Battalion Wars 2ESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer – Kuju Entertainment
Publisher - Nintendo
1 player (offline)
1-2 player (online)
I have to admit that I have a soft spot for turn based strategy games and I can spend huge amounts of time just watching my opponent squirm under my wrath. Games like Military Madness (Turbographx) and Iron Storm (Sega Saturn) are some of my favorites. When the Battalion Wars series debuted on Nintendo’s handheld hardware as Advance Wars the game quickly became one of my top 10 titles. This series was eventually released on the GameCube as Battalion Wars and it has recently graduated to the Wii. Battalion Wars 2 is once again developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Nintendo. While I love the single player aspect of the game I was really looking forward to the online component and how the Wii remote and nunchuk would be incorporated into the gameplay.
Battalion Wars 2 features a graphic style that can look pretty realistic, but in a very cartooish way. Such things as planes, tanks and guns are well represented, but they all have a bloated comical look about them. This gives the game as a kid friendly look and feel. The vehicles have an exaggerated cartoon style but they animate with realistic physics. Another example of the graphic style is how the soldiers throughout the game look. They are nothing like a grizzled war torn veteran that most of us are accustomed too in a war sim game; in fact they tend to look short, stout and extremely bouncy as they run. Although somewhat comical, they fit the theme of the game perfectly.
Battalion Wars 2 supports both progressive-scan and 16:9 wide screen displays, which makes videophiles like me happy. That being said I wish the Wii had true high-def ability; it’s tough to go from a 720p or 1080i to a 480p. This is a minor gripe though. Battalion Wars 2 looks better, graphically, than its predecessor, but in many of the areas textures have a fairly low-res look, sometimes looking washed out and somewhat bland. In fact I found in some of these muddy environments caused some targeting to become very difficult as it was tough to discern enemies from the surrounding textures. That being said, there are other times the game looks amazing. I was pleasantly surprised to find reflections off of some of the machinery and even water lying in pools on the battlefield. This reminded me that the Wii does have some graphical processing power. I’m not sure how or why the graphics can swing from fantastic to somewhat horrible but the inconsistency between the two can cause problems during some of your battles. The game runs at a fairly consistent 30 frames per second, only dipping during some battle intensive scenes. This was also seemed to be the case online thru the Wi-Fi connection.
The game also boasts many cut-scenes and mini-movies that propel the story along. They all look great with minimal loading, and contained some of the better looking graphics with a similar graphics engine used to power the gameplay. Kuju Entertainment really took some time in making them look good, with some excellent production work.
What really struck me on the Battalion Wars 2 sound front was the really excellent voice acting in the game. All the main characters had voice work associated with them. They vary from the kind hearted and gentle to the evil and maniacal. While sometimes they may have been a little over the top (e.g. the British accented guy), for the most part they are an integral part of the game and really helped in heightening the atmosphere and somewhat darker mood of the title.
The musical score is also pretty well done, with the main theme being the best. The score is made up of mostly orchestrated pieces, and for the most part is drowned out by the action on screen. The game runs in Dolby Pro-Logic 2 with great separation and clarity throughout the title. I could hear planes flying behind me, or missiles shooting by, and jarring tanks that made my subwoofer rumble.
When I first fired up Battalion Wars 2 and sat through the opening cinematic intro, I couldn’t help but think how the story mocks the history of our world and its’ politics. The first mission has an English army which bombs an air base that reminds me of Pearl Harbour. The people they are bombing look oddly like they are Japanese or Asian decent. I found it pretty interesting how the developers may be messing with old history as they put a spin on it with their own creative concept. But then again perhaps I’m just drawing a broad conclusion.
Battalion Wars 2 starts off by having you complete a prologue mission to get accustomed to the games movements, weapons and control. While I understand the new Wii remote system and Nintendo’s strategy of getting people involved, I for one really don’t like having to manipulate a couple of controllers in different ways. While on one hand it’s a cool concept, but I have to be honest in that my personal preference is to be a couch potato when gaming. I like vegetating and getting right into a game, especially a real time strategy game. I would have loved an option to be able to use either the classic controller or the even the GameCube controller. That being said Battalion Wars 2 is not as controller involving as say the sports titles, and after an initial learning curve it does become almost second nature.
Gamers can choose from several armies, each with its own unique units (vehicles, soldiers, etc.). You get to control tanks, anti-air vehicles, artillery stations, jets, helicopters, subs, frigates and foot soldiers that can carry a wide array of weapons themselves. One thing totally new to the Battalion War series is the ability to control naval ships in battle. This used to be an Advance Wars exclusive, but this transfers well to this series on the Wii with minimal changes to control and deployment. Actually the control of everything in the game fits but you will have to master the Wii remote and nunchuk combination as you utilize each unit’s particular strengths and use them when you need to. In most cases the Wii remote is used to target your weapon cuticle, while the nunchuk will move your solider left to right and perform rolls and jumps. At first I found while I was concentrating on the nunchuk the targeting cuticle would flail around as the Wii remote is very sensitive. It will take a patient gamer to control with any efficiency. Practice does make perfect though and it took about 30 to 40 mins to really get a proper grasp of this scheme. The game has 20+ missions, each one ramping up gradually as you move on. The later levels get very battle intensive and require a constant barrage to keep the enemy at bay.
I really liked the scoring system used in Battalion Wars 2 as it’s very similar to its predecessors in Advance wars and the original Battalion Wars. You are judged and given a score after each mission. This score ranges from an S (superb) to A, B and C depending on how well you played the mission. The letter assignment directly takes into account your speed, power and technique. If you score an S in all of a campaign's missions you will unlock extra bonus content. If you don't, well, you will have something to come back for. This extends the life of the single player game as you will not get an S in all the rounds the first time through. You will most likely feel somewhat ripped off when you get scored lower than you wanted and this will make you change up your strategy the next time around.
Battalion Wars 2 also fully supports multiplayer through the Wii's Wi-Fi Connection. In order for you to play friends you’ll have to exchange Wii friend codes on each others machines, and of course have 2 copies of the game. You can also hook up with complete strangers via the Wi-Fi connection should you desire and after you have created a profile in the options which is a pretty simple affair. Three modes of play are highlighted; Skirmish, Assault and Co-op play with Assault being the most interesting of the three modes. Skirmish is a simple deathmatch versus a friend of your choice. Basically the last man with any units left standing is the winner. Co-op allows you and a friend to complete the campaign together which is a cool and effective way to dispose of mega tough bosses. Assault essentially gives one side a series of goals and objectives to complete, while the other side tries to stop those goals from being reached. This switches up allowing for each gamer to try the other side. This is by far the best and most enjoyable mode. The ensuing battles can be epic, as each side plays a tug-of-war with some or all the objectives. The only downer for online play, aside from the hassle of Wii codes, is the total lack of voice chat. The online component of any online game has to have this feature. This is very evident in the co-op mode. Sure, you can issue simple commands through the Wii remote telling them to target certain objects or enemies, but voice chat would've made things so much more enjoyable. During my online experience I did encounter some lag issues here and there while online but it never became an issue during gameplay. Overall I was quite impressed at how clean and trouble free the game ran.
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