This year, Nintendo focused its Electronic Entertainment Expo digital event on reviving its old franchises more than they have in quite a few years. We have a new Star Fox, a new Zelda, and a new Mario. Of course, fans are bemoaning online about how their cherished series is missing (or this year, the “blasphemous” form one took), and to me, the biggest absence is … Advance Wars.
Advance Wars is actually part of Nintendo’s Wars series dating back to 1988 with Famicom Wars, one the company’s longest-running series, so it has the retro cache that would have fit in well at the conference. It’s the 10th anniversary of Advance Wars: Dual Strike, so now would’ve been the perfect time for it. The other franchises that made comebacks this year, Star Fox and Metroid, have been dormant for only four and five years, respectively. Advance Wars has been away for seven.
And yet, nothing.
Some fans might point to Codename: S.T.E.A.M. and say it’s a successor to Advance Wars, but it’s not nearly the same thing. Advance Wars gives you the closest thing you could have to a real-time strategy game on the go. While it’s turn-based, but since you can create units whenever you want and amass different armies based on your approach to a given mission, it has the same on-your-think feet thinking of a StarCraft or Command and Conquer.
Codename S.T.E.AM. and Advance Wars’ sibling, Fire Emblem, focuse more on character progression and upgrades, making them more like RPGs than Advance Wars does. It makes you feel smart because no matter how much the A.I. threatens your forces, every mission gives you all the tools you need to win. Fire Emblem is great, but neither does it nor Codename S.T.E.A.M. provide the same satisfaction.
The last game in the series, Days of Ruin, attempted to liven up the series by giving it a more serious tone, possibly because the series’ sales were on the downturn. But now, with the fondness for the series absence has brought, Nintendo is poised to take advantage for the nostalgia many have for Advance Wars and bring the series back to its roots: cutesy soldiers, with teenage commanding officers leading the fight each other.
Advance Wars’ absence at Nintendo’s event also highlights another missing piece for Nintendo at E3: the lack of any discussion about its recent mobile partnership with DeNA. Now, talking about its new direction in mobile gaming would have been a bit out-of-place for an event centered around making hardcore fans happy, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
Nintendo could have introduced a couple of mobile-centric titles, with Advance Wars leading the charge. A lot of fans may have been wary of anything mobile-related, since they might see smartphone and tablet games from Nintendo as a betrayal of the company’s values. But if the publisher is committed to not making the same kinds of games other mobile companies do, Advance Wars would have been a great way to assuage those fears. If they made a feature-rich game that held up to the rest of the series, it could have created some goodwill with fans about their mobile strategy.
I’m still hopeful Nintendo will announce a new Advance Wars soon. After all, Codename S.T.E.A.M. wasn’t announced at their special event last year — it was announced the day after, during the show. They could also announce a new game at the Tokyo Game Show in September. But if they don’t, it’s a real shame, since it could have been the perfect franchise to bring back, especially now. And because I really, really miss Advance Wars.