The Let's Play Archive

Advance Wars: Dual Strike

by Alkydere

Part 23: Difficulty Tuna

Difficulty Tuna

A while ago in the thread I made a joke about how this game’s difficulty curve is described as “difficulty tuna”, a giant comedic fish that comes out of nowhere and slaps you across the face before disappearing for a few missions and then returning. THIS mission is a prime example of “difficulty tuna”, it’s the first major speed bump in the campaign mainly because it lumps so much bullshit at you at once. There were other speedbumps, but those were levels that were annoying due to just one thing, like having to fight Kindle and her Urban Blight ability on the game’s one property capture map.

Not wasting any time the game jumps to the map from the very beginning, and yet there are a few little bits of bullshit that still aren’t apparent.

We look a little...under-armed for this mission, given that they have a Megatank, Neotank, and a few Ooziums.

Whoof, this mission. This is one of the nastiest missions in the game, because there’s so many things that you have to accomplish to win, and we haven’t been told most of them yet, so I’ll leave the general tactics chat for a little longer.

Uhh...what's that?

The black obelisk. That's what they called it. It's what they're using to drain the energy from this land.

So this is how they're doing it? That thing is going down.

My apologies, but we're still using it. You can look, but you can't touch.

You know nothing of the black obelisk's power, yet you plan on destroying it? You're even more naive than I thought.

Yeah? Well, I hope you're ready, because your madness ends here.

Aha ha ha. I bet you want a treat for making it this far. Bravo, cheerleader. Aha ha! Look around you. Gaze upon the glorious spectacle of Black Hole's power! I know you can feel the overwhelming might of our military machine. Face it, you're outclassed and outgunned.

She's so evil...but she's right. There are so many of them.

This is looking grim.


Chill, people. It's all good. We've got this covered.

What did you say, boy?

What you guys are's whack. Trashing the land for your own profit? That's just sick. All of the people who live here have got our backs. Factory workers, scientists, bakers... They're all with us. We won't lose.

Aha ha ha. You mean rabble?! A ton of garbage is still garbage. Let me introduce you to reality. Reality is what you see above you... THAT is reality!

The top screen changes to show off Black Hole’s new toy: plot bullshit.

Reality is...a satellite? I can accept a lot of bullshit on account of the plot, but Kindle has honest-to-god lost me this time.


Even Jake’s stunned.

What you see is more than 22,000 miles above us, in outer space. That glistening ebon star you see is Black Hole's ultimate weapon. Tremble before our magnificent battle satellite, Black Onyx!

Satellite? Black Onyx?

Aha ha ha! Not even your delicate little commander knew of its existence! Black Onyx is the black obelisk's guardian angel. In a mere...fifty minutes from now, it's barrier field will be operational. Once it's in place, the black obelisk will be safe for all eternity! Do I need to spell this out for you fools? You don't have a chance! You never did.

Basically once the Black Onyx gets warmed up it will have the same effect as the second time we saw the Black Arc flying fortress. Of course, 22.000 miles is just a teeny bit out of range of anything with a jet engine. For reference, that’s about a tenth of the distance from the Earth to the moon at perigee (closest point of its orbit).

How are we even seeing it anyway? I’m pretty sure 22K miles is just a little bit outside of the human eye’s viewing range.

I’ve always been curious if you could calculate the size of Wars World by looking at the curvature of the planet here and starting from the assumption that it’s 22,000 miles up. Not quite curious enough to look up how to do it.

Anyway, this is the missions’ first, and easiest, complication. You have to win the mission in 50 minutes real time. This is more than generous enough. The longest I ever took was 28 minutes, for my first win. You just can’t sit in frozen indecision over every move.

You keep telling yourself that, Kindle! We're going to win, no matter the odds. All right, everybody! This is the final battle! Let's work together and obliterate the black obelisk!

All right, since you guys asked me to bring the bullshit, I did. Everyone’s getting nice, fat CO powers.

Lash’s bullshit terrain powers have been further reinforced by turning her into the best wall I could make her. With Hawke’s Bodyguard power, she has a flat +22% defense on at all times.

Grimm’s job is to hit hard and make money to buy cheaper units while Javier’s backing Grimm up from behind the scenes and be a wall when necessary. With Javier’s Teamwork and Synergy, Grimm gets a free +13% to attack. Meanwhile, both get get a 1.5x multiplier for com towers, oh and as far as I know that 1.5x does count for ALL of Javier’s abilities, from the defense boost to the multiplier during his powers.

Seeing a pattern here with Gold Rush and Star Power? There’s a reason, those are two of the outright best skills.

Sensei’s all about cheap B-Copters and capturing property. With his Invader, his infantry can capture at normal speed even at 9 HP, which is wonderful considering his powers spawn 9HP infantry. With Jake in the background, his B-Copters and foot soldiers also get a free +10% defense bonus at all times. Also, it’s obvious I got lazy with Jake’s level, but one can only grind Ooze so much before it gets boring.

I’ve only ever beaten this mission with Sasha on my deployment team. Even with this sort of BS skill abuse, the mission gets frustrating without her.

With that all set up, let’s begin!

I'm gonna make that Kindle scream for mercy!

Calm yourself, Lash. We are in control here. The advantage is ours.

Let Javier wield the blade that will slice their hopes into fillets of sorrow!!

Run away, Black Hole sissies--Grimm is gonna bust some heads!

You are NOT going to ruin this land anymore. It's on, now!

They've got black cannons. They're such a nuisance.

Before we begin, Rachel tosses yet another wrinkle at us.

We've received fresh intel. Black Onyx is equipped with a state-of-the-art particle defense system. The barrier field it projects shields the black obelisk from fire. Our first order of business is to take out the Onyx and drop that shield.

Wait, I thought Kindle said the shield would be up in 50 minutes? Be consistent game!

Whaa?! It's in outer space, it's huge,'s in outer space! That's far! is beyond the reach of our air forces, and even my copters.

Apparently Sensei’s copters have a higher flight ceiling than jets.

Not a problem. The missile silos here are not armed with ordinary missiles.

Huh? How's that work?

Allow me to explain. The missiles here are specifically designed to seek and destroy satellites. They're part of the ASDS--our anti-satellite defense system.

Anti-satellite defense system?

I don't know how they work, but I'm happy as long as they blow it to pieces!

Let's get our infantry and mech units out there and capture all the silos. There are...nine silos in all. If we can hit Black Onyx with all nine in under fifty minutes, we can destroy it. We absolutely can't let those missile silos fall into enemy hands!

And here’s why the time limit doesn’t matter, also the final piece of bullshit. When we capture all 9 silos on this map, we’ll have shot down the Black Onyx and turned it into so much orbital debris. The time limit will end and we’ll be free to do whatever we want to the Black Obelisk. The problem is we need to capture ALL nine of them. If Black Hole captures one we instantly lose.

So Hawke says we have the advantage, but Black Hole simply has to hold out for 50 minutes, and then they’ll have a crystal that is literally invincible and sucks up energy from the planet to give them effectively infinite resources. By claiming even a single one of these nine missiles, they will remove any chance we have of stopping said barrier from activating. I don’t think it’s possible for Hawke to be any more full of shit.

And this is the all-important wrinkle that you have to plan your strategy around or you will lose. Black Hole will not ignore the silos, and grabbing just one is an instant loss. So what you need to do is grab all of them ASAP at the expense of anything else. It’s possible, but the timing is tight. I’ve never done it if Black Hole gets any movement bonuses--Koal’s powers, or a dual strike--so placing Sasha somewhere is a wonderful little aid.

Once you get the silos grabbed, you’re probably spread out and a bit weak, so you need to consolidate from there and prevent Black Hole’s predeployed troops from overwhelming and destroying one of your bases and finally crush their two production centers so you can nail the Black Obelisk.

Whoof. At least the post-missile grab is fairly normal gameplay, so while it can be tricky, that’s nothing you haven’t done if you’ve gotten this far.

Failed runs:

No, I did not set out to lose one time on each side of the map, it was just a “happy” accident.

Orange starts rather normally, building infantry and moving its forces forward. Black Hole finally got around to reverse engineering the Megatank, and that Artillery will be the key to removing it.

I see that we have pod-people infantry of our own, finally.

Blue starts out much the same way, setting up to defend while capturing properties. The only difference is that Blue has to deal with the shadow of the Black Cannon, the Minicannon’s bigger, meaner brother. If I go any further down than that city where I parked my tank, one of my units will be whacked for 5 damage.

This is actually fairly easy to deal with, as long as you don’t forget it’s there. The cannon can be good for area denial, but it’s not positioned too badly.

Green only starts with a Missile and an AA, so getting infantry pumped out is the big priority here. Green’s silos are at the most risk of being grabbed early. Luckily, they’re all close together so if you can grab one you should be able to grab the other two in short order.

Get used to seeing this. At the start of every day the Black Obelisk activates, healing any damaged units in its massive area for four HP. Entering that central area is not a good idea due to that healing, so we’re going to need some long ranged indirect firepower in a bit.

Nothing really happens on Day 2 for Blue and Orange. Over on Green I’m clearing out some troublesome B-Copters. There’s also a Black Bomb doing it’s best to be menacing Green’s side, but I really don’t care. A Black Bomb literally cannot kill, just reduce a unit to 1 HP. Infantry can capture silos just fine at 1 HP. It’s the B-Copters, and then the later Recons, that are the problem. Oh, and the CO meter The CO meter is the real enemy on this map.

The Missile exists for the sole purpose of acting as AI bait to prevent the B-Copters from running around where the AA can’t gib them. Meanwhile, Green’s building more troops and some Sensei-powered B-Copters. Yes, I am ignoring the neutral Factory, Green’s silos are so vulnerable that I’m not even going to waste a turn with my first few infantry capturing it.

Black does some stuff, sends some Recons after Green. What I find interesting is the Black Bomb. On all three of my previous failed runs the Black Bomb went to go menace ineffectively on Orange’s side before exploding. On this run, and this run only, it decided to harass Green.

Nothing happening on Orange’s side. Since we’re lacking an APC, that Tank will have to be the sacrificial road block.

Blue reaches the island and secures the first silo. Launching will have to wait until next turn, but this silo is safe.

The Black Bomb goes off and damages much of Green’s forces. More of an annoyance than anything really.

Orange launches the first silo. Every time the player launches a silo a little video of a missile striking the Black Onyx is shown. While it’s pretty it does cover up the information screen and you have to switch back every time to see what’s really important: where Black Hole’s CO gauges are at. Also, the timer isn’t paused during this little cutscene, which makes it really annoying. Time is not really as dire as everyone makes out, but it really doesn’t help the blood pressure when the timer is still ticking down in a cutscene you can’t skip.

Anyways, the end of day 4 for Black Hole. The noble Tank is acting as a wall against the Megatank as the Artillery pounds it down, meanwhile we’re flying over to the far left silo.

And the Orange Tank’s noble cousin on Blue is filling the same role

Silo 2 away, 7 more to go.

Anyways, we need more foot soldiers on Green, and we need them now.

Silo 3 is launched. Now we just need to get rid of those pesky Recons and bring the rest of the crowd down.

Sadly, that’s the best we can do. Not because we’re out of units, that AA could still do some decent damage to the semi-healthy Recon.

No, the problem is the CO meters for Black Hole. Koal’s meter is full, and Kindle has just a tiny, itty bitty bit left to go. We do NOT want Black Hole to have a Dual Strike while Green still has silos left on the field.

Of all the things dual strikes do, it happens to be the movement extension which is the worst in this mission.

Goodbye noble Tanks, we shall remember your sacrifice...for all of ten seconds.

The Orange silos are secured and just need to be launched. There’s no infantry, or APCs or T-Coptes, who can get to the last Orange silo before I can, even with the aid of a Dual Strike.

And the nearest Blue silo is now secured to make sure there are no surprises during the AI’s Dual Strike. Noticing a bit of a theme on what I’m worried about here?

Over on Green, the AI failed to kill the one infantry within range of the bottom most Silo.

An obvious mistake. Also look how close Black’s infantry are to those silos. Just one more turn, with or without a Dual Strike, would have been enough for the AI to grab that silo. That is how close the timing on this mission is.

And thanks to Sensei’s overabundance of paratroopers, that’s the fifth silo, and the last of Green’s silos. Now Green can focus on other things, like removing that pesky Black Cannon.

The Black Hole onslaught begins a turn too late to do any real good.

And it starts with this little gem due to Kindle attacking Lash’s Infantry. That’s one way to get rid of a Megatank.

Goddamn right it’s incredible. Lash continues to demonstrate that she is the best character.

Orange comes out of the battle mostly unscathed and untouched

Which means Orange launches its missiles mostly unmolested.

Meanwhile I start Blue’s turn with a stupid move. This puts the Neotank right in the shadow of the Black Cannon.

At least silo eight is launched so it’s not all stupidity. Just one more to go and there’s no way Black Hole is going to get any infantry down close to it.

Just a shot showing me checking the cannon’s range at the end of the round and realizing how badly I just fucked up.

That’s a hell of a range on that cannon. And yet it can’t look a single square to its right. I’m pretty sure the Maginot Line taught us all we need to know about cannons that can’t turn at all.

Green took a bit of a beating, but that’s more of a side effect of having to over-extend to grab the silos than anything else. Black Hole is spread thin on this mission so recovering is rather easy.

First thing’s first: we need to get what we can out of what’s left of that AA.

And punish that remaining Recon who’s been beating on our infantry.

That Black Hole infantry going for the airfield is mildly worrying. We can’t capture it until the Black Cannon is destroyed, but Koal and Kindle have no such limitations.

However we can park infantry just out of the Black Cannon’s range to attack the capturing soldier and deny the airfield to Black Hole.

Green also finishes the turn by buying an Artillery to take care of the Cannon.

Orange spends its next turn trying to beat up an Oozium and buying a Rocket to take care of the Black Obelisk. I’m going to lose one of the B-Copters but I really don’t care, unlike the last times we faced Ooziums our units are readily replaced.

Over on Blue we get a brand new Battleship to be Commanded by Grimm. You’ll also see our Neotank sitting on a city for some repairs after getting some spot welding done by our Black Boat.

Green is regaining control of its side of the map. Despite the big, heavy units it occasionally tosses out, Black Hole is rather lacking in industrial power outside of the Obelisk’s healing powers. Once you deal with the absurdly frustrating task of the silos the mission is depressingly easy.

Unless you misplayed Orange to get there and get wrecked by marauding megatanks and oozium. Then you can have a tense, desperate fight.

With the Oozium and stray Tank removed, Orange has free reign on the bottom section of the map. Which basically translates to “plug the entrance and bring the Rocket into firing position”.

And that’s the last fucking silo launched.

It can't be. I would never have believed Black Onyx could be destroyed.

They used our own missiles against us. It seems someone among them has a brain. Yet, we still have the upper hand as long as we have the Black Obelisk. After all, it can resupply and repair two HP of damage to all units within four spaces. Look at them fight--it's adorable. They don't have a chance! Aha ha ha ha ha!"

This all sounds strangely familiar. This does not augur well.

I love how Koal is developing pattern recognition, and how Kindle can’t count. The Black Crystal repairs 2 HP, the Obelisk repairs 4 HP.

You never predicted the Black Onyx would be destroyed by something specifically built to destroy it? And conveniently positioned right nearby the object they’re meant to destroy? Really Koal?

Anyways, time to move out the Battle--damnit! Curse you Black Hole AI.

The AI gets smart and builds a Fighter on Green’s side. Too little, too late, but it’s still going to be a thorn in my side.

Yea, I knew that Fighter would hurt. Still, that means more CO power to Jake, which means Green can soon get a Dual Strike going.

Lash is all charged up so let’s give Hawke some power and charge him up.

Lets see if I can dissuade this Black Boat from parking in front of my harbor.

The Artillery is finally parked right where it needs to be, that Black Cannon’s time is limited. Now, I just need a little more power for Jake to fully charge. Lets see if the AI will be kind enough to give it to me.

Considering the AI just popped a Dual Strike, I’m going to say “yes”.

When I swapped Hawke in control of Orange Star, I honestly doubted I’d get any decent amount of power charged for him. Luckily, Black Hole’s Dual Strike, and the resulting counter attack, has given Orange plenty of CO power.

The Black Boat has removed itself from my harbor so the Blue Battleship is free to go up north where Green will beat it to destroying the Black Cannon.

Now, let’s have some fun.

Green Earth owns these skies.

*Green Earth being staffed by Orange Star/Yellow Comet COs and troops

And that’s the last of the Black Cannon. Just two whacks from Artillery fire is all it takes.

Orange’s turn, and that Rocket is perfectly placed to pound that Obelisk into dust.

A second Battleship is built by Blue, sadly it will prove to be just as worthless as the first.

On one hand, losing a B-Copter always sucks, on the other hand, Hawk’s CO meter is finally full.

No Koal, it’s over, it is so very over. It doesn’t matter how many times you and Kindle swap, it was over as soon as you lost the Onyx.

I’ve got a rocket artillery within range of your big crystal, a free turn, and there’s nothing you can do about it Koal, it is over.

So very over.

No. It can't be.

There is nothing we can do...for now.

Then we must flee. We will NOT forget this, fools! Aha ha ha ha ha!

YES! We shattered the black obelisk! The allied forces are victorious!

And that means the Black Hole Army is done for, too!

That thing can't leach any more of our land's energy, right?

Yep. Thanks to all of you, Omega Land is safe. C'mon, everyone, let's go home! I think we all deserve a hot meal and soft, warm beds!


Lost some points on Technique and Power, but you know what? I really don’t care. This level is, honestly, bullshit. It also marks the point where the game starts to legitimately get difficult. Anyways, now time for some celebration. I’ve said more than enough in this long update so I’ll just let the text, and my co-commentators, cover this.

Listen up, everyone! Thank you so much for all of your hard work and sacrifices. We owe our victory to the efforts of each and every one of you. It may not be much, but this feast is our way of saying thanks. Have fun!

Excuse me, Rachel. Could you tell me where my seat is?

Umm, sure. Your seat is... Oh! It's down there, next to Grimm.

Oh, yes, right...Grimm? Who's that?

Huh? How did you forget him? He's a Yellow Comet CO. Just like you!

Ah, of course he is. I remember now. Grimm! Grimm? that our rivers are running clear and clean again... Please raise your glasses of Omega Land's best water and toast to peace! Cheers!

Bring me more food! Can't you see I'm wastin' away here?

Excuse me, have you seen my sister?

What? Oh, heya, Colin. C'mere and sit down, boy. I got some things to teach you about being a commanding officer.

Me? B-b-but I'm looking for my sister...

Shut yer yapper and sit! That's your first problem! It's this whole 'b-b-but' thing! A real commanding officer should...

What am I going to do with him? Where could he have run off to now?

'Sup, Sasha.

Hello, Jake. Congratulations on the victory.

Yeah, nothin' can stop our crew when we roll together. We regulated that black obelisk and saved Omega Land. People are already saying that some plants and stuff are growing back.

Really? That's wonderful.

Yeah, no doubt. One day, my hometown'll be back to the way it was before all this started. You should come and check it out sometime. The view from the hilltop is pretty hot.

It sounds lovely. I'd love to visit. Wow, that's quite a plateful of food you got there, Jake.

Oh yeah, I think I was supposed to be bringing this to Max.

Blargg, glarmm, slurrrp, smmmaaaack, bleaaaarrrp... It's about time we had a break. I mean, a man's gotta eat!

Ahhhh, this Orange Star lobsterfish is filled with delicious. It has the wonderful aroma and each bite is juicy and plumpness. It is a true treat for my tastebuds!

I heard Green Earth has some good grub. I'm gonna have to go on a taste-testing holiday one of these days.

Yes! You must come and visit the warmth of my castle home. The sausage of Green Earth explodes with flavor like the cannon of culinary delight. Oh,and the hams of Jess's village taste of pigs as if from a glorious swine heaven.

"Slow down, Lash. You don't have to take so much at once. No one's going to steal it from you.

Step off. I'm not sharing! Got it? Just be honest--you guys still hate us. I can tell.

That's all in the past. Now listen, you've got food all over your face. It's really not good. This is a good opportunity for me to teach you some table manners. OK?

Huh? You're psycho, lady!

You don't have to be shy. Come on. Come over here with me. Let's start with the correct way to hold a knife and fork... And let me tell you, you're not going to escape me today.

Hawke! Haaaaaaaawke! Help!


'Sup, Hawke. Where you headed?

I dislike social events. Your name is Jake, is it not?


So, Jake... Why do you fight?

To protect our home from evil dudes that want to turn it into scorched earth. Someone has to look out for the people that live there.

I see. And to that end is there some burden you feel you must shoulder?


It was a foolish question. Forget it.

Hold up, dude! Everyone's having a good time--aren't you going to hang out?

I doubt I would be welcome. I am a Black Hole officer, remember? My presence would only dampen everyone's spirits.

Nah, man! This party is for everyone.

... Very well. I think I will join you.


So Grimm teaching Colin about not being a spineless twit, Jake hitting on Sasha, Jess forcing some civility out of Lash, Hawke being an antisocial dick, and everyone sitting back and chilling with a beer soda foamy water.

No seriously, Alky says that’s water. There’s no fucking way that’s water.

Which do you think is better: Nintendo refusing to admit alcohol exists, even creating some sort of super antibiotic gel in their anime surgery games instead of using rubbing alcohol, or the Allied Forces drinking brown, muddy, foamy, unpurified water from whatever puddle or stream was near the command tent?

Sensei is the best. Wanders around in a confused haze by night, by day is a ludicrously powerful CO. Either that or he’s trolling Rachel, which still gets him a pass. Also Lash is still about as well-behaved as the kitten Kindle keeps calling her.

For a fake ending scene (which this definitely is), I’m pretty fond of it.

And with that, the war is over and Macro Land is saved! Hahaha, no, just kidding!

Next time, on Advanced Wars, Dual Strike:

We have three 2.1 armies for you to chose COs for and we’re joined by Grit, Sami and Sonja

This one’s a rare beast: completely predeployed map. Luckily it’s also a relative breather compared to the mad silo scramble we just cleared, so it’s not going to be as unpleasant a fight.

We also, as I said, get Grit, Sasha and Sami. Three of the more awesome COs in the series.