A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is the most mature game yet in the Advance Wars franchise. While all of the games in the series focus on war, this is the darkest of the bunch, featuring a world that has been laid to waste by a near-extinction meteor shower and is now filled with depressed, ruthless, self-serving survivors. That said, players step into the boots of a group of altruistic soldiers whose actions and motives are never anything short of admirable. Still, there is a bit of coarse language, and the strategy can be quite complex, making it best suited for older kids, 10 and up. Also note that this game can be played online over a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for kids under age 12.
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What's it about?
The darkest entry yet in Nintendo's highly popular handheld strategy series, ADVANCE WARS: DAYS OF RUIN is set shortly after a meteor storm devastates a planet dominated by two warring nations. Though both governments are gone and there are few survivors, the militaries of both countries continue to fight each other.
Taking the role of a group of soldiers who still fly the flag of one of the destroyed nations, players maneuver soldiers, tanks, aircraft, and boats -- each with their own movement abilities, weapon types, and weaknesses -- around a gridded map in drawn-out, chess-like battles.
Is it any good?
Days of Ruin's plot is easily the most compelling of any Advance Wars game to date, featuring surprisingly multifaceted characters on all sides of the conflict who contemplate the reasons why they fight and wisely question their leaders' motivations. Still, the story plays out with naught but text dialog and still images, so don't go in expecting Final Fantasy-quality dramatic narrative. And the game itself remains very similar to its predecessors. Players still need to secure factories to build new units, keep an eye on enemy patterns and tactics, and skillfully navigate diverse terrain that can hinder or increase the movement or vision range of different units. However, the biggest difference between Days of Ruin and other games in the series comes in the form of original units. For example, you now have available a Flare Tank capable of revealing hidden enemies and a new nuisance for helicopters and troops in the form of the Duster plane.
Unfortunately, the one major problem in the series has still been left unaddressed in this game: some missions don't allow for creative strategizing but instead force players to employ specific tactics in order to win the day.
The DS library has plenty of fun tactics games suitable for older kids, including Days of Ruin's predecessor, Advance Wars: Dual Strike. You might also try Luminous Arc, Front Mission, and Age of Empires: The Age of Kings. PlayStation Portable owners interested in turn-based strategy might consider Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Field Commander, or Jeanne D'Arc. Console players can checkout the Wii's Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why nations go to war with one another. In this game, the factions' reasons for fighting transform from a legitimate dispute to simple hatred. Can you draw any parallels to historical conflicts in our own world? Families can also talk about getting creative with the game's easy-to-learn map editor. Can you use it to recreate real-world geography? If you recreate the United States by thoughtfully placing mountains, deserts, shorelines, and major cities, then set up an invading army, are you able to fend it off by strategically using the country's natural terrain to your advantage?