I remember playing the original Advance Wars on my brother's GBA, and liking it so much I bought my own GBA just to have my own copy of it. I was hooked to Advance Wars, and couldn't wait for the second one. I bought it on the day it came out, and it was as good, if not better, than the first. You just can't say the same for Advance Wars: Dual Strike.
I suppose it may be a little unfair comparing it to the first two games, because it's still a good game overall, but I had such high expectations. First of all, you'll notice the graphics are different. They've given the field a 3D-tilt, which looks good at first but many of the maps don't even take up a whole screen. Unlike the first two, where the edges of the maps were extended to the edge of the screen, some only take up the center of the screen, leaving room on the outside. They should have just left it the way it was, as it doesn't affect gameplay and looks weird.
Also, many of the maps are... un-Advance Wars-ish. If you're expecting the traditional green plains and forests with the occasional city, you're wrong. In most of the maps there's a lot of desert and new elements, which is because of the story but the game would have done much better graphically without it. Wow, two whole paragraphs about the graphics, let's move on to something else.
The sound is perfect here, just like the last few games. Old characters have the same music as the first two games, and I can't complain about most of the new music. The extra screen on the DS is really helpful in the battles when you don't use it as a second front. It displays information that would normally be found by pausing the game. Now information will appear on the top screen just by moving the cursor over something. That really helps. But in the battles using two fronts... If I remember right, there aren't very many, but in most of them the second front is CPU controlled, which gets annoying.
"You: Oh over there the crystal-thingy has 3 HP left, destroy it!" "CPU: No, let's rush our bomber through their missiles and anti-air, we really need to get that infantry!" "You: B-b-but..." *Two turns later* Defeat
You get the picture, the CPU isn't exactly a genius at times. Enough said. The new COs - It seems like they're used mostly as "filler". Most of them are useless and you'll only use a select few, due to the level up system. You level up and earn skills, a new feature for the Advance Wars series. You can preset 1-4 skills before the battle, which range from increased attack to healing extra HP on cities. The game could have done completely fine without the leveling up and skills system, as it gets repetitive after a while. I spent more time in the war room leveling up COs than I did in campaign mode, which is a first. The story, not bad overall, Black Hole's back again and they want to take over the world, blah blah blah. We get it.
The new units - first of all, the "Oozium" is once again un-Advance Wars-ish. It can kill any unit in one attack, never misses, and has 99 HP. In Advance Wars 2 we got the Neo Tank, which was a cool addition, and in Advance Wars DS, we get the Mega Tank (just a bigger tank).
Black hole soldier: Commander, commander, enemy forces have found the lab! They're marching toward it right now with the intention of stealing the design for the uber-ultra-big-bang-bang-boom-mega-super tank! What will we do? Black Hole CO: Destroy the lab! How long will that take? Black hole soldier: Umm... 12 days sir. Black Hole CO: Make sure they don't get those designs! With the uber-ultra-big-bang-bang-boom-mega-super tank we will be able to finally take over the world!
Orange Star CO: Ok, we have 12 days to get those plans! Remember, if you run out of gas, ride the donkeys we hired. You won't be able to move fast but at least you won't have to walk like the infantry! Orange Star infantry: We quit!
Like the previous two, it has the map maker, and you can edit the colors of the COs, which is sometimes fun to do when you're taking a break from campaign. I found campaign to be easier than that of the first two, I only played a few hours a day and completed it in about 3 days.
I never really used the touch screen; it was a lot easier just to use the D-pad. I would have been happy with a few new COs, a new story, and the exact same gameplay. The gameplay is what made this game... the way it is. Overall, it's not a bad game but if you're new to the Wars world, I don't recommend starting anywhere but at the beginning.