War is a very sensitive subject in the gaming industry. For those involved in the actual battles depicted so convincingly, the fact that thousands of gamers choose to fight these battles for fun may seem a little insensitive. However, many of these titles do attempt to bring the horrors of war to the gaming world in a serious and thoughtful way. Sometimes provoking the gamer into appreciating the terror of facing a tank or the loss of comrades to enemy fire. Spec Ops: The Line is a perfect example of this. Nintendo’s Advance Wars series – of which Battalion Wars is spun from – is not a realistic depiction of war. It’s a colourful, bouncy, and obviously fictitious take.

But death and destruction is not Nintendo’s bag. Mario wouldn’t approve. Nintendo’s Wars series started on the Famicom in 1989 and was originally only available in Japan. In 2001 the first installment of the series was released worldwide for the Game Boy Advance. This incarnation, known as Advance Wars, received a great deal of praise for it’s simple yet highly strategic and addictive turn-based gameplay. The series is instantly recognisable for it’s distinctive cartoon style, a far-cry from the gritty ruins and battlefields of Call of Duty. Originally entitled Advance Wars: Under FireBattalion Wars is the spiritual successor to Advance Wars and is not only the series’ first foray into 3D, but also into real-time.

Battalion Wars screenshot

Battalion Wars Advances Differently

Battalion Wars is a third-person real-time action/Strategy game similar to the highly rated PC series, BattleZone. The player is given a battalion of troops with which to complete each mission. Each troop can be controlled individually by the player, as opposed to the more traditional top-down point-and-click system. There’s a rock-paper-scissor system to the combat. For example, the most efficient way of eliminating enemy infantry is with a standard Grunt squadron. However, if the enemy were to be supported by a tank, you could order your grunts to attack the infantry while commanding a tank of your own to take out the enemy armour.

The title’s control system is similar to the Lock-On System used in Metroid Prime. However, in this case the C-Stick is used to select the different units. The X Button is used to alternate between follow and guard and the Y Button commands the selected unit to fire. This system is relatively simple, effective and most importantly, fun. Because each of the game’s many units has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, there is not really a singular all powerful unit.

Heavy Tanks are very strong versus other ground vehicles, but they are defenceless against aerial assaults and poor when up against bazooka-veterans. This means that you will need air defence and anti-infantry units to protect them. Players of RTS games will feel right at home using this kind of system. And it does mean that despite it’s cute presentation, Battalion Wars will be taxing your brain as well as your hand-to-eye co-ordination.

Battalion Wars screenshot

Heading into Battle

The game features a fairly lengthy Campaign in which you play as a commander of the Western Frontier army. During the tutorials the Western Frontier is fighting against the armies of the Tundran Territories. However, as the game continues, you will mainly be fighting against the Xylvanians. Battalion Wars makes no excuses for the blatant fact that the Western Frontier is supposed to be the USA, the Tundran Territories is Russia and the Xylvanians are German, and is inclined to stereotype just a little. For each mission you are graded exactly the same as in Advance Wars: Dual Strike. You are given a percentage score for your Speed, Technique and Power. Obviously, Speed is based on how fast you completed the mission. Technique relates to how many units you lost, and Power is governed by the amount of enemy units destroyed.

Achieving a high-average score in each of the game’s four regions allows you to play as the alternative sides in bonus missions. These tend to be a little harder; a decent incentive to play the game after completion. Unfortunately, aside from upping your score and completing these additional missions, there is very little to do once you have completed the campaign. A Skirmish Mode similar to Advance Wars’ War Room would have added many hours to the title. As would a multiplayer mode. Despite this, you can expect a good 10-to-15 hours of amusement from Battalion Wars. A length that’s certainly in-keeping with the current industry traditions.

Battalion Wars screenshot

A Pretty Battalion is a Strong Battalion

Battalion Wars is exactly what you would expect Advance Wars to look like in 3D. Each team is coloured brightly, and every unit has the cartoon-like appearance typical of the series. The environments and units are all detailed and very good looking, giving the game a high-quality and polished appearance. The game impressively handles the huge amount of on-screen units and explosions without any drop in framerate. A credit to the programming skills of the games developers, Kuju.

There are loading times which is certainly distinctive in a Nintendo owned franchise appearing on the GameCube. But they are hardly worth mentioning as they are never more than 10 seconds. Although the excruciatingly irritating voice of Brigadier Betty may haunt you for the rest of your life, the voice-acting in Battalion Wars is generally good. Especially the moronic but hilarious Xylvanian commander, Ubel. Effects are also top-notch. From falling bombs to the rumbling of tanks and the occasional comical quip from your squadron members.

Battalion Wars is superb while it lasts. Unfortunately, for a action/strategy game, it is a little short with very little to do once you have finished it. However, all of the missions are highly entertaining and stand-up to several replays without feeling stale. Action/strategy games are few and far between on the consoles when compared to the PC market, probably due mainly to the lack of Mouse support. Hopefully the intuitive and simple method introduced by Battalion Wars could inspire other developers to take the challenge. However, even the game’s sequel opted to use the Wii Remote for direct input, leaving Battalion Wars fighting along in this regard.

Categories: Games