maanantai 1. elokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Wario Land 4 (2001)

GENRE(S): Platform
RELEASED: August 2001
DEVELOPER(S): Nintendo
PUBLISHER(S): Nintendo

Wario Land has always been a highly acclaimed sub-franchise of Mario... and I'm nearly infamous for hating it. I liked the first game, which of course is formally known as Super Mario Land 3. I liked it a lot; it was a great game and an improvement over the first two Super Mario Land titles. The fourth game in the Wario Land series was released on the Game Boy Advance in the summer of 2001, something like five months into the handheld's launch, and once again critics were ecstatic about the game. Some called it the best game in the series. That didn't mean much to me, but critics putting it over the first one sparked my curiosity. Get ready for another contrarian's review.

Another return to Wario Land

Wario reads about an ancient pyramid deep in the jungle from a local newspaper, and rushes to the scene, smelling good money related to the discovery. Wario enters the pyramid filled with treasure and sets out to search for the mythical ruler of the pyramid, Princess Shokora.

It was about a year ago that I wrote reviews for Wario Land - Super Mario Land 3 and Wario Land II. The gap between the ratings was incredible. While the first game gained the honour of being the highest-rated original Game Boy title of the blog with the conclusive rating of 8.7, the second game - a usual critics' favourite - fell as far from the tree as 6.3. I have to admit I didn't remember a whole lot of Wario Land II when I decided to swallow my distrust and try out Wario Land 4 (I skipped game number three for the Game Boy Color altogether), but when I started to play the game, a lot of things that I hated about Wario Land II suddenly began to flash back into my memory banks. Luckily, not all of them. Wario Land 4 is a better game, with less downright enfuriating parts such as the infamous "chicken coop" sequence, but I sincerely don't know what it is about the series and its gameplay that rubs me the completely wrong way. I can tell you one thing for certain, though: on my account, a Wario Land game in which you can actually die, and in which there are no checkpoints, is not my idea of fine, consumer-friendly entertainment.

Not those zombifiers again.
The graphics are not that great on the GBA standards; Wario Land 4 looks more like a minimal update of the previous Wario Land titles than a game made to push the envelope like the Super Mario Advance series did right from the start. The sound effects and Wario's voice samples, and the jazzy jive of the soundtrack are the better parts of the audiovisual performance of the game.

As per usual, your goal is to solve puzzles, gather treasure and fight bosses. That's the simplest way to put it. There are six lengthy levels. In each one you're supposed to make your way to the end, get a key or something of the sort, and backtrack your way to the beginning of the level and hold on to the key within the confines of a time limit, and use the key to open up a new portal. Then you must a fight a boss, and you're done with the level. Even though all the events in the game take place within an ancient pyramid, all of the levels are themed differently. Wario Land 4 lives up to the standards of a traditional platformer by having a ghost house and a factory, for example.

There are three different minigames found in a room promptly called the "Mini-game Shop" which are all surprisingly fun. You gain special coins by doing good in the minigames, which you can use in item shops to buy some rare items. Also, finding CD's in each of the levels unlocks music to be played in the Sound Room, which is located in the pyramid's "lobby". There's all kinds of hidden stuff in Wario Land 4. Most of it's treasure, but a fairly large part of it's aimed at completists and those in pursuit of replay value. I can't say Wario Land 4 lacks replay value. Me, I barely have the patience to hack through it once. Somehow, it's so familiar. Even if all the flaws aren't there.

The biggest flaw about the game indeed is the way it handles a case of death, which was not present at all in Wario Land II. There are no checkpoints within the levels - none. If you happen to die, you're stripped of all the treasure you have collected, even that for which you have gone to great lengths - there's even an animation that shows how Wario is robbed of all your hard-earned treasure - and you have to start the whole long-ass level over, even if you're two steps from the final portal when it happens. The time limit is also a bitch. Failing to make it to the end within the given time does not kill you instantly; your treasure turns into extra time. Once again, though, the treasure does not stand for much more than currency for a different ending. There's a time limit to the bosses as well; each boss is in possession of a special treasure. If you fail to beat the boss within this different time limit, you will lose the treasure.

Yeah, this is exactly what I thought a pyramid
would look from the inside.
Wario Land 4 is definitely a harder game than Wario Land II, in a more politically correct way. For example, one thing that I remember loathing more than God about the last Wario Land game I played was Wario's removal from the playfield if a boss got the upper hand. In this sense, death is perfectly welcome. It's better to be forced to try again from scratch than being removed from the field and forced to backtrack your way to the boss over and over again. But, I will never understand the total lack of checkpoints - and because of just that one thing, I will never understand why this game has garnered in so much praise. That, and Wario's stiff movement. He has a lot of moves in his arsenal, a lot of different handicaps to be suffered, and I applaud Nintendo for making this such a versatile gameplay experience. They could've made it more comfortable, too, though.

Wario Land 4 is definitely a step up from my last experience with the Wario sub-franchise, but it's not a great game. I've seen the nines, even tens, and I simply don't understand what most critics see in this game. However, as I said last time, I love being a contrarian every once in a while and I guess I should thank Wario Land for letting me be one. Something's just not right about it. 

SOUND : 7.5


a.k.a. Warioland 4, Wario Land Advance

GameRankings: 85.19%

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