Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wario Land 4 (GBA) Retro Review

If there ever was a first-world problem, having a backlog of video games would be a popular one for game hobbyists. There always seems to be more games than one could ever have the opportunity to sit down and play. I started Wario Land 4, the subject of today's review, back in January. I only recently got back into it. Multiple releases getting in the way and all that. With the game completed, I can finally render a severely late verdict on the game.

Greed Is Good

Wario first debuted as a castle-stealing tyrant in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins on the original Game Boy. He then had the gall to steal the Super Mario Land series from poor Mario. Now, Wario has his own series in the Wario Land franchise of games. The most recent entry has been the artistically impressive Wario Land: Shake It! on the Nintendo Wii. With the release of the Ambassador line of downloadable titles from Nintendo for early 3DS owners, Ambassadors have gotten to take a glimpse at Wario Land's Game Boy Advance entry, Wario Land 4. While not the best platforming title on the GBA, the game is well worth playing and a welcome gift for 3DS Ambassadors.

Wario Land 4's story is quite simple. Our garlic-chomping hero treks out in his purple convertible (as seen in various Mario Kart games like the GameCube and Wii versions) to an out-of-the-way jungle. Inside the jungle looms a mysterious pyramid that the antihero believes to hold immense amounts of wealth. And so Wario's journey for booty and bounty begins.

There are four sectors to the pyramid. These can be played in any order. Each colored sector has four levels. Each level has a myriad of goods to collect such as a key known as Keyzer which opens the way to the next level in a given sector, four pieces of a jewel hidden in four treasure chests which when all four parts of the jewel have been pieced together in each level of a sector, the way to the boss opens up, a CD that unlocks a song to listen to in the pyramid's Sound Room, and multiple miscellaneous gems that boost Wario's score.

Clear all passages to raise the Golden 
Pyramid in the center of the hub.
The levels themselves take place inside paintings a la Super Mario 64, so the worry that the game's zones are all pyramid-themed can be washed away. Sure, some of the levels follow the typical beach, jungle, volcano, and ice world tropes, but most break away from such ideas, offering new ideas and locales such as rolling around a giant pinball machine, scampering through a world made up of doodles and writing utensils, and getting messy in a hazardous junkyard.

Areas demand exploration in order to find the four golden treasure chests in each level. As stated, without gathering them all in each of a sector's levels, you cannot gain access to that sector's boss. Hidden in the most devious of places are the CDs, one of which in each main level. These take all your cunning to discover. Additionally, there are secret areas that act as puzzle rooms. Usually the prize for figuring them out is a blue gem worth plenty of money. These puzzle rooms can be as simple as chucking a fellow treasure hunter into a switch to turn transparent blocks solid in order to act as a staircase to the gem, or as complex as completing multiple steps just to reach a gem.

Wario and his booty plunder for booty.
The goal of each level is to reach the statue usually placed in the deepest part of the level. The fun (and the danger) doesn't end there either. Stomping on the statue reveals a ticking time bomb inside the statue. Wario must escape the level before the time bomb goes off. Oftentimes, Wario will enter new, unexplored parts of the level in his struggle to stay alive.

Wario has all the moves to explore and survive through the numerous worlds. Like his rival Mario he can ground pound. From higher distances, Wario can smash through harder blocks. With a shoulder button pressed down he can blitz through blocks and speed through levels like an offensive linebacker. Wario's main line of attack is his charge. Of course, some foes cannot be hit from in front as they can carry painful spears, so they must be taken out from behind. And when an enemy is dazed he can chuck them with such ferocity or go all Larry Bird and perform an alley oop arc shot when the need is presented to him.

 For such a pudgy plumber,
Wario sure can jump.
Wario can also transform his body into various different shapes and forms. If he gets caught on fire, he runs like a madman, bounces off the walls a few times before being engulfed in flames, allowing him to burn special flammable blocks. He can get flattened into the shape of an accordion by an enemy's hammer, giving Wario the ability to leap high into the air, crashing through blocks during his ascent. He can even get bitten by a vicious vampire bat, turning into one, and gaining the power of flight. Just be sure to watch out for lights that will transform him back into his familiar pudgy self. There are an abundant array of transformations that can assist Wario-- from zombie Wario to snowball Wario-- into reaching secret and/or helpful areas.

Each sector concludes with a bizarre boss battle. Like the ending of each normal level, each encounter has a time limit. Not only is Wario's life on the line in these fights, but so are three treasure chests. As the timer goes closer to zero, the treasures placed in the background disappear. To get the best ending of Wario Land 4, players need to keep and collect as many of these treasures as possible. That's no elementary task as these bosses take a lot of punishment. One has you riding the waves made by the boss to come off a high enough place to ground pound its face while another drops enemies with sharp pins on their heads for Wario to pick up, throw into the butt of the inflated boss, and have Wario charge into the creature controlling the giant adversary.

 And I thought Wario had bad hygiene;
this boss is drooling all over the place.
Wario Land 4 is a fairly short game. Most players could probably reach the credits in 5-8 hours. But factor in the addition of difficulties to play which switch up where each treasure chest is, adds more hazards and enemies to contend with, and makes each time limit even stricter, and you have a game that you can play multiple times. This makes the game well worth the asking price.

The title itself is pleasant to look at. The 2D visuals are divine, and Wario's animations-- whether walking, running, charging, leaping, or idling-- all look fantastic. The music on the other hand is pretty forgettable aside from the Hurry Up! theme that plays each time Wario makes his grand escape out of a level. Some songs even have lyrics, but most of the words are hard to understand coming out a handheld's speakers.

Wario Land 4 is a weird little platformer that's just crazy enough and suitable for the character the game's named after. While it's easy on Normal, the challenge certainly heats up on the Hard and Super Hard difficulties. Collecting every treasure, every CD, and earning high scores on each level will last players a good long while. There is no doubt that there is plenty of fun to be had, and if you're growing tired to platforming with a certain goody-two-shoes plumber in Mario, maybe you should consult your mean and greedy side and pick up a copy of Wario's GBA adventure. Greed is indeed good.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]

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