Monday, January 21, 2008

Advance Wars 4 Coming This Week

First of all, I should probably admit that I finally broke down and bought a new DS Lite this weekend. I really shouldn't have, considering that the American economy is in the early stages of meltdown, but temptation got the better of me. And, oh, look, Advance Wars 4 should hit stores sometime this week. What a coincidence.

I've been an AW junkie ever since the Gameboy Advance days, so it's no surprise that I'm waiting for the latest one. I was mildly disappointed with the last installment, Dual Strike, or whatever it's called. The game had fallen into the Madden Trap, a sorry condition when a game series just piles on needless extra features, while letting the core game stagnate or rot. I feared that the sublime balance had been needlessly ruined.

I was also extremely miffed that online play was not included. Getting some pointless arcade tank game in exchange didn't cut it. Thank goodness Intelligent Systems came through with the goods this time.

The early reports have been drifting in through the blogosphere, and it's certain that Days of Ruin will polarize a lot of fans. The game has stripped down, almost to the bare basics. The changes include the following:

  • no War Room
  • no Hard Campaign
  • no Battle Maps store
  • no Survival Mode
  • no Combat Mode
  • no tags/rankings outside of the medals screen
  • only 12 playable characters (Dual Strike featured over two dozen)

(I grabbed this list from DS Fanboy, so thanks to the crew over there)

A lot of the fanboys will cringe, but, personally, I find this to be a welcome change. It's like the jump from ...And Justice For All to The Black Album. Trim the fat, cut the excess, get to the damn point.

The issue with the maps is interesting. Unless I'm reading it wrong, it seems all the maps in the game will be open and playable from the beginning. This game carries a strong Quake 3 vibe - the bulk of the attention is placed on online multiplayer action. Again, another great plus for me. I'm getting tired of the Soul Calibur model of unlocking endless extras through a long and laborious story mode. Just gimmie the goods and leave me alone.

Hmm...why am I feeling so cranky? I think it's because I watched Persepolis at the Uptown Theatre this weekend. It re-awakened my teenage (okay, twenty-something) punk spirit. I'm feeling rebellious. Maybe I really should dye my hair after all.

Anyway, back to Advance Wars 4, or Days of Ruin, or whatever you feel like calling it. Online is the real feature of this game, and we're finally allowed to upload, download, and rate our custom maps. I've read on the Neogaf forums that these maps are only 10x10 - I hope this isn't the case. If I remember, the custom maps were always 20x10. I'd be fine with that. I'd be better with larger sizes, too; fix a set number of custom sizes, from small to large.

You'll be able to store 50 custom maps, which is good news. I was fearing another debacle of only three slots. I still would have preferred some obscenely large number, like 500 or 1000, which would really encourage the fan community. But Nintendo has always been borderline paranoid when it comes to online gaming.

The strategy of the game itself, according to the early birds, is better than ever. A lot of the units have been changed or removed entirely, and there's a better balance with infantry, fog of war, and the naval units, which were always treated as throwaways in the old games. Fog of War looks especially interesting, now that you have the option of building radar dishes and flamethrower units.

All I want is to be able to upload all those uber-cool maps I created for Advance Wars 2. That's all I'm asking for, people. Will I get my wish?

Oh, and my other wish is that our economy doesn't collapse. Is that asking so much?

Update: Okay, a little surfing around the Neogaf forums has clarified the custom maps issue. You can still create the larger maps for local wi-fi with your friends, as before. The 10x10 maps are for uploads and downloads from Nintendo's server.

Yuck. You've got to be kidding me. There's no reason for that in this day and age. Still, I'll be able to port all of my AW2 maps and take 'em with me. That's a great plus.

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