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Wario Land 4 – Game Boy Advance

Wario Land 4 – Game Boy Advance

14790_frontPlatform: Game Boy Advance

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): November 19, 2001

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10

Wario.

Land.

4.

We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? From Super Mario Land 2, where Wario made his first appearance, to his debut on the Game Boy Advance, our favorite yellow cretin has seen numerous changes.

And here we are.

What great things are in store for us? How much can the series improve after Wario Land 3?

Wario Through the Ages

Wario through the ages. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the years…it’s that Wario has progressively gotten smaller.  Also, why did Nintendo decide to stop separating his shoes from his pants after the first Wario Land?

Well…funny you should ask.

Before I dive into this review, I wanna give a shoutout to my original Wario Land 4 cart. This thing is a trooper. I bought it sometime around 2002, soon after its released, and it still works to this day.

What’s so special about it, you may ask?

This cartridge survived a washing machine.

No, I’m not kidding.

I left it in my pants pocket when I was younger and it ran its course through the washer, and possibly the dryer as well. Likely the dryer, in fact. And much to my chagrin, I discovered it when it was too late.

However…

I immediately popped it into my Game Boy Advance to see if it still worked, and what do you know? It plays without a hitch and still saves. The label wasn’t even ravaged too terribly.

In fact, it was the copy I used for this review.

WarioLand cart 1

They just don’t make ’em like they used to

Alright, enough filler, let’s get on with it.

I ask you this: What would you expect from a follow-up to the fantastic Wario Land 3?

Perhaps the writing was on the wall for this one after such a stellar title. So often the apex is followed by a downfall…but just how far has the series fallen?

Not terribly far, but still a fall.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 10.41.25 AM

Tell me I’m not the only person who thinks that portal over his head looks like an anus

Wario Land 4 isn’t bad at all. It’s actually quite good, and my subjective mind would prefer it over Wario Land 3. In fact, there are certain aspects of it that are vastly superior to its predecessor. But the sad, hard truth is it took several unfortunate steps backward. Regression at its finest.

So…what’s our man up to this time around?

Well, an ancient pyramid was recently discovered, and so the king of greed is back once again to embark on a mission of lavish indulgence and opulence. There are four Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.33.17 PMmain passages (not including the entry and final stages), with four rooms and one boss battle in each, making for a whopping 16 levels – 18 if you include the first and last passages. Every level, which Wario travels to via vortex, has four jewel pieces you must unearth from chests hidden throughout the map (sound familiar?).

You’ll reach a point where you find a humble-looking frog switch. Jump on its head to re-open the portal you came from. This will initiate a countdown telling you how much time you have to return to the beginning.  In order to advance to the next area, you must also find a “Keyzer” and bring it back with you to the portal.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.38.30 PM

The Keyzer

Also hidden throughout are cases housing nifty CDs. Gathering CDs is not mandatory, but you will need to complete the four jewels in order to face the boss.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.21.30 PM

Defeat the boss to obtain their precious adornments, and do so with at least a minute on the clock to secure all three treasure chests. That about sums it up. Now let’s start picking this thing apart!

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 11.15.09 PM

WL3WL4

Just because a style has more detail doesn’t mean it’s better.  This is a perfect example of an animation I find way better in Wario Land 3 than Wario Land 4.  Art is subjective, so you are completely within your right to disagree

First of all, the Game Boy Advance is of a much higher caliber than the Game Boy Color in terms of its graphics and other technical specs. While Wario Land 4 is indeed more detailed, it actually doesn’t look as good as Wario Land II or 3. Now hear me out – yes, we are seeing something technically better than what we had before, but the artwork just isn’t up to par with the others.

Wario Land II and 3 accomplished more with less to work with than Wario Land 4. This one doesn’t look terrible, and it’s nice to finally see our antihero wearing yellow and purple in one of his eponymous games, but once you move past the 32-bit sheen, you might acknowledge it as a step-down. And yes, 32-bits. Game Boy Advance is a 32-bit system, don’t you forget.

Wario Land 4 is significantly easier than any other Wario Land game we’ve discussed so far (not counting Virtual Boy Wario Land – don’t worry, I’ll cover that one soon enough). It’s relatively short, with fewer levels than the others. There’s not as much to explore or collect, and whatever is there can be found without a lot of effort. In fact, this is the first Wario Land I completed 100% without any walkthroughs or aids. I even beat most bosses on my first try, all with over a minute left on the clock to earn me the entirety of their fortunes.

And what did 100% completion get me? Absolutely nothing. Just a “good ending.” You can listen to all the CDs at the end, which is kinda cute. They’re weird as hell, featuring some video clips of people dressed like Wario and other random images, but otherwise not much of a reward.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 5.00.11 PM

Huh?

For those of you who may have found the other games too hard to complete, this one may be a little more accessible. And since there is the inclusion of Hard and S-Hard difficulty modes (yes, I only played on normal, feel free to roast me in the comments section), I will forgive the relative ease…though this still doesn’t change the fact that there are considerably fewer levels and objects to find.

Once again you’re given the freedom to round up as many coins as possible. You have a score, and there’s no limit like in Wario Land 3, but, I dunno…coins just haven’t had the same meaning as they did in the first game. I think my avaricious ways have slowly dwindled as the series progressed and put less emphasis on accumulated monetary wealth.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 10.27.57 PM

I don’t like the look he’s giving me

Ever since Wario Land II, coins have mostly served as a means of playing mini-games, and while they were essential to play in both II and 3, Wario Land 4 doesn’t require them at all. Playing the games are indeed fun, incredibly weird, and earn you medals towards purchasing items for boss battles, but these are easy enough without help. The weapons for such battles are entirely unnecessary though you may get a kick out of watching the kooky animations.

The puzzle-solving aspect is gone. There are some tricky spots here and there, but as long as you’ve been mastering his moveset since Wario Land II, you won’t have any problems.

A select few “reactions” have returned, but there’s one important caveat here – Wario’s no longer invulnerable.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.05.16 PM

No, I’m not kidding you.

They took a big step backward here. What really stood out about these games is how they managed to circumvent the traditional health system while maintaining a strong challenge through clever level design. With a health bar, Wario Land plays a little more like your typical platformer. A fun and enjoyable platformer with decent levels, but still just a standard platformer.

Alright, alright, I’ve ragged on this game long enough. And by score, you can see it don’t suck. So what exactly stands out about Wario Land 4?

It’s got style.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 3.26.40 PM

Enough style to make Screech from Saved by the Bell cool tolerable.

Wario has always had personality but never before has he been this prominently featured as such a force to be reckoned withScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 9.50.43 AM. While it’s true he is now both vulnerable and capable of losing coins, he’s tough, he’s flashy, and he’s fully come into his own. From the laid back, groovy soundtrack, to his pumping iron before a big match, and even the strange and silly voice-overs, Wario Land 4 really defines who he is as a character. And I guess we needed the Game Boy Advance to see him “mature” into the man we know today.

I’ve said before how the Wario franchise was almost a laboratory for Nintendo to experiment, and they really went all out this time. Where the game is lacking in unique gameplay, it excels in tonal weirdness.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.42.56 PMWario Land 4 really does exist in a world of its own, and I love it for that very reason. It’s weird. Very weird. Very…Japanese weird. I think the kids are calling it “kawaii,” although this unhip, out-of-touch, thinks-he’s-older-than-he-really-is reviewer might be misusing the term. But either way, there are a lot of strange little oddities here and there that only make sense in Japanese culture. This is true even for the music, which features a couple tunes with some vocal tracks. And you can’t forget the weird, funny, echoey, almost disconnected and out-of-place voice recordings of Charles Martinet, making Wario’s realm even stranger. Tone is indeed what is special about this game. You can clearly see the seeds of WarioWare Inc. planted firmly in Wario Land 4. It reminds me somewhat of the craziness you’d find on the Game Boy Camera…

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.52.41 PM

The Big Board features a board game setup where you’ll have to hit a certain number to activate particular events

Even though layouts are not as complex as they have been in the other games, Wario Land 4 has some of the prettiest, most colorful and creative levels I’ve seen so far. From the frantic Domino Row to the engaging Pinball Zone, you are liable to lose yourself in these settings. Some stages, like the ones already mentioned, have unique, fun gimmicks. They do add more to the experience and help give this game at least a little dash of flavor.

I already touched upon the music, but I’ll say here that it’s really nice. Some tracks are ultra soothing. Others are catchy. It fits the overarching tone of Wario Land 4, and it’s pure excellence.

So is that it? Have I presented everything I meant to cover for the fourth installment in the Wario Land series? I sure hope so.

It really is a good game…it’s just a change of pace, which we should come to expect by now. I’m highly critical of Wario Land 4 because the other three were so good, and each one improved upon the last in one way or another, whereas this one was a serious regression. I love it though, and you can’t overlook its borderline obnoxious, yet totally welcomed style, which almost makes up for where the game otherwise falls short. While it has a lot of demerits, Wario Land 4 is still worth checking out, and even owning. Just don’t expect the same perfection you had in Wario Land 3.

 

Wario
Main Series
WarioWare
Other

 

Written by ZB

ZB

Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at zb@nerdbacon.com. I am happy to hear your feedback!

 
 

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