advancewars

In my family, we’ve been playing Nintendo games for over 25 years, since we first got a NES back around 1990. Since then we’ve owned almost every system Nintendo have put out: two or three Super Nintendos, N64, two Gamecubes, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Advance, two DS’s, Wii, Wii U, two 3DS’s. My brother and I joke about Nintendo’s fondness for remaking the same games over and over on new consoles: sometimes making virtually the same game, sometimes literally releasing the same game, except in HD, 3D, or whatever. But considering the unparalleled strength of the company’s stable of characters, and the unmatched quality of the back catalogue, it’s understandable.

I’ve just purchased my first 3DS, persuaded to do so at last by the release of the new Fire Emblem games. I love the series and played all of the other games released in the West on GBA and DS. It’s good to see that Nintendo is giving the series such love and that it has been commercially successful. But I was surprised when looking up developer Intelligent Systems’ other franchise, Advance Wars (also referred to as Nintendo Wars), that the last entry in that series was Days of Ruin, which I remember playing on the DS way back in 2008. That was before I bought my 360, ie, two whole console generations ago.

Advance Wars is a series of top-down, tactical combat games with a modern military feel but an (on the whole) cartoony and light-hearted aesthetic. Several AW games were released on GBA and DS and they were all critically acclaimed, especially the first. Unfortunately, it seems that the games didn’t sell exceptionally well; sales figures are difficult to find, but it seems none broke a million, selling a few hundred thousand copies each. Days of Ruin (called Dark Conflict in Europe) was a very good game, but suffered from a bizarre dual-translation–it was translated separately at the same time in North America and Europe, and the characters were named differently as well–and the ‘darker’, more mature theme was not well received. But the basic gameplay remained intact, and the game features a pretty awesome prog-metal inspired soundtrack, too.

Considering the mainstream success of Fire Emblem, I assumed that Nintendo would still be churning out AW games as well, but apparently not. There’s no hint of another Advance Wars game in development. I haven’t been able to find any statement on it at all, from either Nintendo or Intelligent Systems. Considering that in the mid-2000s this was a fairly major franchise for the Big N, at least on handheld, it seems weird. All I could find from trawling the internet was this post which discusses the troubled history of the franchise, but considering that most of that pre-dates the most recent games, it doesn’t explain everything. I wonder if there’s some kind of conscious decision to move away from the series due to its military nature?

In any event, I was pleased to see that my new 3DS should be backwards compatible, so at least I can fire up my old copy of Dark Conflict/Days of Ruin–if I can find it. But if you ever get a chance to bend the ear of a Nintendo executive, do me a solid and ask them what’s going on with Advance Wars, OK? Maybe they can find time to do another game in between remakes of old Mario and Zelda games. Both 3DS and Wii U would be well-suited to the mechanics, and the Wii U might even be able to improve on the old GBA graphics.

Check out some of Dark Conflict’s music below–Will’s, Lin’s and Tasha’s themes are particularly awesome.

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