Advance Wars: Dark Conflict

Nintendo are often the target of criticism; it’s not uncommon to hear dissenters complain about how they are rehashing the franchises over and over again. However, Advance Wars: Dark Conflict is proof that this is not always a bad thing. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Dark Conflict keeps a lot of the same Advance Wars staples that gamers have come to know and love. In fact, in terms of gameplay there is little change here. Some units are gone, some new ones enter the fray, but if you’ve played Advance Wars before you’re going to know exactly what to expect. It’s the same turn-based strategy you’ve come to know and love.

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Like before, the game revolves around a complicated version of chess. It’s all about positioning the right units in the right place so that on your next turn you can strike, all while making sure on your opponents turn you will remain unharmed. At times it can take a rock-paper-scissors approach to strategy, but ultimately patience and planning will result in victory. It’s addictive and compulsive.

However, the problem with Dark Conflict is its presentation. Gone are the colourful, cute graphics of the originals. Instead, a darker, more angsty presentation is present. The plot involves a meteor impact that has removed 90% of Earth’s population and a significant chunk of the wildlife. There is a Mad Max vibe to the whole affair, with earthy tones, serious, stern-looking characters, and lots of anarchist villains taking advantage of the chaos.

It’s much more of a Fire Emblem approach, but unfortunately it lacks the benefits of that series. Instead, the result is a theme that just doesn’t feel like Advance Wars. The writing is atrocious, and is bound to make even the most tolerant of people cringe; the graphics are plain and repetitive thanks to the premise of the game; the music lacks soul and enthusiasm; and the art direction lacks anything resembling charm.

Ultimately, while the gameplay is more or less the same, the presentation makes Advance Wars feel tedious and repetitive and the plot gives little motivation for progressing. Given that the game is exceedingly difficult later on, it’s likely that Dark Conflict will become one of the most unfinished and ultimately traded-in titles on the DS.

Dark Conflict feels like the product of a marketing survey. It’s like Nintendo interviewed a bunch of emo children who informed them that war wasn’t supposed to be cute. Unfortunately, this has led to this entry into the series being devoid of the charm that made it such a winner before. It now feels like it’s trying too hard to be edgy and gritty, and it suffers as a response.

It’s hard to find earlier entries in the series now, but if you can hunt one down, your money will be better spent there. However, if you’re itching for some more Advance Wars and don’t care about presentation – or indeed find the darker, moodier presentation a positive change – then you could do a lot worse than Advance Wars: Dark Conflict.

"A perfect example of why you don’t change a winning formula."
- Advance Wars: Dark Conflict
Follow Own it? Rating: G   Difficulty: Hard   Learning Curve: 2 Hours


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