November 8, 2007

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Battalion Wars 2, (Wii)
Nintendo, Oct. 29
By Glenn "Surface to air missles" Given production@hippopress.com

You can always count on Nintendo to develop a solid entertainnig Real Time Strategy/Squad Baed Shooter. Wait. What?

The house of Mario tried to sneak a sleeper franchise in when it released Battalion Wars for the Game Cube. Players maneuvered Tonka Toy-styled armies from an in-the-field commander’s viewpoint (a la Sacrifice and Goblin Commander) into each other with some fun animated pew-pew, the Rock-Paper-Thermite balance styles of an RTS and all the strategy of an 8-year-old throwing a shoebox of green army men and a shoebox of tan army men. Suprise, not too well received.

Nintendo’s swarming blastery has received a thorough spit and polish in BW2. You still hop perspectives from unit to unit with ease and can target enemy fortifications and assign defense and assault orders with a simple click of the Wii-mote. The entire experience benefits from the new control scheme, though. Using the Wii controller to direct your units on screen has a distinctly mousey point-and-click feeling to it that alleviates some of the awkwardness of console strategy games. While it can still be a skosh frustrating to target the specific unit you want to rain a hail of cute bullets down upon, for the most part it doesn’t matter. While your bazooka vets are aces at busting tanks and your frigates superb at running off enemy subs generally it is sufficient to simply order all your available units into the fray and hope for the best. I know, a tad disappointing for those of us in the South Korean Star Craft leagues but hey, perhaps you’re expecting too much.

This strategy serves succesfully for most missions in the roughly five-hour solo campaign, although some engagements behoove you to hold critical units like bombers and anti-air in reserve as their advantages will only be wasted on front line assaults. As you progress through two wars and six armies you may become a tad annoyed that your tactical options are limited to kill, defend, wait and follow, but, again, stop thinking too much. Battalion Wars 2 throws you into the explosive boomings and mass firefights with glee. You may frantically scan the hilltop for clutch enemies to sic your horde upon but this feeling you get as you plow into your foes and run around maniacally spewing destruction is called fun. Maybe you’ve missed it lately.

After you’ve stomped the decidely “un-Kasparov” strategies of the AI foes you can WiiFi your way into some quick and dirty multiplayer. Co-op missions divide your army between players and mimic the campaign style. In head- to-head matches you have the option of timed skirmishes, a simple brawl for high destruction values, or assault, which tasks one side with base defense and the other with objective point captures. It’s a shallow pool of online options but it serves to keep the title fresh after the short campaign mode creates that twinge of buyer’s remorse.

Some more online options would have been fun, as would a more distanced viewpoint from your commander, who can quickly get lost in the fray, but Battalion Wars 2 should satisfy the visceral gun frenzy contingent while keeping it, ya know, still kid-friendly. BGlenn Given