Grab Your Hard Hat
Consoles definitely have not gotten their fair share of strategy titles over the last twenty years. When one thinks of the RTS genre, the first platform that comes to mind is usually the PC. Command and Conquer, WarCraft, StarCraft, and so on, have all established themselves as either iconic or just amazing strategy titles.
However, the other platform that comes to mind is the handheld, which usually houses a couple of strategy games itself. One in particular is the Advanced Wars games, which have come to be known as some of the greatest games on the Game Boy Advance and DS. Some may not be aware of this, but Battalion Wars is actually the console version of the quirky handheld series. With a little more emphasis on humor and action than strategy, Battalion Wars 2 is a step in the right direction for the series, but still isn’t as definitive as it could have been.
With the lack of hot action titles for the Wii at the moment, Battalion Wars 2 was actually somewhat hyped unlike its predecessor. Though not a top tier title for the GameCube, the original was refreshing and brought about a unique take on the strategy genre. The problem with the original though was the real lack of depth in the unit control department. Units could be controlled, but there was very little that you could actually do with them. Battalion Wars 2 gives players a lot more freedom and the chance to constantly switch between land, air, and water unit types. From tanks and jeeps to battleships and air strike planes, the vehicles are diverse and plenty, giving every action game enthusiast the kind of fun they’re always looking for. No matter what the genre though, a game always has to start from the beginning.
Probably the biggest improvement from the first game in the series is the well told story. Unlike the previous Battalion Wars which kind of just threw you in the midst of battle, Battalion Wars 2 provides an interesting background to what is actually happening in the lands of Xylvania. Basically, the title begins the story about 200 years before you actually take control of your army. At that time, a war was being waged between the Solar Empire and the Iron Legion of Old Xylvania. Why? Well, the game doesn’t really divulge in the details of the conflict, but it seems to be over the possession of an ultimate weapon. And it is that weapon, the Staff of Qa-Len, which caused the war to end in favor of the Empire. Fast forward 200 years later. You are now in control of the Solar Empire and must fight off the same Xylvanians that threatened them all those years ago. Funny how things always come full circle.
Another highlight of Battalion Wars 2 is that you can play the game from multiple perspectives. Up to six factions can be played as you progress through the campaign, with each having their own unique vehicles, units, and weaponry. For example, one division may have more infantry, while another may specialize in naval combat. Depending on the mission and group you are controlling, you will have to make the correct decisions on how to approach the opposition. Speaking of which, battles play out like a rock-paper-scissors showdown. Tanks and other ground vehicles have advantage over infantry and building structures, but are at a disadvantage against anti-tank and air units. On the other hand, special units like the fighter jets and anti-air missiles are generally only useful against one or two combat types. Learning what is and what isn’t useful when facing different scenarios is really the highlight of the strategic portion of the game.
This generally means that while the title is classified as a strategy game, it really isn’t where the primary focus of the game lies. Though you will have command over a specific number of units depending on the mission, there isn’t really a whole lot of micromanagement to be done. As the commander of your squadron, you will have the ability to take full control over any particular piece on the proverbial playing board. Whether it is a rifleman, rocket unit, helicopter, or battleship, jumping between troops and war vehicles is the primary task you will be doing. While you are in the drivers’ seat, you will have up to four options you can give to your other men: wait, follow, attack, and defend. If you do not give an order while you are in control of a particular unit, your clan mates will generally be in a passive-aggressive state that will attack anything that engages them. And while this will be enough for the pawns, larger units will basically overrun them. All in all, the difficulty is fairly balanced and the game gives you enough hints and instructions to stay on top of things.
New to the Battalion Wars line is the inclusion of underwater battles, which are a personal favorite of mine. From enormous battleships and tiny gun-ships to the dynamic submarine, the water based confrontations of Battalion Wars 2 make for some of the best fights in the game. The reason for this is because unlike other strategy titles, the battles take place in real time. Even though uncontrolled units will be more of a point and click affair, infantry and battle vehicles under your command can approach, dodge, and fire with little delay. Thus, unlike in games like Command and Conquer, timing is a major factor and can be the difference between victory and a humiliating defeat. Yet if there is one aspect of the game that falters a bit’ it is the control scheme. Units are controlled with the Nunchuk’s analog stick and can fire with the combination of the Z and B button. It is possible to try and aim at units with the Wii-mote, but the approach is not nearly accurate enough to be of any use. Also, like with other games, the Nunchuk’s motion controls are a bit overly sensitive. For example, twitching the Nunchuk up will cause the soldier to jump, while turning it left or right will force him to roll. While it is good that companies are making use of the unique features of the Wii’s controller, a lot of commands could be executed so much easier with just the push of a button.
This isn’t to say that all of the control mechanics within Battalion Wars 2 are poor; the Wii-mote does get some uses in a lot of surprising ways. For example, certain flight units like the helicopter and heavy gun-ship can be maneuvered by twisting the Wii-mote left and right. Though this isn’t a mandatory control option, it does make air combat a lot more fun. Some other specific uses for the Wii-mote include adjusting the on-screen camera, shifting through start screen selections, and even controlling the guns on some of the land and naval units. So, there is plenty of use for both peripherals, but in all honesty, a lot of the actions you do with both could’ve easily been done with a classic or GameCube controller. However, that would’ve probably taken away from the “experience.” At least Kuju Entertainment and Nintendo seem to be on the right track.
Overall, the single player campaign is a large improvement over the original even though the game is slightly easier than the first one. Whether this is because of the Wii’s control functions or not is up for debate, but the title’s pace and difficulty balance couldn’t be better. When everything is said and done, the single player mode wraps up at about ten hours, but there is plenty of replayability in the form of graded missions. After you complete a mission, you will be awarded a score of S, A, B, or C. The factors for getting the higher scores will be based on how many units you destroy, objectives you complete, and time you finish in. Even though there will be times when you get an A when you thought you deserved an S, the constant challenge of getting higher honors will keep you continually interested. Hey, what’s not to like about getting that bigger score? Bragging rights, my friends, bragging rights.
Extending the replay value even further is the addition of an online multiplayer mode that houses a cooperative and versus mode. In cooperative, you and a friend will take charge of a couple of special units and work together on completing a particular objective, just as you would in the campaign mode. It is the two versus modes that make up the meat of the multiplayer, even though you can only have up to two players battling it out at a time. In Assault mode, you will face off against a friend who will try to stop you from completing a number of objectives. These can range from picking up neutral units to destroying your opponent’s buildings. Meanwhile, the other player will be on the defensive and try to take out all your troops before you can complete your tasks. The other mode, Skirmish, is basically as it sounds. Both you and a friend or stranger will face off in an all out war, with the winner being the one who inflicts the most damage to the other. This is made simpler by the fact that the multiplayer handles lag very well. Despite multiple sessions, I never experienced slowdown unless there was a lot happening on the screen at once. All in all, it would’ve been nice to see a few more game modes, such as “artillery only” or King of the Hill, but there is enough here for the casual player.
The visuals in Battalion Wars 2 are quite impressive for a Wii game, even if they are only slightly more advanced than the first outing on the GameCube. Most of the obstacles in the environment are destructible, especially mountains, trees, and rocks, and the water is on par with the effects found within Super Mario Sunshine. The game still has a very cartoony feel to it, from the tiny infantry with big eyes to the overly rounded ships, planes, and tanks. And just like in the Harvest Moon series, little pre-drawn animations of specific characters will appear when they are communicating with you. On the other side of the coin is the audio, which is some of the best that I’ve heard on the Wii to date. From the explosion effects and upbeat music to the remarkable voice acting, it is obvious that Kuju Entertainment tried to recreate the charm and presentation quality of the original, and they definitely succeeded.
At the end of the day, Battalion Wars 2 may seem like nothing more than a unoriginal take on the Advance Wars series, but it is more than that. The quality of the presentation, action-oriented battles, and solid multiplayer mode all add up to a game that is worth a recommendation. With little on the Wii these days aside from ports and mini-games, Battalion Wars 2 is a breath of fresh air. It is important to remember that while this is classified as a strategy title, it would be more appropriate to say that it is an action game. There will definitely be some moments where thinking is required, but the lack of troop and money management may be disappointing for hardcore fans of the RTS genre. Nevertheless, with all that the game offers, there is little reason not to give it a try. Whether you need a change of pace from all the shallow mini-games or just a title to hold you over until Super Mario Galaxy, Battalion Wars 2 is certainly worth a go.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The environments are diverse and the lighting effects are adequate, but not that much of a jump was made from the GameCube hardware. The cartoony characters are a nice touch though. 3.4 Control
A lot of the controls feel like they could’ve been done on a basic controller and the Nunchuk motion sensing is awkward. The multiple uses of the Wii-mote help balance things out though. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The effects and different themes definitely immerse you in the experience and the voice acting adds both a humorous and quality touch to the presentation. 4.6
The single player campaign will give you between ten and fifteen hours of play time, with the well-done multiplayer providing even more. The grading system is also a nice touch.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.