|“Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising” for the Game Boy Advance is a turn-based strategy game. It takes place in Wars World, a world almost like our own, but not quite. There are five countries, all named for colors and space-related objects. There is the American style Orange Star, the Russian Blue Moon, the Japanese Yellow Comet, the Germanic Green Earth, and the alien/futuristic Black Hole. Most of the countries live in relative peace with each other, but an evil, megalomaniacal dictator leads Black Hole. His name is Sturm, and along with his lieutenants he wants to TAKE OVER THE WORLD! Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!|
All the other countries learn about these plans when, well, Black Hole troops land in their countries. The campaign mode follows the Commanding Officers, or COs, as they battle the Black Hole invaders and free their countries. The storyline helps to flesh out the commanders and their personalities. For example, the Yellow Comet CO Kanbei, an honorable samurai, dislikes that his daughter Sonja is exposed to danger. Gradually, he comes to understand that she is as competent and ready to fight as anyone. The heroic deeds of the COs and their soldiers help to push back Black Hole for good.
The combat system in this is pretty neat. It takes basic “my piece takes your piece” chess tactics and throws in modifiers such as unit types, wounds, and defensive cover. For example, if you have basic infantry attack a tank, chances are they aren’t going to do a whole lot. But if you have rocket-equipped soldiers, they’ll do a bit more damage. Also, if you attack from the mountains and your enemy is on the plains, you’ll be better able to resist their counterattack. Also, as the tanks take wounds, they will do less damage when they try to attack someone else, and it will be easier to finish them off. There are also buildings sprinkled around the map. Infantry units can capture cities, bases, docks and airports. Taking any properties will increase your money supply, but capturing bases, docks, or airports will allow you to build ground, water, or air units, respectively. This prevents you from having scenarios where you just get what you start with (not that they don’t have those in this game). After battles, you get points based on speed, technique (how many units you lost) and power (how many units you defeated). You can spend these points on maps and multiplayer COs. The game also comes with a pretty nice map editor that you can play on in versus mode (which can be played against the computer).
The graphics in this game are great. Each side has their own “look” for their units. All the units seem to range in style from WWII to the Modern age. The Japanese Yellow Comet’s fighter jets look like Zeroes, while the American Orange Star’s jets are more along the lines of modern F-16s. Sometimes, the sides are mixed. The mainly German Green Earth has Russian attack helicopters, while the Russian Blue Moon have Huey helicopters and American WWII jeeps (Orange Star has Apache helicopters and Humvees). Of course, they all still look good. The combat sequences show backgrounds depending on location, proximity to other places, and weather. There is no gore, and when Infantry units “die”, they just fly off the screen. The music is nice, too. It changes depending on which CO’s turn it is. The music reflects the personality of the CO. Grit, a laid-back Blue Moon CO, has slow, slightly country-style music, while Andy, an energetic young Orange Star CO, has happy, kind-of fast music.
Overall, this is an incredible game. The Artificial Intelligence and the missions can be kind of hard, though. 9/10.
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