I loved Advance Wars. First turn-based strategy I really got into, and I played every installment from the initial English release to the (as of now) final one, Days of Ruin.

The Advance Wars series had two big problems after the release of Dual Strike, the installment for the DS. The first had to do with the content. Dual Strike wasn’t a bad game, but it had taken every element of the series-a goofy atmosphere that didn’t quite gel with the whole “war” theme, and CO abilities-and taken it to excess. Allied COs stopped to “have battles” (not exercises, battles) in the middle of a campaign, and you ended up with “Tag powers” that turned into “win buttons” instead of the tide-tipping CO powers of past games.

The second had to do with the sales. Namely, that Japanese sales were hideous, and since it was being made by Nintendo, that was a problem. So, for Days of Ruin, Intelligent Systems tried to fix it. They didn’t release it in Japan at all, reset the plot to something darker, and toned down the mechanics. The result was a bittersweet series-ender.

The gameplay is good enough-possibly a little bland, but a welcome enough change from the bombastic Dual Strike. But the plot and setting? Days of Ruin has the largest disconnect between story and gameplay I’ve seen. The tutorial is the most immersive part. Really.

You have the impression of being a small group of fighters in a post-apocalyptic world, with very limited supplies. Then you get the ability to build new units-and it all collapses. You’re back to cranking out tons of tanks, military aircraft, and even carriers. And rather than just ignoring it as gameplay, the writers used a weird explanation of “mechanical units that only work close to the factory they’re built it” that caused more problems than it solved.

The plot is also bad. First, the darkness is on the surface, and there’s no moral complexity beyond it. Second, by the end-game they’re back to their comfort zone of mad science superweapons and totally happy endings. The result is a mess of missed opportunities and confusion.
Save for a virtual console port of the first Advance Wars game, there have been no more Advance Wars’, meaning Days of Ruin probably finished off the series.

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