Sometimes simple games are the most addictive and engrossing. I enjoyed, to a certain extent, the strategy in Final Fantasy: Tatics Advance, but it really wasn’t too hard. There are many characters available and you can switch “jobs” anytime you want to improve a certain area of a character, making your characters a formidable fighting force, effectively reducing the amount of strategy and forethought before each fight. More time was spent determining which members of your party were best suited for the laws of the encounter. It was fun and midly addictive, but it didn’t burn too many brain cells to beat.
Now that I’m back to playing Advance Wars, I really think it is a better game. I think its appeal is its simplicity. There are only a handful of units available and each commanding officer has a certain power that gives him a brief advantage. Moves require chess-like preparation, avoiding long range missile attacks while considering the best defensive position for the next computer turn. The strategy component of AW is much more pronounced. Each move will impact the next. When I played Age of Empires, my strategy and style was build up a big army and then send them to their death while I pumped out more units. Wars in Age of Empires usually become wars of attrition. Not so in Advance Wars. Often you have a limited arsenal and you’ll need each and every unit. Brute force usually isn’t the best answer (unless your C.O. is Max). The computer can be brutal, too. But while the computer AI is tough, I wonder what a human opponent would be like.