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Thursday, April 27, 2023

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl: Two Faithful Remasters With Different Fan Receptions

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - It bothers me how different the fanbases are.

Congratulations to Advance Wars fans on their long-awaited release of Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp, which released on April 21, 2023. (That year is important!) It is a mostly faithful high-definition remaster of Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising (2001 and 2003, respectively), both from the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, developed by the team at WayForward, who wouldn't normally handle Advance Wars stuff. Intelligent Systems trusted WayForward to do a good job with it. WayForward brought a new art style. Advance Wars fans are mostly happy.

Compare and contrast that to Pokémon fans with their long-awaited release of a Nintendo Switch version of Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl (two Nintendo DS games released 2006–2007), also known as a multi-year cry for “SINNOH REMAKES!”. Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond released on the Nintendo Switch on November 19, 2021. These remasters were developed by the team at ILCA, who wouldn't normally handle Pokémon game development, but GAME FREAK trusted them. ILCA brought a unique art style. Unfortunately, Pokémon fans are mostly unhappy with these releases, with the unnotable exception of myself.

What happened for these different fan receptions to two sets of products that have a similar design philosophy and respect for the originals? Let's discuss.

First of all, there is the simple fact that Advance Wars fans have been STARVING for content since Advance Wars: Days of Ruin released in 2008 on the DS. Sure, 2008 also brought the Infantry and Tanks Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but for whatever reason, that got removed by the time Super Smash Bros. Ultimate came around. 2017 brought a very distressing interview with Intelligent Systems about how Advance Wars didn't fit the kind of personal relationships between characters that gamers allegedly expect in modern games to be viable, which made fans doubt a new Advance Wars would ever release. And while Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp is, by definition, not a new experience, it at least is SOMETHING that can signal to Nintendo that there is a fanbase for the game. Perhaps more importantly, there is a potential new fanbase that has never played the original titles before that would enjoy it and prove Intelligent Systems incorrect.

But then you look at Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, which is in a multimedia franchise that basically gets annualised releases and plenty of spin-offs. It followed Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and was then followed by Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Those games are very much NOT in the same linear storytelling and gameplay style that Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond are, and I personally have great distaste for the Wild Area that was a big factor in Sword and Shield. Still, Pokémon fans and the media said that Sword and Shield were a big evolutionary step forward for the franchise, while Legends: Arceus was portrayed as a very interesting step into new, Monster Hunter-esque territory. As a brave experiment by GAME FREAK. When you contrast those with a very safe, by-the-books remaster, that makes the remaster seem a lot less interesting. It's not a very fair context. Especially when Pokémon already has a glut of content. The Sinnoh remasters were portrayed by vocal detractors as just something that was quickly put together to make money in Holiday 2022 and nothing else.

Pokémon Shining Pearl angry chibi Cyrus walking Spear Pillar Palkia
My expression is a bit like Cyrus's with regards to the unfair treatment of Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond.

Neither of these games are exact 1:1 replicas. Both are a bit easier than before, for different reasons. Both games have so-called “quality of life” changes, though when Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond forces Experience All throughout the game experience with nothing in the game design to counteract that (the original games weren't designed with Experience All, and the remasters didn't rebalance the game to take its existence into account) and passes that off as a quality of life change, that's pretty bad. As for Advance Wars, the enemies now respect Fog of War, which they didn't in the originals. That certainly changes some strategies from the Game Boy Advance versions, and ought to make it easier. However, the AI still likes to blow up APC units with high priority. I've also read that some maps have slight adjustments in enemy units and such, but the actual Commanding Officer powers and bonuses are practically the same between the originals and the remakes. (I've read there's a difference with one CO, Drake, but it's rather niche.)

Pokémon Shining Pearl Team Galactic Grunt 1776 Poké dollars for winning
They did update the economy of Sinnoh in the remasters so trainers gave more money (you can now spend money on clothes).
1776 WILL COMMENCE AGAIN... only in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond!

Both games also made unlocking things easier. Advance Wars had quite a troublesome method of unlocking all of the COs for War Room use based on diverging campaign paths that you might want a guide for. But Re-Boot Camp is much more straight-forward. Similarly, Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond has a reformed Grand Underground that makes finding certain rare or otherwise inaccessible Pokémon much more possible, as well as Ramanas Park existing to make some legendary Pokémon capturable that otherwise wouldn't be. You could consider those unlockables, even unlockables that weren't in the originals!

The games have an updated soundtrack, with the changes in Re-Boot Camp quite a bit more pronounced. Which makes sense, given that the GBA is their starting point versus the aurally competent Nintendo DS. There are definitely some great tracks that glowed up a bit. The art styles are pretty similar in the kind of direction they go to, and I've seen people are critical of both sets for it. I'm fine with both.

So Advance Wars gets the better rap than Pokémon when it comes to the faithful remasters despite their similar philosophies, mostly because Advance Wars fans recognise this rebooted remaster must succeed for the franchise to continue, while Pokémon will keep going regardless. At least the Advance Wars fans are happier now and are more pleasant to be around. You know, not gloating to other fanbases. They're humble!

Ludwig wanted to stick Lash at the end of the article because she looks way better in Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp than she actually did in Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, and he appreciates that a lot. Feel free to call Ludwig a hypocrite in the comments section, since he actually didn't buy Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp. That's because he has the GBA cartridge of Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising and has played it very recently, and he also has heard that Advance Wars (the first one) isn't really great, campaign design-wise. While he has the DS card of Pokémon Diamond, he doesn't want to erase its data with a new save file. His DS system is also pretty screwed up, while his GameCube's Game Boy Player still works very well. But if you never played the originals of the games discussed in this article, you owe it to yourself to get these remasters, because you'll like them.

Ludwig wrote a formal article dedicated to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl describing how the remasters actually improved on almost every bit of release-era criticism that Diamond and Pearl received.


  1. Thinking about it, we've had quite the amount of reboots and remasters between this year and last year. Kinda gives you that warm feeling inside that all those dead Nintendo franchises may at least be able to look a bit nicer as a remaster even if the series doesn't get fully picked up again. I think I've said it before but these two games, as well as Links awakening, kinda have that toybox feel. Which reminds me of the recent Yoshi games, but also makes me wonder what's next for that series. Probably Claymation I'd think, they could use that style to remake Yoshis Story.

    Was this a typo? I understand what your saying but it reads a bit clunky.
    "though when Pokémon Shining Pearl and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond forces Experience All throughout the game experience with nothing in the game design to counteract that"

    1. Yoshi ought to be dead for a while after repeatedly putting out stinkers. Woolly World being an exception.

      It's written correctly in the context of the full sentence. I think deeming EXP All a "quality-of-life" feature is butchering what QoL is supposed to mean.

  2. "At least the Advance Wars fans are happier now and are more pleasant to be around. You know, not gloating to other fanbases. They're humble!"

    Seems the more entitled fans of the originals are nowhere to be seen now. The ones who bashed on the toybox look.

    I remember how the Metroid 2 remake got entitled fans wanting it to fail because Nintendo gave a cease and desist letter to the unofficial remake.

    1. (Well, there's some AW fans out there that are still quite unpleasant to be around... you know some.)


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