Wario Land 4 Review

xandermartin98
WARIO LAND 4 REVIEW

Ah yes, Wario Land 4, basically my literal first video game alongside Metroid Fusion...anyway, Game Boy Advance being easily my most nostalgic game system besides the Super Nintendo aside, how exactly DOES this game hold up when compared to Wario Land 3? Well, Wario Land 3 was honestly a much more challenging and overall fleshed-out experience than this was, but I digress.

If nothing else, this certainly was a much more MEMORABLE experience than WL3, if only because of how ungodly bizarre it is.

So without further ado, let's geekily critically analyze each essential aspect of this game, starting with the one that it annoyingly prioritizes itself the most blatantly on providing to its players...why, mindless VISUAL stimulation, of course!

GRAPHICS: Oh. My. Ever. Loving. God.


Seriously, say what you will about how the vast majority of the non-Yoshi's-Island-special-effect portion of WL4's graphics technically could have also been done, albeit obviously with considerably less glamorous lighting effects and sprite detail to say the least, on the original 8-bit Game Boy Color system that its predecessor was on (looking at you in particular, IGN)...but I seriously have no words that can aptly describe how absolutely, BREATHTAKINGLY gorgeous this fracking game looks for a GBA title released at its time (yes, Metroid Fusion and Zero Mission looked considerably even better, but you also should acknowledge the fact that this was literally one of the earliest GBA launch titles, meaning that those two didn't even officially exist at the time when it came out; Zero Mission was 2004, Fusion was 2002, and this was 2001, just to give you an idea of what I'm getting at here).

While WL4's art style IS very much just a straight 32-bit remake of WL3's, where it really shines is in the simply staggering amount of detail that went into its environmental designs, enemy designs, character animations, boss designs and especially backgrounds.

For starters, no two levels look even remotely the same as each other apart from obviously sharing the same general themes based on which world you find them in (Ruby is themed around industrial technology, Sapphire around classic horror cliches, Topaz around toys/games, and Emerald obviously around plants and nature; more on that later); assuming that you're planning to jump randomly between worlds (as the game's ingeniously non-linear world map system very creatively allows you to do), you can literally be in a giant toy block tower full of adorable little RC Wario drivers one minute and a post-apocalyptic underground landfill the next. To say that the game visually invokes the imagination of its players is honestly quite the understatement, just for the record.

And that's not even mentioning the game's aforementioned wonderfully grotesque and more-often-than-not outright horrifying boss designs that look quite literally like Rayman Origins mixed with Odin Sphere; between the giant crocodile-mouthed serial-killer eggplant known as Spoiled Rotten, the hideously malformed Venus Flytrap abomination known as Cractus, the even more hideously malformed...THING known as Catbat, the giant cyborg serial-killer cuckoo clock known as Cuckoo Condor, the...mouse-ghost piloting a giant inflatable teddy bear known as Aerodent (well, okay, perhaps that one isn't really what I would call scary, but still), and most notably the giant cat-inhaling Odin Sphere abomination known as the Golden Diva, this game arguably has more to offer just in terms of pure unadulterated nightmare fuel than it does in probably any of its other aspects, just from the boss designs alone.


SOUND: Speaking of nightmare fuel, this game's soundtrack also has quite a bit of it as well (mostly through its hidden CDs, the level-escaping/final-boss themes and many of its astonishingly weird and creepy audio effects), but thankfully also balances it out with a wide variety of groovy and uplifting tracks that a very good portion of are actually shockingly catchy, atmospheric and memorable, such as Toy Block Tower, Fiery Cavern, Domino Row, Toxic Landfill, Crescent Moon Village, Hall Of Hieroglyphs, Mini-Game Shop and the boss theme (and honestly the aforementioned level-escaping/final-boss themes as well, disturbing-as-all-hell as they most definitely are).

The sound effects are also second-to-none levels of top-notch as well; the mere sound of bricks breaking as Wario forcefully slams his entire body into them in this game is honestly one of the most satisfying things I think I've ever heard in a game, and better yet, his voice actually sounds exactly like modern-day Wario, which in and of itself was an impressive feat for GBA at the time.

And speaking of which, yes, Nintendo also, believe it or not, actually managed to get an entire song's worth of digitized singing into this game as well (the Palm Tree Paradise theme, to be exact), and oh boy does it sound amazing by GBA standards.

STORY: This honestly shouldn't require any explanation, but basically, Wario is lazily sitting on the couch, watching TV and quite literally picking his nose as always...when all of a sudden, completely without warning, he recieves an extremely important report from the local news broadcast about how an ancient golden Aztec pyramid has just recently been discovered in the local Diamond City(?) jungle, prompting him to immediately take off into the local desert in his ridiculously badass purple Batmobile of a car (almost running over a small kitten in the process, nautrally), at the end of which he finally reaches the jungle that the news was talking about and immediately barges right into the pyramid through its front door without even a second thought!

Naturally, this ends VERY badly, resulting in him falling down an extremely elaborately-designed pit that leads him straight into the game's hub world, from where he immediately begins stealing all kinds of delicious coins, jewels and treasure from the very unapologetically Super-Mario-64-homaging "painting worlds" located in its precisely five passages and defeating their deeply unsettling guardians, leading up to him finally opening up the secret compartment in the floor of the pyramid's main plaza and discovering a second pyramid located INSIDE OF THE FRACKING PYRAMID! (Geez, Nintendo; Inception before Inception much?)

At the very center of said miniature pyramid located directly inside of the larger one, Wario finally meets up with the ghostly, thousand-year old, terrifyingly senile queen of the joint (Golden Diva, of course), who, after sucking the aforementioned cat from earlier into her nose via some kind of weird alien tractor beam, proceeds to engage in one of gaming's all-time most disturbing fights with Wario, whereupon it is revealed that she wears an absurdly large stack of masks to hide how vomit-inducingly hideous her true face is, and once that's finally over with, the entire building suddenly begins inexplicably collapsing for literally no apparent reason, forcing Wario to stuff all of the remaining treasure from Golden Diva's room into a great big Santa bag and take off running Metroid-style (sadly a part that you don't actually get to play, unfortunately) with the aforementioned cat in tow.

Shortly after Wario and his newfound stray cat finally escape from the pyramid, said pyramid immediately sinks directly into the ground and is never seen or heard of again, and as Wario and the cat disbelievingly sit and stare at each other in the very same exact nearby jungle clearing that Wario had previously entered the building through just a few measly hours ago, much of the treasure from Wario's exploits is suddenly absorbed into the cat, transforming her back into her true form...which, of course, naturally turns out to be the most beautiful princess that Wario has ever laid eyes upon in his entire life; Shokora, to be exact!

(Well, that is, unless you do a REALLY lousy job collecting the treasures from the boss fights, in which case she turns into Wario's plug-ugly mother in the bad ending and some kind of bratty little midget kid who probably isn't even an actual girl anymore in the worst ending, which ironically probably isn't even as bad as the bad ending from Wario's perspective considering that both of them kiss them right on the face as their way of showing their loving thanks towards him, but I digress...)

Anyway, long story short, it's a blatant excuse plot done right, enough said.

GAMEPLAY: Honestly, WL4 is kind of a difficult game to judge in this department. On one hand, the game is unbelievably easy even on its hidden Super Hard Mode difficulty setting, due to the fact that Wario, although technically no longer invincible, has a permanent maximum of no less than EIGHT exceedingly easily-replenishable hearts now and remains completely undamaged by so many ludicrously painful and horrifying things (being pancake-crushed, hammered into the shape of a spring, frozen solid and slammed against walls, burned into a living pile of ash, melted into a slime zombie, buried into giant snowballs and slammed against walls, inflated into an allergic-reaction balloon by wasp stings, etc) that he might as well still be invincible...

but at the same time, this game also makes Wario very much the fun type of inexcusably overpowered; seriously, the fact that this game boasts some of the absolute tightest controls in platformer history is literally just the additional non-graphical icing on the cake for how ungodly satisfying it is to just completely bulldoze through levels with Wario's legendarily superhuman physical strength and even use his aforementioned rather embarrassing bodily conditions brought about by certain enemy attacks and hazards to solve numerous incredibly creatively-designed puzzles in the game (or just throw things across the entire room, whichever you prefer).

Unfortunately, however, where this game's biggest shortcoming lies (at least compared to WL3 before it) is in its puzzle aspects; as creatively and imaginatively designed as they may very well still be, they are simply no longer the game's central focus. As a result, WL4 has taken more of the stereotypical action-platformer route with a few insultingly easy puzzles occasionally thrown in here and there and is unfortunately nowhere even remotely near as long or as wholesome of an experience overall as its predecessor was, even without taking WL3's classic music-coin-collecting sidequest into account.

What the game horribly lacks in overall length and substance, however, it easily more than makes up for in terms of being just pure, charming fun (if you've played or at least seen the Parappa franchise, you should already know very well what I'm talking about here).

In addition to all of the astonishingly weird and memorable things that happen THROUGHOUT its levels and bosses, the backdrops of the levels themselves are also strange, eclectic and eccentric to the extremes; in addition to an Indiana-Jones-style training course with mysteriously animated Game & Watch stick-figure hieroglyphs that tell you exactly what to do, as well as the aforementioned toy block tower and post-apocalyptic landfill, Wario's adventures also take him through palm tree beaches, bee-infested wildflower fields, Creature-From-The-Black-Lagoon-infested lakes and a swampy, rainstorm-riddled monsoon jungle...

in addition to an abandoned giant-robot/pancake factory from the future, the world's largest cryogenic stasis facility, the iconic Arabian palaces from Prince Of Egypt and Aladdin, an alternate dimension literally MADE out of side-scrolling pinball machines, the world's largest real-life board game, another alternate dimension where everything is made of dominoes and dice, a creepy old haunted pirate town from presumably the 18th or 19th century, yet ANOTHER alternate dimension made of cardboard and crayon drawings of which the socially highest-ranking resident is some kind of weird anthropomorphic pig-ghost-thing that literally plays Drawn To Life inside of Wario Land 4 in order to attack you, a haunted axe-murderer-infested version of Hotel Mario...

...and, of course, the classic incredibly cliched "lava volcano" level that we all know and love...except that it somehow instantaneously, inexplicably morphs into an ICE volcano about halfway through when Wario sets off its escape-seqence alarm, so perhaps IT can't really be considered particularly normal either.

Which, of course, is also where another major shortcoming of this game lies; while it certainly does have a commendably UNIQUE thematic assortment of levels going for it, it also has a really depressingly SMALL assortment of levels going for it; not counting the Hall Of Hieroglyphs (even though it's easily one of the greatest tutorial levels I've ever played in a game) and the Golden Passage, WL4 literally only has exactly SIXTEEN levels to explore, amounting to MAYBE about two hours of gameplay on the average player's first run of Hard Mode, let alone the somehow even easier Normal Mode.

However, as I also mentioned with the Parappa franchise (more specifically its Lammy spinoff in particular), WL4 also does a great job compensating for its ludicrously short length (and in this case as well as PTR 2's, ridiculously extreme lack of challenge) by giving players looking for 100% completion an extremely simple yet entertaining additional challenge to overcome.

While finding the four jewel pieces required for the player to collect in order to truly finish each level (and once all of the collective passage's pieces have been collected, open the boss door for each passage) is pretty self-explanatory even for the average six-year-old, as is finding most of the aforementioned bonus CDs, where the game really shines is in low-heart runs (on Super Hard Mode, at least) as well as deliberately trying to steal as much money as possible from each stage as quickly as possible (collecting 10,000 gold's worth or higher will give you a Gold Crown rank at the end of the level, naturally), which also becomes shockingly difficult on Super Hard mode during certain stages due to how frightfully short the level-escaping timers become...

as well as training yourself to beat the bosses as quickly as humanly possible (which, of course, requires some EXTREMELY cheap tactics on Super Hard Mode, most notably the stun-locking trick for Catbat and Cractus) so that you can get all twelve of the treasures FROM them and therefore get the best ending at the end of the game (even better in Super Hard Mode, where Wario gets his very own personal HOVER-CAR).

Oh, and by the way, don't worry; if, in any case, you ever end up needing assistance in order to help you beat one of the bosses faster (which, believe me, you most definitely WILL in Super Hard Mode, particularly against Spoiled Rotten and Aerodent), Mr. Game & Watch's local Item Shop has you covered...provided you're willing to spend (on average) anywhere between ten minutes and roughly half an hour playing "jump the wheel-riding Wario over the cactus" and "mix and match the goofy face" in order to mindlessly grind points for Chuck E Cheese tokens in order to be able to buy his items in the first place (believe me, WarioWare this ain't; also, yes, I know I forgot to mention the baseball minigame, but aside from its weird sideways perspective, it's not even worth mentioning).

OVERALL: While it was arguably extremely disappointing compared to its Game Boy Color predecessor and is very evidently focused far too much on graphical spectacle for its own good, Wario Land 4 is still an excellently made and awe-inspiringly gorgeous-looking (albeit almost sleep-inducingly easy even on Super Hard Mode) game that does an admirable job fusing Mario together with Metroid (in fact, it even literally uses the exact same ENGINE as Metroid Fusion, as can be very clearly proven by its debug rooms) and belongs in every self-respecting GBA owner's collection, be it on cartridge or emulators, without a doubt. In conclusion, despite its pathetic easiness, 8.3/10




Comments

Great review as always. Do you think you can review "Wario Land: Shake It! " sometime in the future? I haven't played it, but the anime-esque art style and the gameplay I've seen on YouTube look pretty fun to gaze at. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

P