return fire. We traded 3 HP from our Mechs for 5 HP on these Tanks. A good trade and leaving the enemy Tank damaged enough that our Tank will finish it off without any threat of counter attack. Make no mistake, a Mech's purpose in life is to capture buildings and be slapped around by enemy tanks. Tanks can eventually take out a Mech on a city/base or mountain tile, but can get very messy dependong on how the COs match up.

Since defenders take damage before counter-attacking, and a unit's attack scales with its HP, getting the first strike with your mechs is very important--it's always important, but especially so with mechs. If the tank had attacked first, even with the terrain favoring the mech like it does here, things would not be looking so sanguine with our mech.

And here's what the field looks like at the end of battle. Fun fact: notice something missing? Yes, that's right, I have no cursor! For some reason the emulator doesn't work right for me and I have no marker showing where my cursor is, making me VERY thankful for touch-screen controls that let me click on my units in the emulator.

The AI sets out with it's infantry to do what it can, despite being hopelessly outclassed without a tank. The AI has a very high priority on capturing cities, even on maps like this where they don't matter. All city/base tiles have 20 HP before being captured, and every turn an infantry unit is told to capture it reduces it's current HP from the base's remaining total (and plays an animation of the unit flattening the building by jumping on it). This means a full health, 10 HP infantry can capture a base in two turns.

Capturing is necessary to get cities to be anything but terrain. The refueling, repairing, and income that Alkydere mentioned only happens in cities that you own. Even without capturing, though, they're good places to be because they have easy movement ratings and high defense--actually moreso than the forests.

I'm kind of curious to see how much AI is shared between AW and FE, because going straight for villages/cities is a thing FE does as well. It obviously doesn't matter quite as much given that you can buy new units, but are they as murder-happy as FE's AI?

The AI captures for the same bonuses as the player, and you can capture enemy cities as well as unaligned, so not quite comparable. But, yes, the AI is really focused on it.

Yea, the rest of this mission isn't even worth showing. With the AI's tank out of comission it's basically clean up duty.

You beat me! Hmmm... Not bad! You may be young, but you've definitely got what it takes to be a great CO. You were born for the battlefield.

Yeah, you think so? Sweet---that means something coming from you, Rachel.

You've got good instincts, and I'm going to personally make you one of the best. There are going to be some tough times ahead, so just stick with me.

You know I will!

Here's the score screen you get at the end of every battle. The score has two purposes: currency for buying maps and COs in the battle room, and experience for the COs in the battle. 300+ points (yes, you can earn over 300 points in some campaign battles) is an S-Rank. I doubt I'll be able to S-Rank EVERY battle, simply because I'm just not that good, but I'll do my best to at least get an A-Rank.

I'm guessing Speed is how fast you finished, Power is how much damage you did, and Technique is how well you did it (ie minimal/no losses)?

This is correct, with an additional few tricks that help keep your Technique high. I'll point them out once the game gets there.

And this...this is why I really can't stand Jake as a character. When you win your Co likes to drop a victory line. Most are generic/cliche enough that you don't notice. Then...then you get the genius lines from Jake, or Javier, or the "new and improved" Grit. Then again, at least Javier's lines are funny...ALL of Jake's lines are painful like this.

Wow, that was painful. Do we have to use him for most of the campaign?

And at the end of the battle, you also get information describing units built/lost and bases captured andother details like that for each faction. I'll probably be skipping these most of the time as the information can be rather dry.

Some fireworks shoot up, we get a prompt to save and the next mission opens up. Next time: we get to meet the new Black Hole.

...Same as the old one.