Summary: Wario World? Just another platform game from Nintendo, we thought. That is, until we heard that the same legendary developers behind this platform game also helped to create such classics as Contra, Castlevania, Radiant Silvergun, and Ikaruga. Find out how this interesting mix of Nintendo and gunstar heroes fare in our latest review!
All of Wario's major outings were limited to the Game Boy, that is, until the release of Wario World for GameCube -- the game that changed my perception of Wario. I now think that Wario is the best original Nintendo character in years. Even though he's really just an evil twin version of Mario, this fat bastard oozes far more personality than the original plumber brother.
Truth to be told, I didn't have much interest in Wario World when I first heard about it. It looked like just another platformer, coupled with the fact that it was with a character that I then was not too interested in. What did piqued my interest in this game was when the developer behind Wario World was revealed: Treasure.
Treasure? Yes, Treasure!
Treasure's history stretches back to the mid-to-late eighties. There wasn't a Treasure back then, but there was a Konami. Many of the designers at Treasure started off with making classic Konami games such as the Contra, Super C, Castlevania, Castlevania IV, Contra III: Alien Wars, and Axelay. Then Treasure was formed and created amazing games such as Gunstar Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, Guardian Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, Silhouette Mirage, Bangai-O, and Ikaruga.
As the game's story begins with Wario finally completing construction of his castle, where he wallows in a stockpile of gold and jewels hidden deep within his fortress. Yes, Wario is feeling pretty fine.
Unbeknownst to him, hidden among the treasure is a strange, evil black jewel plotting to build a kingdom of its own and it turns Wario's treasures into monsters. Wario goes from riches to rags and now must fight his way through to reclaim all his loot.
Wario World is divided up into four distinct worlds. A world is composed of three stages: two adventure stages and one 'world boss' stage. Each world must be completed before the next one opens up and each level must be completed before progressing on to the next one. It's completely linear, unlike the options one is given in Mario Sunshine.
The regular stages of Wario World play very much like a platformer crossed with a beat-em-up. Wario will face many enemies, none of which are particularly smart, which he'll have to dispose of. Instead of stomping on their heads or squirting them with a water gun, Wario resorts to his fists and other brawling tactics. The 'B' button throws punch combos; holding it or the 'R' shoulder button performs the charging dash attack. The big 'A' button is the jump button that you'll be pressing many times through this game. Hitting 'R' while in the air will perform the butt-stomp that Mario made famous first on the Nintendo 64. The 'L' and 'Z' shoulder buttons make Wario perform his best Kirby impression by opening his mouth WIDE and sucking in the coins around him. The size of his gaping black-hole mouth is tied directly to the analog shoulder -- definitely the most hilarious piece of character animation in Wario World.
Taking a page from the WWE
The real fun begins when you knock down one of the monsters and hit 'B' to grab and pick them up. Pressing and holding 'B' will throw them, best used to toss enemies into another group of monsters or off a cliff. Or you can have Wario do his best Zangief impression and perform a spinning piledriver by jumping in the air and hitting the butt-stomp. The impact from landing will also hit anything nearby and is very useful for taking out a cluster of enemies. You could rotate the control stick a few times to initiate a wild spin that rotates around over 20 times (think Wolf from Virtua Fighter on steroids). Aside from clearing away everything around you, the "wild swing-ding" tornado move is used to spin platforms and switches.
If you have Game Boy Advance with a link cable to your GameCube, then there is a tangible motivation for collecting as many treasure pieces as possible. After finding all the eight pieces of treasure for each stage, a micro-game from Wario Ware Inc. is unlocked and can then be uploaded to your GBA for play. There are a total of eight games to be unlocked, which is a nice bonus for the player who seeks out all the treasure. On the other hand, if you already own Wario Ware Inc. or do not have a GBA with a link cable, then there's really nothing driving you to hunt down all the treasure chests unless you want to make Wario happy.
Another 'optional' part the adventure is to free Spritelings, who are trapped in boxes that you encounter along the way. Setting them free with a punch will earn you some rather basic tips and advice. Freeing all 40 Spritelings in the game will reward you to the best ending, though you can still play through the entire game by ignoring those little Jakubs.
Collecting gold statues is also not essential. Gathering all the gold statues on a stage will increase your life meter, but that's not really an issues because the game never becomes much of a challenge. (More on that later.)
What is essential to making it through to the next level is collecting an adequate number of red diamonds to open up the door to the stage boss. Red diamonds are always found through trapdoors littered through the level. A simple butt-stomp on a trapdoor will send you down into a puzzle room where you must solve simple problems in order to "earn" the red diamond. Most of the puzzles are quite simple and are solvable on the first try. Some take a bit of thought, but none of them are so hard that you'll have to consult a walkthrough. Beyond steel trapdoors are jumping puzzle levels similar to what you may have seen in Mario Sunshine. Again, most of these are easily completed on the first try, but there are some that may require more attention and several attempts. None of the puzzles caused any notable amounts of frustrations for us.
SIDEBAR: Wario Ware Inc., Mega Microgame$ contains over 200 mini-games, completely dwarfing the eight bonuses unlockable in Wario World.
There are only about half a dozen types of enemies in Wario World. Normally, things would get boring with such a limited range, but it's all kept interesting with the game adding a fresh coat of paint every stage and world you move through. In the jungle area, you could be fighting monkeys; and in the circus, you'll be battling clowns. What gives the illusion away is that the animations and enemy AI are obviously recycled. To a certain extent, this is forgivable since you're duking it out with monkeys and clowns. Think about that, people.
All that spare design time from recycling regular enemies must have went into designing the bosses of Wario World, all of which are unique and imaginative. You'll be seeing all sorts of completely whack bosses such as a dinosaur in a bikini set, a flying baby, a double dragon, a pirate, and a few others. Boss fights are also quite distinctive, one particularly memorable one is where you play the ole "three shell" game where you must guess which cup a boss is under in order to attack him.
SIDEBAR: Many of us would think that Wario's name comes the fact that an upside-down 'M' (for Mario) would be a 'W' -- which makes perfect sense since he is just a twisted, evil version of Mario.
The texture work throughout the levels for the most part is crisp and spot-on. There are certain textures that don't look quite as good as the rest, but it's nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb. What does stick out quite sorely are instances of slowdown. Under most circumstances, the game runs at a solid 60 frames per second; but as soon as the screen gets filled with 8-9 monsters, everything slows to a crawl. This is quite disappointing considering how much time the artists at Treasure must have spent on the game.
Wario World takes advantage of many of the graphical bells and whistles of the GameCube's ATI Flipper chip. There is an abundant use of particle effects and distorted reflection through walls of ice and mirrors. If you look hard enough, you'll even see some bump-mapping. One especially impressive moment was during a boss fight on molten lava. Heat-waves were all about and fire particles were everywhere -- truly a sight to behold... if it weren't hampered by slowdown whenever the screen filled up with 'fireworks' particles.
The sound department does its job to the levels that you would expect it to for a platform game. While the Wario World supports Dolby Pro-Logic II, there isn't much compelling reason to use it since sound doesn't play a huge role in the game. Stages are accompanied by appropriate background music, but nothing that you'll be ordering the OST for. Sound effects are rather run of the mill. Wario himself features a very small number of voice samples that play every now and then when he performs a super move, though he only knows less than half a dozen sayings.
So, Mario + "warui" = Wario!
It's probably just a lucky coincidence that the name Wario 'works' for both Japanese and the Roman alphabet.
Of course, Wario World is a platformer, so it is unreasonable to expect RPG-length playtimes. Still, Wario World does feel short and would have done better if it contained even an additional world with a few more levels.
A little too easy
The game's length wouldn't be as big an issue if Wario World weren't so incredibly easy. Even though Treasure had to younger players for this Nintendo title, there's really no way to fail. Wario World works on a monetary system. You collect coins which you use to buy health and continues. That's quite appropriate for Wario, except for the fact that you're never in short supply of cash. You're given so much money that you can just keep buying health whenever you need it. If Wario does happen to bite the dust, you can just buy a continue credit without a second thought and resume from exactly where you left off -- even if it's during a boss battle.
The only time that you'll feel remotely challenged in Wario World is during the 'sub-stages' where the puzzles reside. As mentioned previously, the wooden trapdoor puzzle rooms sometimes require a bit of planning before attempts. The jumping puzzle stages behind steel trapdoors can test the limit of your skills with the GameCube controller. If you do happen to find a particular jumping puzzle to be too much for you to handle, you can probably still pass the stage without completing the puzzle (though, that'll mean that the stage won't be fully cleared).
SIDEBAR: Crazy Matrixy bunraku ping-pong.
His stand-still animation has him letting out impatient yawns and scratches to his rear end. Even the game's manual has a touch of Wario's evil in it, calling those who wrote the booklet "idiotic game staff morons."
It's tough not to like a game that's just so delightfully evil -- pity that it's over all too quickly.
SIDEBAR: Is being evil all it's cracked up to be, or is good just really dumb?
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