The Battalion Wars series is a victim of bad luck when you really think about it. The first Battalion Wars was released for GameCube in September 2005 when the console was at the very end of its life, and most Nintendo fans were ready to move on to bigger things like the “Revolution” (later renamed Wii). September is a month when kids are going back to school and have less time for video games. When Battalion Wars 2 was released for the Wii, Nintendo was still dragging its feet about online gaming, and we were still stuck with friend codes and no voice chat. Therefore, the online multiplayer of Battalion Wars 2 never lived up to its full potential.
The Battalion Wars series is an example of wasted potential. It had everything it needed to become a much bigger commercial success, but it never lived up to that potential due to poor timing (GameCube) or poor online infrastructure (the Wii). Furthermore, there was never a serious attempt to advertise and promote it properly.
Nintendo never aimed higher than making it a “C” franchise when it had all of the ingredients to become a “B” or “A” franchise. Personally, I believe there is more market potential with a great Battalion Wars game than a Star Fox or Fire Emblem.
Battalion Wars has the basic foundation to become something much bigger and greater than what it currently is:
- Western appeal (people love games about war)
- Local and Online multiplayer
- Single player campaigns
- Vehicles (Airplanes, Tanks, Ships)
- Third person shooter gameplay
- Strategy elements
This brings me to my main point: Wii U.
The Wii U’s GamePad would fix some of the control issues that plagued Battalion Wars 2, and it would also add more strategy and depth to the gameplay (especially during online multi-player). Overall, the Wii U would be a much better fit for Battalion Wars than the GameCube and the Wii.
Imagine using the GamePad’s built-in microphone to give voice commands to your troops to follow your player, hold their positions, or attack targets. Players could draw routes on the touchscreen’s map to guide their troops to their destination in the safest way possible (similar to Pikmin 3). The benefit of two screens also means that you can watch your soldiers fight in two completely different places at the same time. On the television screen, your first group of soldiers could be fighting it out on the beach, while your second group is launching an attack up in the mountains (on the GamePad screen).
The GamePad’s map and radar could be used to monitor your opponent’s position while you strategically plan out aerial attacks with bomber aircrafts. On the GamePad, you could be in cockpit view, but you would see your aircraft in third person on the television. It would also be neat to use the GamePad’s gyroscope tilt controls to steer control of submarines, ships, and fighter jets.
In Metal Gear Solid 3D, the 3DS camera was used to create custom camouflage patterns. I would love to see that idea implemented into a Battalion Wars game! The Wii U GamePad’s built-in camera and touchscreen could be used to create custom camouflage patterns for your soldiers so they blend in with their environments. Players could also use the touchscreen to design a custom flag for their army.
To spot enemies from far away distances, the GamePad could be used like a pair of binoculars or infrared goggles to zoom in and see beyond what is visible on the television screen. This idea was explored in Super Mario 3D Land (and 3D World) where you could tilt the 3DS to move the binoculars.
Most of Steel Diver’s ideas could be experimented with the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen for a Battalion Wars game. “Steel Diver: Sub Wars” allowed players to control a submarine in a first person perspective, and it featured many intriguing ideas like using your radar to locate enemies, sending messages using morse code, and firing torpedoes on nearby enemies.
As an engineer, the GamePad’s touchscreen could be used to repair vehicles (tanks, planes, ships). Nintendo should also take a page out of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. With the GamePad, players could create completely new, customized vehicles with 1000’s of different components available, such as engines, wheels, wings, propellers, and weapons. This would make online multiplayer even more intense than your standard tanks and planes. Purchasing Amiibo figures would help you unlock exclusive components and parts to customize your vehicles and weapons during online multiplayer.
Imagine jumping into the shoes of a combat medic who provides first aid and trauma care to injured soldiers on the battlefield. You could use the stylus with the GamePad’s touchscreen to remove bullets, patch up wounds, heal burns, and help transport wounded soldiers to safety. Think of it along the lines of the Trauma Center series from Atlus where you use the Nintendo DS touchscreen to treat patients.
With a tap of the GamePad’s touchscreen, players could send airplanes to drop off packages (attached to parachutes) to injured soldiers in far away locations. These packages may contain first aid, medicine, rations, ammo, and other miscellaneous items.
Play the role of a technician: Use your stylus on the touchscreen to disarm bombs and other dangerous explosives planted by your enemies. When approaching landmines, the GamePad would serve as a landmine detector by rumbling/vibrating to warn you. However, not all landmines would be that simple to detect, and you would need to use other methods to detect them.
The Wii U online infrastructure is leaps and bounds better than the Wii’s prehistoric friend code system with the ability to invite friends, post screenshots on Miiverse, and use the GamePad’s built-in microphone for voice chat.
In World War I and II, carrier pigeons were used to deliver messages (and even medicine) on long trips around the world. What if you could attach messages or Miiverse posts to a carrier pigeon, and that pigeon would deliver those messages to other players online? It would be a unique way of adding Miiverse implementation to a Battalion Wars game. It’s a similar idea to Wind Waker HD where you can send messages in a Tingle bottle and throw it in the ocean for another player to find.
Most importantly, the GamePad makes the inventory system easier to use, which means players won’t need to flip through 10 menu screens to perform simple actions. Equipping your soldiers with new weapons or uniforms would be as simple as dragging and dropping items on a touchscreen.
It’s very unfortunate how the Nintendo console with the best controller for strategy games — and a decent online infrastructure (no more friend codes!) — might miss out on Battalion Wars. The Battalion Wars series is a great example of a franchise that was released on the wrong consoles.
Maybe Nintendo will surprise me, but I’m not holding my breath for a new installment anytime during the Wii U’s lifetime. For the Wii U’s final years, it’s a safe bet that the company will stick mostly to franchises that have proven track records for success and profitability. Again, I hope I’m wrong on this, but I doubt it.
Even if Battalion Wars was released on Wii U in 2016, it would feel similar to the GameCube situation where everyone is ready to move on to a new console, and a Battalion Wars U would end up getting ignored again. This game should have been released during Wii U’s first two years to sell people on why the GamePad needed to exist.
Battalion Wars is not a product for niche audiences; it’s a mismanaged franchise that was dealt with a crappy hand of cards: poor online infrastructure with very little marketing. The character designs of BW might be cutesy, but the themes of war and online multiplayer are universal and popular with western markets. In terms of mass appeal, it completely blows away something like Code Name: Steam. Honestly, I can’t see how someone can argue that Battalion Wars isn’t marketable when Nintendo is currently pouring money into far more niche, Japanese-centric games that lack western appeal.