Real Talk By: Brian DK
Several strategy and tactics series have seen a revival in the recent years. Fire Emblem: Awakening brought its franchise back from the brink of death. XCOM: Enemy Unknown revived a celebrated series and brought it into the modern era. And Microsoft just announced a new Age of Empires in development. The industry is ready for another installment in the Nintendo Wars saga.
Nintendo Wars got its start with Famicom Wars in 1988. Famicom Wars was a simple turn-based tactics game developed by Intelligent Systems (of Fire Emblem and Paper Mario fame). Players would pit opposing red and blue armies against each other in an attempt to achieve 8-bit dominance. Despite positive reviews and decent sales, Famicom Wars would never get a chance to invade the western market. Nintendo is infamous for playing it safe during the days of the NES/Famicom, and rarely localized games that it saw as risky or unpopular in the west. Other titles, such as Mother and Fire Emblem, would also never be localized for fear of an uninterested western audience.
The Nintendo Wars series would continue and make the leap to handheld consoles in 1991 with Game Boy Wars and to the Super Famicom in 1998. Both of these installments were met with critical and commercial success. Both titles were once again developed by Intelligent Systems.
The company Hudson Soft would also develop two sequels to Game Boy Wars. These titles departed from traditional Nintendo Wars mechanics and were developed in tandem with further Intelligent Systems installments. Hudson Soft’s last Nintendo Wars title, Game Boy Wars 3, would be released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color. The same year Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance worldwide.
Nintendo Wars would finally make the leap into western markets with the release of Advance Wars in 2001. Due to the tragedy of September 11th, the game was delayed in European markets and outright cancelled in Japan. Even in its reduced market, Advance Wars sold incredibly well and released to overwhelmingly positive reviews and spawned several direct sequels.
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (2003) and Advance Wars: Dual Strike (2005) built upon the successful formula of Advance Wars and added more personality and complexity to the combat system. The series continued to receive high praise from critics. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin released in 2008 and received criticism for its simplified tactical combat and departure from the colorful world of previous installments. Despite this, the game was still well received by critics and consumers alike.
Now, nearly a decade later, the series is seemingly dead.
Intelligent Systems has since found great success in the revival of its Fire Emblem franchise. In the last five years, the company has developed three new installments, a spin-off title, and a mobile game. Many have attributed the franchise’s newfound success on the strong character designs and (sometimes controversial) relationship-building systems. Hitoshi Yamagami, a producer for the three most recent installments of Advance Wars, is one such individual. In an interview with Eurogamer, Hitoshi mentioned interest in reviving the series, but couldn’t quite see how Fire Emblem’s relationship-building mechanic would translate to a modern war game.
Masahiro Higuchi, a producer for Intelligent Systems, also spoke to Eurogamer. “The Advance Wars series is one that I personally have a lot of interest in. I hear some of the staff here saying that they want to make one too, so if we have a chance it’s something I’d like to do!” So there’s still some hope out there.
It’s not ideal waiting for Intelligent Systems to figure out how to add a Tank Dating Simulator to the next Advance Wars game. Impatient fans might look to Wargroove to scratch their grid-based strategy itch.
Wargroove is a fantasy war game in development for the Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One. The look and feel of the game is extremely reminiscent of a fantasyAdvance Wars. Infantrymen are replaced with knights, fighter jets are replaced with dragons, and naval carriers are replaced with giant turtles. The game is being developed by Chucklefish Games, who have developed quite a following after last year’s Stardew Valley became a surprise hit. Wargroove is looking to release in early 2018.