Click, Move, Click, Click – The story of an action

advance Wars 006 from Eurogamer

For the last week I have been obsessively trying to recall my past life with a game. It all started last Wednesday, me and Kalmfist were round a friend’s house chewing the fat about games. Kalmfist mentioned in a quiet, embarrassed voice that we used to spend all night playing Advance Wars, passing the DS between us, one person clicking, the other quietly waiting for their turn.

Click, Move, Click, Click

Later that night, while I was walking home I thought about Advance Wars (AW) again. I had loved that game, I still love that game. Like the truly best games it had a purity to it. I could remember the different types of units and how its intricate web of rock paper scissors fitted together to create a fascinating level of strategic depth, all hidden behind a manga story of kids fighting wars.

Click, Move, Click, Click

The next day I searched for AW.  I found the games easily, three of them; two for the Gameboy advanced and one for the DS.  But the consoles were missing. I had kind of known that the DS was gone, it had disappeared a few years earlier, but I had put the thought out of my mind because I didn’t want to tell Kalmfist. But the GBA, I had seen that, recently.  Maybe the pixies had taken it.

Click, Move, Click, Click

At the height of our AW obsession, me and Kalmfist had gone halves on a DS.  Advance Wars: Dual Strike had come out; I couldn’t afford a DS just for one game, but the desire ran deep.  In the end we just both chipped in. Considering we were in our late twenties and both working this was odd, more like teenage behaviour, but as I said the obsession ran deep.

Click, Move, Click, Click

By Sunday things were beginning to get out of hand; both consoles were missing and I needed to play AW. I started looking at ROMs: checking the web I found a bunch of sites that had AW ROMs for download. But when I tried to download them my virus checker would sound alarms all over the shop. Hurm, maybe I needed to research this whole ROM thing a bit before I went any further…and so I did and it all looked straightforward. And thinking about it, it is likely the virus checker was flagging stuff up because the ROMs breach copyright, still I was not sure I wanted to risk it.

As I stopped and thought about the experience I would get, my doubts about the whole ROM enterprise increased. The GBA had a screen of about 240 x 160 pixels, my PC display is about 1200 x 900. So whichever way you look at it, AW was going to look crap on the PC. I needed a new plan.

Click, Move, Click, Click

I have never really got on with handhelds, which makes the fact that I have brought three different Gameboys somewhat odd. I want to like handhelds, I do like some of the games for that I have brought for handhelds a lot, but I am always a bit ambivalent about the consoles themselves. I think this is because deep down I dislike how they make me think about games, I am a gamer, a player of games, but when I take a handheld out and play it on the bus or the train I always feel like I am frittering my time away. I don’t if I play it at home but I do if I am travelling.  It’s not as if I am embarrassed, in fact, I am always secretly proud, it’s that the only time I read is when I am travelling. So I feel guilty about squandering my reading time playing games; and I don’t ever want to feel like games are a waste of time, because to me they are not. So all of this is a long winded way of saying that I only play handhelds sat at home on the sofa, which kind of makes a mockery of the purpose of them.

Click, Move, Click, Click

If playing AW on the PC would feel wrong, then maybe, just maybe, I could find some way to play it on the iPad. Some searching later and I stop, take a deep breath, and forget the whole idea. There is nothing legal available on the iPad that can emulate Gameboy games and everything else involves ‘jail-breaking’ the iPad; and frankly if I can’t be arsed to download ROMs onto my PC then I definitely can’t be arsed to jail-break my iPad. Still, if I can’t get AW on the iPad maybe someone has made a remake of it…

Click, Move, Click, Click

Despite my love of AW I never loved the DS, I always felt cheated by it.  I wanted to love it, but it was just so ugly. I felt cheated because I could – should – have bought a beautiful DS Lite. This feeling is made all the worse because I was in Japan soon after the Lite’s launch – I must have gone into thirty Japanese games shops looking for a Lite but they were always sold out. Instead I had to make do with the big, bumpy, ugly DS.

Click, Move, Click, Click

After some research I plumped for Uniwar on the iPad, it was only 79p. To begin with it looked like Uniwar might scratch my AW itch, but then I began to see through it. Frankly, it is a bit too simplistic, much of the joy with AW is the way that supply of units is really important. Units can run out of fuel and ammo. But Uniwar had none of these aspects. After a few rounds I began to realise that even though it was a nice little game, it was no AW.

Click, Move, Click, Click

GBA SP

Whilst I bought a GameBoy Advanced and a Nintendo DS and when they came out originally, my favourite Gameboy was definitely the SP.  I am still sure that it is in the house somewhere. A lovely little black box, I find the way the clam shell closes over it just delightful. I think if I was stranded on a desert island, the SP would be my luxury of choice to try and help get me through it.

Click, Move, Click, Click

By Monday I have a plan to scratch my AW itch. At lunch time I walk into GAME and stare for five minutes at the array of 3DS’s, finally one of the staff asks if he can help, Yes, yes you can. I explain my need for a DS and he shows me a range of different models, who knew they did so many?  Still, I guess when something is that successful you want to make the most of it. All the different types are second hand, the 3DS is king now, but I don’t want one of them, after all they haven’t released Advanced Wars for it, yet. In the end I plump for a DSi – I wanted a Lite but the only one they hand was scratched to hell and I won’t need the backwards compatibility of the Lite if I can just find my SP. At £35 I was well satisfied, I do like buying consoles when they have been superseded.  When I got back to work I plugged it in to give it a nice charge for when I got home.

Click, Move, Click, Click

Rummaging through my games collection when I got home, I found the two GBA AW games and one for the DS, but it looked a bit odd. I took it downstairs and slotted it into the DSi; AW came up but it was different, I didn’t recognise it.  A quick search on the internet revealed that this was the fourth game and slowly a memory came back to me of buying it and playing it for a few minutes, then deciding that I had had enough of AW and needed to get back to playing some other game…Oblivion maybe?

But now with a new console in my hand it is just the game I want to play, a whole new AW game to play on a lovely clam shell DSi. And so I start: Click, I select a unit, Move, I run the solider forward to attack, Click, yes I want to attack, Click, yes I really mean it, and then the animation plays out and I am onto my next unit, I run the solider forward to attack, Click, yes I want to attack, Click, yes I really mean it, and then the next Click, Move, Click, Click. And as I give my army its marching orders I realise I have fallen into a lovely rhythm, long lost but now fondly rediscovered, Click, Move, Click, Click.

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