advancewarsDS.jpgvandalhearts.jpgOne of the most enduring subgenres of gaming is the Strategy-RPG, or SRPG as I’ll refer to it for the purposes of this write-up. Combining turn-based RPG conventions with grib-based strategy, these games are like a marriage of chess, Command and conquer, and Final Fantasy. From Shining Force on the Sega genesis to Final Fantasy Tatics, this subset of RPGS are easy to pick up and play, yet difficult to master. This week’s $20 GOTY and lost classics will take a look at two entries in this genre.

$20 GOTY: Advance Wars Dual Strike (Nintendo DS)

You DS fanboys can keep your hucka bucka Dog Training simulators, 10 year old N64 ports, Brain Training Games, and your latest version of Mario Kart. I’ll gladly grab this. The Advance Wars series was one of the most prolific games on the Game Boy Advance. When the DS was conceived, it was inevitable that Nintendo would bring it up to the portable, taking full advantage of it’s features. For those of you unfamiliar, Advance Wars is a turn-based strategy game where you utlize tanks, infantry, planes, and other military hardware in order to bring down your opponent. However, stockpiling funds, managing your equipment, and knowing the ablilties of your CO factor heavily into it. One wrong move could see your battle spinning out of control in a hurry.

This latest entry in the series makes use of the two screens to show info, assist in planning your movements, and even waging war on two different fronts. A variety of COs, each upgradable and with thier own abilities and skillsets will be at your deployment throughout each of the game’s modes. After you finish the Campaign, the War Room, Combat, Survival, and other modes will keep you in the game for months, as you earn points to unlock hidden features. Also, you can design your own maps, and play versus mode on them against a friend. Seeing as how Nintendo is finally getting thier online act together, we can expect an eventual Advance Wars game to take full use of Nintendo’s Wi-Fi capabilities to hopefully be announced in the near future.

Lost Classics: Vandal hearts (PS1)

Before Suikoden, it was quite rare to see Konami do RPGs, particulary an game as unique as this. As Ash and his 2 friends, (soon to be accompanied by several more throughout the course of the game) you work to unravel a conspiracy happening throughout the land. There is no on-foot exploration, as every thing that isn’t a battle, (shopping, talking, etc.) takes place in a menu subscreen interface. However, there are several secrets to be discovered, and your characters are upgradable, even changing thier looks. Although the graphics were pixilated, the game was deep, and it managed to offer something few other games of it’s type had before it: BLOOD! That’s right, after laying the final hit to an organic enemy, a geysher of red dye #2 would spurt up in the air, signifying thier rather explicit demise. This was definently something you wouldn’t expect from Konami, and this was released a little while before Final Fantasy tatics. If you come across this in a gamestore, pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.