Advance Wars: Under Fire has a new name, but how much has changed under the hood since last year?
I liked the new real-time, 3D Advance Wars game shown at last year's E3. It seemed unpolished but fun, like a quality third-party title, and I had plenty of hope that it could be given the Nintendo touch before its release. Nintendo probably felt the same way, pushing the game's release way back and going so far as to change the name, which is probably a smart move considering the backlash from Advance Wars fans when they saw this radically different approach to the Wars series.
The new demo of Battalion Wars doesn't look drastically different from the last time I played the game, but it's still fun, and it combines action and strategy in a very promising way that can't easily be conveyed at a press event. The level I played in the new demo is based on the old demo, at least from what I can remember from last year. You start out with a small group of soldiers and a couple of tanks, and the first task is to advance upon a bridge held by the enemy. Along the way, you may liberate a group of (armed) POW flamethrower troops, which is useful against the next wave of enemies.
Battalion Wars feels like a third-person shooter, and it is to some extent, with goofy jumping controls and all. But a clever C-stick menu system lets you command friendly units even while shooting and rolling around in a confrontation of your own. The A.I. units seem to be quite intelligent, with smart pathing and survival instincts that will let them defend themselves and pick up nearby health items. You can take direct control of any friendly unit, at any time, through the C-stick menu. I can't wait to see how these features are put to good use in more complex missions or multiplayer, neither of which is on display at this time.
The most fun units to control are the vehicles. The jeep is fast (almost uncontrollably so, at times) but lightly armed. Tanks are slow and difficult to control, but their cannons pack a lot of firepower that is much more satisfying than the weenie machine guns of ground troops. There are also multiple types of flying units later in the game.
With an Advance Wars-style storyline and a cartoonish graphic style that still manages to look militaristic, Battalion Wars has an interesting presentation to match its ambitious blend of action and strategy. Whether these elements will mesh together or not still remains to be seen.