keskiviikko 25. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Wario Land II (1998)

Genre(s): Platform
Released: 1998
Available on: GB / GBC
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1

I went into the original Wario Land II pumped up by Super Mario Land 3 and all the great reviews I read about this sequel, which is a combination of a traditional platform game, puzzle-solving and adventuring. I must say that I'm immensely disappointed, but at the same time I'm kind of excited of the fact that I can finally be a total contrarian to all those critics who think Wario Land II is one of the most essential Game Boy games of all time. I don't like it, plain and simple.

Trial and error... error... error...

One ordinary morning, Captain Syrup and his gang get back at Wario by robbing him and trashing his castle. After Wario wakes up and realizes his precious treasure is gone, he gives chase to the pirates all across the surrounding lands.

Mostly - counting out boss fights and some quite impressive sequences - the game looks plain, very plain. It's a quite big game as expected, so it's practically no wonder, but I sincerely have to doubt that Nintendo couldn't do better than something this stiff and dull in 1998. The music, this time composed by Wario Land's Ishikawa Kozue all by himself, is quite horrid. There's maybe one good tune, the rest of it's there to drive anyone out of mind. The sound effects... well... farting at low frequency comes to mind. Believe me, this isn't just because I don't like the game, this really is my honest opinion of the game's audiovisuals. The Color version at least looks decent, but this is the original we're talking about here.

A boss fight, against a giant
bee. What was his name
again? Oh, "Giant Bee".
To prove I'm not just bashing the game for some selfish reason, I must say the game is not total shit by any means, and there are some things I sincerely like about it. However, if a game begins with a lengthy stage in which your "mission" is to shut off a loud alarm clock, and you are forced to hear that alarm clock in Game Boy's less than spectacular audio throughout the stage, you know something's wrong. If the next chapter begins with a quest to return an escaped, oversensitive chicken back to her pen with every slightest bump against invisible walls pissing on your progress, you are doubly sure there's something wrong. What does that whole chicken thing have to do with getting back your treasure, anyway?!

Let's take it from the start. Wario Land II is a very, very different platformer. First and foremost, Wario can't die. There are no pits, no chasms, and if you hit an enemy from the wrong side, you will merely lose coins - like Sonic the Hedgehog loses rings, however the coins are not there for health, they are just there for valuable treasure and currency for minigames, which are once again important to determining the ending of the game. There's also a lot of puzzle solving related to the environment and how to get into certain places with Wario's lacking physique. You will need to take advantage of certain enemies and the handicaps which some enemies inflict on you - more about these handicaps later on. The fact that Wario is practically invincible doesn't make the game one step easier - or harder, at that. It's just DAMN frustrating. I don't know about everyone else, but to me, challenge doesn't stand for doing lengthy sequences over and over and over again just because you jumbled something up in the end of it - like magically hit an enemy from the wrong side even though it didn't seem that way, or went crashing into an invisible wall while attempting to make a long jump which you knew you COULD make - and will make, the next time. Or the next. Or the next. These things happen, for real. Like I said, this doesn't make the game any more difficult than it is. It just rips and tears on nerves, nothing else. Halfway through the game, I wished it would all be over.

My frustration, on a scale of
1-10? I'd say 15.
There's a little bit of influence from adventure games, as well. You are given a certain mission in the beginning of each stage, but most of the time it just describes what waits for you in the end and what you need to do there in order to beat the stage. The chicken mission I mentioned, however, requires you to make your way to the end of the stage, pick up the chicken and then go all the way back to the beginning with the clucker in tow, while dodging some big, evil, annoying chickens. However, chickens are not the most annoying birds in the game by a long shot. Those have to be the owls - perhaps inspired by the one in Super Mario 64 whose talons you had to grab and fly to the cage high up in the sky to get that one Power Star. It was annoying, but this is something even worse as you'll have to use an owl to fly through different gauntlets on several occasions, and the flying controls suck some hairy arse. Just one bump into something will send you right back to the beginning of the sequence, a few coins short. What makes matters even worse, is that the owls are just a part of a bigger picture of different sorts of transport and special stipulations which are there to drive the player insane without almost any exceptions.

Since Wario can't actually take damage, you can rest assured that Nintendo came up with a few nuisances to cover that loss. Like I said, Wario loses coins upon touching an enemy the wrong way - that sounded kinky - but he also takes a ridiculous fall backwards, which seems to vary according to the location and height you're in. Let's say that you're climbing a high, vertical tower. You get to the highest floor, and an enemy catches you right in the kisser. You're most likely to fall straight to the first floor. If you get hit again on the first floor, it might be Wario doesn't move at all. It's ridiculous! Once again, this kind of bullshit is challenge? Where was I when they figured something like this out? Well, then there are the bosses... let me tone down the fury first. OK... so, the coins are safe once you reach a boss, but taking one good hit from a boss results in you getting thrown off the field, having to backtrack from some other location back to the boss, and start the whole fight all over again. I almost gave up in the last boss of the main game. My nerves just couldn't bear the randomness. If this was any other game, I would've kindly asked for at least a traditional health bar. However, if there was some kind of health bar in this particular game, it would spell "NEVER".

Suddenly zombified. Call
Chris Redfield.
You might have noticed I used the words "main game". There are 25 main stages in the game, but 26 more to those who are dedicated enough. To my knowledge, each chapter has a secret exit, and each stage has a secret treasure and a following minigame. The secret exits lead you to additional chapters with five stages each. These stages also have treasures, and are followed by the minigame like any other stage. The secret treasures are acquired by using coins to play a hidden memory game in each stage, with three difficulty levels. In this case, Easy is the most valuable (and literally most expensive) difficulty level, since you'll get the same prize on each level, and you won't get another chance if you jumble it up. After getting all of the treasures and beating the Anticipation-like minigame after each stage to acquire a rare treasure map, you're taken to a one final stage, and upon beating it, you will complete 100% of the game and at least should get the best possible ending. I'm not sure, since I will never, ever have the patience to even try. I can tell you that for certain, right now.

So... finally, the handicaps. Usually, when you're introduced to a new handicap, it will be to your advantage in solving a progress-based puzzle, however later, maybe even in that very same spot after you've done all you need to do, they will be there just to slow you down and annoy the hell out of you. Enemies respawn like crazy no matter how many times you take them out, so usually that won't help either - however, the respawning's seemingly just as random as everything else in the game. The handicaps include getting shrunk, flattened, inflated by a bee sting, zombified, "crazy" ("drunken" in the Japanese version - and that's closer to the truth) and fat, among others. Some of these don't have any use; the "crazy" handicap is funny at first, but not at a point in which it's inflicted high up in the air while you're trying to jump across narrow platforms to get to the other high side of a room, since you can't jump while under the influence, and the only way to shrug it off is to fall back to the bottom and take a dip into water.

Oh, now they gave Donkey
Kong the hammer.
I can't even count how many features of the game themselves drive me angry and frustrated. There's not a single point in the game I would call difficult in the traditional sense, only dumb. Like I said, it's a different thing to get stuck on something - some spot or a singular enemy - than having to climb some stupid-ass stairs or jump across a lengthy line of platforms over and over and over again just to bump into some enemy in the end who suddenly changes his pattern of movement just in time to push you back to the beginning, or if not him, a sudden invisible wall. It's all luck. I guess the fact that the game is so big is enough to convince me that it deserves a better rating for actual challenge. It just sucks that you have no chance to return to any of the stages during the first playthrough. If you miss something, it's tough luck.

The first couple of stages made me believe I'll like the game. Sure, the sound of the alarm clock was infernal torment, the rest of the sound effects sucked and the music was the worst, but the game still had some potential, I really enjoyed the gameplay for an extended while before falling hard like Fatman. I really wanted to enjoy the game. I really wanted to see what makes the game, and I quote, a "9.0" at IGN (extremely replayable, huh?) or "A unique and addictive platformer that no gamer should be without" and similarly rated at Nintendojo. Like I said in the prologue, on the other hand I enjoy being a total contrarian once in a while. I simply can't see the game's greatness. It's memorable, semi-fun and different, that's true, but it is no masterpiece and far from essential in my view.

Graphics : 7.0
Sound : 5.4
Playability : 6.1
Challenge : 8.0
Overall : 6.3


GameRankings: 80.00%

The game is actually the third Wario title. Virtual Boy Wario Land, released in 1995, was the second, but it was ignored in the numerical order probably due to the Virtual Boy's poor success. However, the game itself has been hailed by many critics as the best Virtual Boy game by a long shot.

The game was released on March 2nd, 1998. An enhanced and better known version of the game was released on the Game Boy Color on October 21st. Even though Wario Land II is a Japanese game, the original Game Boy version was never released in Japan.

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