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BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1
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Author:  MessengerOfDreams [ Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:58 am ]
Post subject:  BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

Hello, all.

Recently, I picked up a copy of Black Hole Rising again. Without a doubt, the second installment is my particular favorite of the series, of not my favorite handheld game overall. This is in no small part due to the Campaign Mode. Flaws and all, I really love the Campaign Mode of BHR. It's straightforward, easy to follow, you can play it all in one sitting, and it's easy to tell most missions, maps, and concepts have been done in some pretty immaculate detail. I have my complaints, and there's one glaring flaw that I don't like in particular, but every playthrough of BHR is fun, and that's not something you can say about many games' "Career Modes".

For old times' sake, I decided to use my amateur opinion to talk about something I have kind of an authority over: the Black Hole Rising Campaign itself. I'm going to dissect it by each unique map, and rank them 41 to 1. Seven Hard Campaign versions that are drastically different from original maps (read: more than a few extra units or spaces of land) will be included here. This list will be based off of nothing more than my own criteria and preferences, so feel free to agree or disagree. This is mostly for the fun of it.

With that, let's begin.

41: Cleanup

Image
(No, Flak, it is not.)

Country: Orange Star
Mission #1
CO: Andy
Foe: Flak
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

To be expected, it’s a tutorial mission where you only have infantry. A lot of tutorial missions will be knocked out super quick.

What drives me nuts about AW2 is that the tutorial missions are forced, depriving us of a decent Orange Star campaign except for the Hard Campaign mode. In the original Advance Wars we had the option of taking Nell vs Olaf tutorials separate from the game, and the Campaign threw us right into the action with a mission of decent difficulty. In Advance Wars 2, you have an entire country worth of missions, most of them boring, where you have to learn things every single time you probably already knew.

Understandably, for old veterans, this gets really fucking grating to have Nell explain to us what Infantry do for the ninth time for five minutes, especially in this one where you only get infantry and Andy. I mean, does it get more boring than that?

Boo to the forced tutorial and boo to this level.


40. Hot Pursuit (NC)
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Come on now, mate, you're just making this more complicated.

Country: Black Hole
Mission #33
CO: Grit if you're not completely cracked, three others from Allied Nations otherwise
Foe: Sturm
Goal: Destroy 3 Giant Cannons.

When they say "failure by design" they were talking about missions like these. Advance Wars as a whole has a handful of missions, maps, etc. that I think were just doomed to be broken, boring, or brokenly boring. This mission is one of those missions, because the AI is an idiot.

Leaving their brains back home, the AI never never leaves their pipe safety zone, and you don’t even have to bust it open unless you’re really bored. All you have to do is pick Grit and send up rockets supported by dummy Md. Tanks and blast them from a distance. It’s ridiculously easy, and ridiculously flawed for the penultimate mission of the game. Even if all they did was make the AI smart enough to break pipe seams, the mission becomes harder than a couple of mildly pesky sea units.

I don't know if this map would be slightly better or even worse if this was what they intended, but since you'd just have to chance upon using Grit if you did, I highly doubt it. If they had been smart like they had with Great Sea Battle, they'd have made it impossible to use a Blue Moon CO. Here, you can cheap it out with Grit, even using 1HP cannon-blasted rockets if you wanted tom and there's nothing Sturm can do about it...

...well, other than break the goddamn pipe seam.


39. Flak Attack and 38. Orange Dawn (NC)
(A.K.A. the really boring Max Tutorials)
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No.

Image
Eh.

Country: Orange Star
Mission #3 and 4
CO: Max
Foe: Flak
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

Another relatively boring tutorial mission. At the very least, you get the lab mission. It is pretty sad to see Flak get a ton of air units and you only a few anti-airs and a missile. Talk about envious. Orange Dawn is the same as above. At the very least, we get a ton of bangin’ tanks with Max to smash shit up. That isn’t much to complain about, but still, tutorial missions blow chunks, and most players could complete this in their sleep.

37. A Mirror Darkly
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Lash's idea of a wonderfully fun game.

Country: Yellow Comet
Mission #22
CO: Sonja
Foe: Lash
Goal: Rout. Don't let Lash reach your HQ.

Here’s another “normal” mission I don’t like. It alternates wildly between no challenge and blatantly unfair. I am not a huge fan of “fish-in-a-barrell” challenges where you can shoot what you want wildly uncontested, like what Hot Pursuit turned into, so you will probably see a lot of these in the bottom.

Here, you’re stuck with Fog of War, a mountain range, and three tanks that can mobilize in the center. For the most part, you just shoot, forget, and guard the HQ. The worst part is that even after all of the same-ol-same-ol shooting, you and your three damaged tanks get to waste a few days trying to find the one goddamn APC hiding at the bottom of the map. If you like blowing stuff up for the hell of it, this mission is for you. If not, fuck it.

We do get a decent storyline out of it. Sonja gets so wrapped up in herself that she’s willing to risk her men and her victory on a bet with a bratty little sociopath, and at the end of the mission Lash is more than eager to point out the similarities. Coupled with Duty and Honor, it’s an interesting little growth arc for Sonja. Still, I’ll take the story and pass on the level, thank you.


36. Andy’s Test
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A cannon that size is a first for me too.

Country: Orange Star
Mission #6 NC, #3 HC
CO: Take a wild guess.
Foe: Flak
Goal: Destroy a giant cannon.

Even in the Hard Campaign, this mission isn’t much different or more challenging, but as far as campaign missions go it’s on the less shitty end of the spectrum. You can actually destroy Flak’s production and skippity-do-dah your way to the black cannon if you play your cards right in Normal Campaign, plus it’s your first time to deploy units.

Plus, you get an introduction to the one big change from AW1 to AW2: Lash creates some massively fucked up toys. So as tutorial missions go, it’s more vital: I remember ten year old me just going what-the-holy-shitballs at the giant cannon. It’s still not a necessarily fun mission though.

Author:  MaraSargon [ Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

MessengerOfDreams wrote:
39. Flak Attack and 38. Orange Dawn (NC)
(A.K.A. the really boring Max Tutorials)
Image
No.

I always thought it would be kind of funny if one of Flak's boosts was to make Bombers into Indirects.

Author:  MessengerOfDreams [ Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

That would be a fantastic easter egg. And it'd certainly make that mission fun if the bomber was just shooting back lobbing 'em at you.

Author:  MaraSargon [ Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

MessengerOfDreams wrote:
That would be a fantastic easter egg. And it'd certainly make that mission fun if the bomber was just shooting back lobbing 'em at you.

Especially if it was like the AW4 Battleships. :shock:

Author:  JakeSamiRulz [ Sun Feb 09, 2014 10:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

Yay!! You are actually covering my favorite AW title of all the ones I've played. The aw2 campaign still remains as the most memorable, and really sold me on the character personalities of AW. Will be reading and commenting on this for certain :-)

Author:  MessengerOfDreams [ Mon Feb 10, 2014 8:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

35. Border Skirmish
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Thanks game, I didn't learn that bit of basic combat the first twelve times I played.

Country: Orange Star
Mission #2 NC, #1 HC
CO: Sami
Foe: Flak
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

Again, another tutorial mission. It gets a few points for reappearing in Hard Campaign to provide some level of challenge. A basic pre-deployed beat-em up where you get a tiny glimpse of Sami’s unique powers as opposed to Andy’s supreme boringness. Still, for any experienced player, you can take it or leave it, even in Hard Campaign.


34. Liberation
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In Hard Campaign, that bomber is usually the only unit not massacred.

Country: Orange Star
Mission #8
CO: Any OS CO
Foe: Flak
Goal: Break the Factory Pipe Seam

This mission ends the Borange Star Campaign and is by far my least favorite factory mission. It’s relatively easy and painless in Normal Campaign yet fucking brutal in Hard Campaign. I imagine it’s supposed to be open-and-shut as Orange Star is supposed to be easy in Normal Campaign, but just like the rest of OS, it’s another boring tutorial.

And then there’s Hard Campaign, where you’re the lone wolf with four bases against Flak pumping out Neotanks every five seconds. People have called this one of the hardest missions in AW2 overall, and considering it ends up being preceded by "Here, have a bunch of planes on us!" and followed by "Tanks!!!...with a few more TANKS!!!" it's pretty jarring and out of nowhere. When you have professional gamers saying they'd rather take HC Dangerx9 over this, you know something went majorly wrong in the testing facility.

Better factory missions are ahead, but this stays true to most of Orange Star by being really uneventful.


33. Sea Fortress
Image
Someone in Eagle's deployment team got fired for this.

Country: Green Earth
Mission #25
CO: Eagle
Foe: Hawke
Goal: Destroy Eight Minicannons

I don't hate this mission. Let it be known that this is the first mission that I don't actively scoff.

This is a decent mission overall that in theory provides lots of smashing whether you’re flying North or East, but unless you're one of those pesky speedrunners, this gets pretty stale pretty quickly. The initial rush and Lightning-Strike push is super fun, but after that if you're just one of those "casuals" you get to take a bunch of hobbled units and dance around a bunch of anti-air units for a week or so of slowly chipping away at the paint of the cannons, which is significantly less fun. It's a bit of a downer to go from being on top of the world to being a crippled soldier. Still, it’s the first decent mission on this list, and it shows that Hawke actually knows his shit as opposed to most of his comrades. Imagine that, using anti-air units to keep planes away.


32. Two-Week Test
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Colin wins by doing absolutely nothing.

Country: Blue Moon
Mission #14, I hope. If not they missed some major puntential.
CO: Colin
Foe: Lash
Goal: Don't die for two weeks

Awhile back, I tried my hand at making a custom CO who was very defense-oriented. The main critique I got on it was that playing defense all the time wasn’t very fun. Playing back this mission, I can see why. Little Colin gets three bases and a little tiny corner of the world (upper left) to defend against Lash’s fucking everything.

You don’t ever make any real progress, and you get hammered left and right. It’s a good concept but, as I've implied, defense is not very fun. There is some humor in the fact that in normal campaign, you can cheat the mission (at the cost of your credit points) by simply not building anything. Hilarious, but insanely broken. It wasn’t a half-bad idea but it did not make for fun gameplay.

Good thing you can choose to not show up for work.


31. Neotanks!?
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YES!!! I KNOW!!! SO EXCITING, RIGHT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Country: Blue Moon
Mission #15 chronologically, can be done immediately after finding the lab map
CO: Any Blue Moon CO
Foe: Lash
Goal: Capture the lab or rout the foe.

You see, I don’t have a major problem with this mission, as it so happens to be. It finds its way further up the list because it’s not super unique or entertaining. It’s relatively bland, but ultimately well-made and inoffensive. Ultimately you can take it or leave it, as it’s open and shut and can be beaten the same way by each Blue Moon CO. Not much else left to say.

Next Batch: Caterwauling, Better Incarnations, Elaborate Nothing, Worse Incarnations, and Iiiiiiiiiiiit's been one week

Author:  MaraSargon [ Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

Liberation gives me nightmares.

Author:  MessengerOfDreams [ Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

So I replayed the mission destined for 27th place, but I've decided to give it a boost up the list because it's actually somewhat better than I thought. That does mean I have to rewrite its entry, though.

30. Danger x9
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If this pipe leads to the factory, it doesn't get points for efficient travel.

Country: Green Earth
Mission #31, or as soon as you get it from Sinking Feeling
CO: Any Green Earth CO
Foe: Hawke
Goal: Rout or Lab Capture in 9 Days

As far as lab missions go (and most of them are gonna go early) this is by far the hardest. It’s hard to get (Lash finally got good at hiding maps across the map in the one city no one cares about in the hardest Green Earth mission) and it’s even harder to beat. You have to rout units you cannot see or capture the HQ that’s tucked way far away behind a pipe wall with scattered bases and forces in nine damn days. There are very few missions you can beat in nine days just naturally, so going up against Hawke’s forces with his Black Wave powers in a convoluted map in that amount of time? Yeah… I think I beat this mission maybe once in my many play-throughs, so that frustration undoubtedly colors my perception of the level. Still, what a bitch.

During the many times I lost, though, I was entertained by Eagle and Jess’ little cockfight, and Drake of all people manages to insert the word caterwauling into his telling them to shut their clams.

29. Hot Pursuit (HC)
Image
jesus christ colin

Country: Black Hole
Mission #33
CO: Anyone from Allied Nations
Foe: Sturm
Goal: Destroy the three Black Cannons

This is what Hot Pursuit in Normal Campaign should have been like, albeit severely toned down, as this mission is probably the hardest in the game, bar none for me. I can’t say it’s my favorite mission since, in the end, your best bet is by far throwing Bombers at it in order to cheap it out like any old specific-target mission, what with the cannons still being pretty out in the open. There’s also a particular specific glitch you can invoke with some effort to block up Sturm’s central army due to stupid AI. It’s a significant improvement over the Normal Campaign but it’s still possible and highly preferable to trick it out via bomber spam and AI fuckery.


28. Test of Time
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AA: I'll go ahead and help you with that recon- oooooh, a butterfly!

Country: Orange Star
Mission #7
CO: Andy
Foe: Flak
Goal: Rout or Lab Capture in 7 Days

One of the two tutorial missions that actually provide a challenge to new players, it says a lot that the Orange Star lab test mission is my second favorite from Normal Campaign. You get a nice rounded play through of time trials, smashing the shit out of other people, ability to think up a strategy that works while still isn’t super obvious, and it still not being too hard to complete. It’s not as awesome as other missions down the road, cause seriously, screw tutorials, but it’s one of the first missions you actually have the possibility of losing, so that’s a step up.


27. Navy Vs Air HC
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Drake's army faces its worst enemy: a bridge.

Country: Green Earth
Mission #28
CO: Drake
Foe: Hawke
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

I personally don’t prefer this to the normal campaign version. Whereas in the normal Navy vs Air, Drake made up for the natural deficit of Navy vs Air by having a relatively open sea for him to sail through, in this one the sea is cut directly in half, which means you’re better of just sticking to ground units for the most part, defeating the purpose of the mission. However, as far as maps go, other than that lapse it’s pretty well designed and provides a difficult challenge without being flat-out rotten, which I think should be the point of a Hard Campaign.


26. Sea For All
Image
Or, Andy's mission to find out what an airport is.

Country: Orange Star HC
Mission #5
CO: Andy
Foe: Hawke
Goal: Rout

It’s a really unique idea and a really funky map, but it has a weird tendency of being beatable in, like, five days. Essentially an extended game of rock, paper, scissors. I like it, it’s just a fun, short little level that isn’t extremely special but is highly interesting regardless. Even better when this harmless little diversion from normal gameplay is a harmful little diversion from Andy protecting all the shit he was supposed to be protecting.

Author:  MaraSargon [ Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

You may want to shrink some of the images; they break the page on mobile devices.

Author:  MessengerOfDreams [ Wed Feb 12, 2014 9:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

Sorry about that, I'll give future pictures a better look-through.

25. Final Front Hard Campaign
Surely it can't be that much harder than normal moJESUS FUCKING CHRIST!
Image

Country: Black Hole
Mission #34
CO: Anyone from Allied Nations
Foe: Sturm
Goal: Destroy the Deathray

I don’t like this nearly as much as the normal version for some odd reason, but again, it nails the HC formula of an updated hard version of a map without just being skullfuckingly hard. It does invoke the nature of “Spam the fuck out of bombers” with little alternative, not giving you as many options as NC does, but it’s a really great design for a last level; more challenges, more resources, and actually designed like the enemy knew what the fuck they were doing. Plus, hey, why not throw in a random sea?


24. Tanks!!!
Image
You tanked yourself to the wrong province, pardner.

Country: Blue Moon
Mission #10
CO: Grit
Foe: Adder
Goal: Rout the Foe

This is probably my favorite fish in a barrel level. Grit isn’t the greatest CO, but in his element he’s surprisingly fun to play is, and this is his element. He makes fish in a barrel fun because unlike Sonja, he’s made for it, and in this mission there are ways to finish the job after it’s all done so you don't have to send out your 2HP tank after that one damn APC. There are multiple small layers to the strategy as well to add to just shoot shit. You have to watch the mechs, you have to manage the fog of war, you get to use the silos. Mostly, it’s open and shut, but it’s a well made mission that’s also fun.

The highlight for me, however, is the story. It’s why Grit is one of the five best defined characters of the series, his conversation with Adder. It’s probably the best dialogue in the game, and explains Grit’s position as a commanding officer better than anything else.


23. Sensei’s Return
Image
"So much for 'me time' and tender thoughts."

Country: Yellow Comet
Mission #18
CO: Sensei
Foe: Adder
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

This is when the missions go from being pretty damn good to being really great and fun to play with few hitches to speak of. Sensei’s Return is no exception. It’s a basic deployment map that plays both to Sensei’s and Adder’s strengths. Sensei can use his copters of doom to pave a cheap way through for infantry, and it doesn’t take much to set off Adder’s power that has him speeding on through.

Your skill level also equally determines how well you do moreso than circumstance. If you’re really good, you can pave a quick way to the HQ and take it over in just over the 10 days Adder bragged he could beat you in. Other times, you’re gonna have to slog it through. Like any good “basic” map, there’s many different strategies you employ, and that’s always welcoming. Sometimes simple maps make for more complexity.


22. Silo Scramble
Image
Take that, nondescript Lander!

Country: Yellow Comet
Mission #17
CO: Kanbei
Foe: Flak
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

Just like the above, this is a relatively open and shut map ramped up by the titular Silo Scramble. Rushing down there properly gives you a major boost, but this is also the first level you get to play as Kanbei, and let me tell you, little more is satisfying than waiting more for the higher tech and then beating the everloving shit out of Flak. Perhaps it’s just because I enjoy playing as Kanbei more than most, but Silo Scramble is immensely satisfying for that reason. It’s a straight up Schmergen Brawl.


20. Navy Vs Air NC
Image
Navy vs Air vs Mostly Land

Country: Black Hole
Mission #28
CO: Drake
Foe: Hawke
Goal: Rout or HQ Capture

Another example of a map that’s a great litmus test for a CO’s skills and weaknesses, Navy vs Air also follows the formula of simple and clean. Drake’s ironclad navy takes on Hawke who has copters that are as good as any other unit and two airports. This sets up a disadvantage: navy units are very situational and air units are very versatile. Luckily, Drake’s navy has a very distinct advantage: they can’t be killed as easily by any unit. It’s a nice little twist to the basic deployment map and it utilizes your fighter to the best of his abilities. Add that to the nice basics of any good “basic” map and you’ve got a winner.

Author:  MaraSargon [ Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: BHR Campaign Evaluation: Ranking the Missions 41-1

I don't remember bothering much with a navy in Navy vs Air. Back in those days, B-Copters did like double the damage to Cruisers that they do in later games, so Cruisers were barely worth the investment even in single player.

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