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You may or may not have read my reviews of the first two Advance Wars games, if you haven't I'd recommend reading my reviews of AW and AW2 first so that certain things may make more sense. Now that I've finished Dual Strike, all that's left is Days of Ruin...
The end of Advance Wars 2 left the Black Hole Army in shambles and its leader dead, but in Advance Wars Dual Strike they have somehow returned, stronger than ever. The continent is quickly turning into a desert, and it's obvious enough that the two are connected, but it's some time until you see how.
Dual Strike starts off with two new Commanding Officers, Jake and Rachel, beginning a counter attack against the Black Hole army. Throughout the game you'll be joined by 13 other COs coming from all nations, with three new arrivals. There's also four new Black Hole Army COs, although I'm hesitant to call two of them - Koal and Jugger - new on account of being blatant copies of Flak and Adder.
The first two Advance Wars games had something nontraditional about the way the campaign was structured; Advance Wars had your performance, choice of CO, and method of victory influence who you had for the final mission and which of two splitting paths you'd take. Advance Wars 2 let you do missions in each campaign in a nonlinear fashion and skip up to two each campaign. In Dual Strike, you go through all of the missions in order. There are a few missions where you can find maps to laboratories where new units are being researched. After beating those, that unit is made available. There are about thirty campaign missions and a hard mode, something unique about the hard mode is that you are allowed to use any CO you have at any time.There are seven new units; the Megatank, Stealth Fighter, Aircraft Carrier, (all of which are gotten at certain parts of the game) Black Bomb, Black Boat, Pipe Runner, (those three are gotten from laboratories) and Oozium (which cannot be made at all outside of by the enemy at the final mission, although the enemy has them in finite numbers in other missions). The Stealth Fighter and Megatank both have no easily available counter. The former, while cloaked, can attack ground and sea forces with complete impunity because only expensive fighters can target it.
The Megatank shrugs off artillery fire and walks over Md Tanks, let alone tanks and mech (mechanized infantry, soldiers with bazookas who aren't actually mechanized at all) units, which are the cheap anti-tank units. Black Bombs are kamikaze units, they detonate and do severe damage to all units within three spaces. With two, you can completely cripple an army. They can't be countered either, because they're tied with fighters for having the longest movement range, meaning you can't destroy them before they have a chance to detonate.
Pipe Runners aren't very useful (unless you're using Hachi, and if you are then you should be ashamed) because they can only move along pipes and cities, but they have an indirect fire range of 2-5 spaces and a large movement range. Black Boats are ships that can transport two infantry units and repair/resupply friendly units. Oozium have a movement range of one, are very durable, and can one hit kill anything by moving onto it.
There are about 27 COs, with all of the past COs returning except Sturm. COs like Grit and Hachi remain as overpowered as ever, yet several COs have needlessly been nerfed. Most of the new COs have bonuses that are either inconsequential or you can't build a strategy around (like having extra damage on X terrain), so day to day most COs have the same play style. Your CO matters least in Dual Strike out of all the games (a criticism unfairly leveled at Advance Wars Days of Ruin, which I will review next), and yet it still manages to be the most imbalanced.
There is a new gameplay mechanic that makes Dual Strike very different from the first two games; having two COs for one army. This lets you switch between the two of them at the end of every turn, and adapt to new problems as they arise. There's also a new type of battle, where you have two CO's fighting on two fronts; winning the first front causes you to win the battle, but if you win the second front then your CO there joins you on the primary front making it 2 vs 1, and all your units there are converted into your CO Power gauge (almost ensuring you'll be able to use a Super CO Power or Tag Power). You can send troops from the primary front to the secondary front, and having to manage both of them makes battles more interesting. You can choose between having the AI control the secondary front or doing it personally in multiplayer and sometimes in the campaign, but usually in the campaign you have to let the AI do it.
The two CO idea is mostly well implemented, but it severely stumbles in one area; Tag Powers. It lets COs use their Super CO Powers back to back and move twice in a row. These are ridiculously overpowered because of that, there's nothing you can really do to fight them since afterwards you probably won't have much left.
War Room, Vs. mode, and the level designer return, with the former having about 40 maps, the second having about 140, and the latter being the same as it always has been; a level designer with most of the terrain and enemies available, with a limit of three maps saved at any time. Something new is survival and combat.
Survival has three modes;turn, money, and time. They each limit that one resource and have you clear as many maps as you can. There's the basic course and champion course for each, the former having 11 maps to clear and the latter being labeled 'infinite'. The maps for each are unique, and I'm not sure how many their are for each, but that puts it at at least 33 maps, most likely many, many more.
Combat is essentially an Advance Wars themed 2D shooter, where you buy some units before each round and then win by either capturing the enemy HQ or eliminating all the enemies.There are about 40 War Room levels, 140 versus mode levels, 60 campaign levels, well over 30 Survival levels, and most of those can be played with any combination of one or two out of twenty seven COs. You also have design mode and combat on top of all that, this is a game that you could, imbalanced or not, easily spend over 100 hours on. It's also the easiest Advance Wars game, so if you are remotely interested in Advance Wars this is the best game to start with.
7.75/10, don't forget to rate and comment etc.
*This review was not edited to address the Tag CO mechanics