Review: Wario World (GC/Treasure) by shepard saltzman
(Unreview by tim)

One of things you can expect from Treasure is focus. As much as I enjoy lounging on Riven's beaches and carefully turning over teacups, sometimes I just want to blast through challenges. All the Treasure games I've played to date satisfy this craving. Nothing goes to waste in these games: Dynamite Headdy's Secret Bonus Points wouldn't fit into the faster-paced Gunstar Heroes, Gunstar Heroes' weapon system would detract from the Ikaruga 's color system, and so on. Each game has its complexities, but those complexities never pull you out of what you were doing anyway.

Super Mario Sunshine has aspects that nicely illustrate this idea, both when it's used properly and when it's ignored completely. For the former, consider the "Secret" Shines, the ones that involve traveling to a surreal world to navigate a series of tricky jumps. Exploration vanishes, and for a short period it's just you and your platforming skills. Everyone I've talked to agrees that these are clearly some of the best moments in the game. It's not that there's anything wrong with the exploration, but these little surreal worlds are so compact and succinct that they manage to get every last detail right. For the latter, consider all the fruit-fetching for Yoshi. In most cases, the fruit you need is a sizable trek away, forcing you to march from one side of the area to the other. You can't even water-slide on the way back, slowing things down even more. There's no challenge to it, there's no sense of achievement, it doesn't add anything to the character of Yoshi... it's simply there.

Wario World takes what we know about Wario and does a solid job building off it. He's strong, so nearly all his moves revolve around fighting. There's a good deal of platforming in there too, but nothing nearly as intricate as the triple-jumps and wall jumps of Super Mario Sunshine. Since the complexities of controlling Wario revolve around using his attacks, those attacks are used to solve most of the puzzles. None of the puzzles are brain-benders, but as the enemies grow more aggressive, you'll be forced to learn to control the swarms of enemies long enough to pull off the pile driver, throw or spin attack necessary to progress. So far, so good. Nothing going to waste.

Wario's also greedy, so all that fighting pays off in various forms of loot. Wario World is most definitely a scavenger hunt game, challenging you to find eight red crystals, eight golden statue pieces, eight unique treasures and five spritelings per level. As I said, though, the focus is on fighting, and as such you'll never find yourself far from some sort of fighting or platforming challenge. Despite repetitive goals, it definitely keeps your attention.

Still, "keeps your attention" would be an insult to most Treasure games. But Wario World is not brilliant, sadly. If it succeeds at all, it's because it strives towards the single-minded focus of Bangai-O. In Bangai-O, there was very little you could say about the game that didn't involve the word "explosion." You build up your super bar by causing explosions, which lets you use a super move that causes more explosions based on the number dangerous, explosive things near your character at the time, which is a good way to find valuable Space Fruit (the more explosions on screen at the time, the better!). With Wario World, you get a similar effect with treasure - hitting an enemy causes them to drop coins. Killing an enemy causes them to drop coins and adds to your kill counter, which adds to your coin total when you finish off a boss. Using a powerful attack to finish off an enemy causes them to drop larger coins. The problem is, whereas Bangai-O rewarded your explosion-causing ability with the chance to cause more explosions, these Wario Worldís coins don't do much at all. You can trade them in at garlic vendors to restore your health or spend them to revive right where you died instead of being booted back to the hub world. Note that, although the price of a continue rises as you advance through the game, after the second world I always had in excess of 50 continues to fall back on.

And so here weíve come upon the problem of waste. The player controls are based around Wario, the short-term challenges take advantage of the limited intricacies of these controls, the long-term challenges are repetitive, but the long-term rewards are more interesting than your standard scavenger-hunt game, so far so good... but the short-term rewards are minimal. The fighting is fun, but itís not fun enough to risk your virtual life on a group of enemies you could just as easily run past. If only there were some motivation to gathering coins that built upon other aspects of the game, the whole thing might feel much tighter than it does.

< Brandon's Note: But of course - intentional or otherwise, greed's most logical output is waste. Further, this is Treasure's biggest budget title to date, but doesn't quite show it. Furthering the metaphor. >

There's a number of things that Wario World does right. Each level may have 8 statue pieces, but at least you're building unique statues. Likewise, each level has 8 unique treasures. Being thorough unlocks better endings and downloadable Wario Ware games (however, if you own a Game Boy Advance, you really should own Wario Ware anyway). All the bosses (the high point of the game, as you might've guessed) can be re-fought as often as you like, although the mini-bosses vanish forever after being beaten and levels don't offer any reason at all to retread them once you've garnered all their treasures. Wario's personality is apparent throughout the game: levels are marked with big, goofy "TO DO" lists, Wario quickly groans impatiently when you don't do anything, while the pause screen music has Wario singing "NYAH, NYAH NYAH NYAAAH, NYAH!" - as if to annoy you into returning back to the game.

Perhaps I should say that there's a lot that Wario World doesn't do wrong. Just when you think you've seen everything it has to offer, it manages to throw an innovation your way that'll keep you playing. Where substance is lacking, style manages to make up for it. As I mentioned, building unique statues partially saves the task of building a new statue every level. The base set of enemies may appear in every level, but at least they're dressed up to suit the level's theme.

There are, however, three major faults with Wario World that keep it from being a game worth buying.

The first, and least severe of the problems, is the one I mentioned earlier with the coins. You simply amass them endlessly. If you could spend them on something - unlockable moves, power-ups, art galleries, more GC-GBA connectivity, mini-games, whatever - that would add purpose to the fighting, definitely a good thing in such a combat-oriented game.

The second problem is that the worlds feel slapped together. One of the worlds consists of a snowy mountain level, a forest level and a volcano boss. Another consists of a magic / mirror-themed level, a desert level and a skeleton pirate boss. It may be just a style problem, but in a game that rides on style in so many places, it sticks out quite painfully.

The final, and most critical problem, is that it's just too short. Though noted above, Iíll repeat it; each world consists of two levels and a boss. There are four worlds total. That means eight stages (each with its own boss), four world bosses plus a final boss, and that's it.

Eight stages.

Super Mario 64 has fifteen. Banjo-Kazooie has nine. Super Mario Sunshine has 7. And those are levels you can really play around with and explore. Levels you can sink your teeth into. And that's not even counting the stuff you can do in their respective hub worlds.

To put it bluntly, a decent gamer with a little coin-gathering patience will have run out of things to do with Wario World in a week or so. An experienced gamer will probably find Wario World over after a weekend. For all the bullets the games manages to dodge, there's simply not enough of it to warrant a purchase, nor are there compelling reasons to replay it (I'm kinda curious about what the worst ending looks like, but that's it).

If you want to play a Treasure game, get Ikaruga instead. If you want Wario, go get Wario Ware, which takes focus to ridiculous extremes and is brilliant for it. If you want something to hold your attention for a while, try Aria of Sorrow, which lets you fight to your heart's content without robbing you of any exploration-related goodness. Despite severe disappointment with Wario World, I'd still be interested if Treasure decides to try a Wario World 2. With a little more variety, some more depth in the battle system and more levels (or perhaps compelling reasons to replay those levels), Wario World 2 has the potential to be amazing.

shepard saltzman

Pros: Focus, boss fights.

Cons: Short, repetitive.















A Wario World Unreview by
tim rogers


I was going to review this game. Then, for some reason, I didn't. My local Blockbuster didn't get it on release day. When asked, they said they'd get it tomorrow. Tomorrow is too late, because here's a review today, and it covers the way I am pretty much sure I'd feel about the game. Which is nice.

I didn't play this game more than a little bit at E3 -- enough to determine that it didn't suck. Which I think this review states pretty well. Let's remember Electronic Gaming Monthly's old rule -- a game that gets a 5.0 is "average"; this game clearly gets more than a 5.0, which means it doesn't, as they say, "Suck."

What I liked about what little Wario World I played was the groove of it, even if it wasn't enough. It felt like a fisticuff-endowed Mario title, filled with plenty of Wario ugliness. And that was going to be a big point of my review which was never written:

Wario is god-damned ugly.

If the yellow hat and purple trousers don't do it for you, the zigzagging mustache might. And if the zigzagging mustache don't do it for you, the nasty-shaped red nose should.

Wario is not meant to be pretty. Mario, at best, is an acquired-taste kind of "cute." Wario is not cute under any circumstances. He was created as a twisted, hideous, messed-up semi-surprise arch-nemesis for Mario in Super Mario Land 2, much as his brother Waluigi -- a clever Japanese pun and an un-clever character design -- was created both to mock Luigi and keep Wario company. If not inspired, Wario is at least polished in his ugliness. As I believe the great Gaming Intelligence Agency's Drew Cosner once said of the greater Wesley Willis, "Either you do one thing well, or you do it horribly, and be an absolute schizophrenic about it." This . . . kind of applies to Wario. He is not the people's hero -- he's the asshole character your asshole friend always picks when you play Mario Party 2 or Mario Kart 64.

I used to know a kid who liked the Detroit Tigers. The kid had a shitty personality. His personality was so shitty that to think of him today makes me think of Wario. His personality was so shitty that to think of him then made me hate the Detroit Tigers.

This guy, and Wario: they are, compared to Mario or Sonic, quite simply put, dirty. Sloppy. Yet, at the same time, Treasure's clean implementation of the yellow-and-purple-clothed eyesore is so smooth it almost reminds me of solid, compact Genesis games, and makes the GameCube Wario World a totally different ugly animal from the grungy, gritty, dirty, too-nasty-for-Japan Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee for Xbox.

What I like about Treasure games, at the end of the day, is their cleanness. Even the titles are clean:

Gunstar Heroes. No one ever disagreed with the words "Gun" or "Star" or "Heroes." That's clean.

Guardian Heroes uses two words that exist in many, many other places. That's cleaner.

Silhouette Mirage -- same thing.

Radiant Silvergun has another "Gun"-inclusive hybrid word in it, and that's cool by me.

Bangai-Oh -- whatever it means, it sounds good. Same goes for Ikaruga.

Often, the character designs reflect this cleanness of title. The Gunstar Heroes of Gunstar Heroes are red, blue, yellow, and green. Simple character designs for a simple story, in a shooter based around a simple concept. The intimacy of the character design inspires you to step closer to your enemies, grab them, and throw them. It inspires you to jump head-first into Bravoo-Man, your first real miniboss, landing a wicked hands-on body-slam. It's thanks to the game design that we get a crunchy-cereal feeling out of the controller in our hands as we tear through that robot of brick; it's thanks to the character design and the overall cleanness of the game that we're inspired to do so in the first place.

God bless Treasure for making a game starring Wario look clean; damn them for not making me feel inspired the way I do with Gradius V, which therefore won "Treasure Game of the E3 2003." I blame this, mostly, on Wario's being ugly, and lonely.

Virtual Boy Wario Land was a Mario-ish adventure that got by not on its cleanness or charm -- it got by on its difficulty, its urgency, its my god keep playing until you get to the end. That it gave me headaches and robbed me of two-thirds of the physical color spectrum was a con; that it made me not mind this so much is a pro. (I took my Excedrin like a man.) That I got all the treasure during my first run-through would be a bad thing if the rest of the game wasn't so damned memorable.

It wasn't by Treasure.

It had good box art, however.

How Nintendo managed to manipulate Wario on the box art for Virtual Boy Wario Land in such a way as to make the whole project appealing even on an aesthetic level is something of a mystery. Years later, after spying Wario World's fuzzy, blown-up, lazily Photoshopped DVD case on my Gamestop rack, I believe the older game's appeal has something to do with the treasure map out of which Wario is bursting on the box. It has something to do with the positions of the monsters -- including a saw-nosed fish. It is the arrangement of the ugliness that makes it -- if at all -- attractive.

Nintendo's Mario and Wario, for Super Famicom, was a kind of clever Gyromite riff. On the box, Mario stands with a shiny bucket on his head, being led around by a fairy -- the player character. Wario, big and fat and ugly as ever, looks fatter and uglier next to a shiny bucket and a worried fairy.

This is an example of Wario usefully characterized.

One of the GameBoy Wario Land games is blessed with a concept: Wario can't die. Being hit by certain enemies alters his state so that he can reach areas he couldn't previously reach, or kill enemies he couldn't previously kill. Killing enemies, then, is done not because the player fears death -- it is because the player fears being changed into something not advantageous to him.

This is an example of Wario's bad-guy toughness implemented into a brilliant design concept.

The Wario of Wario World's box art is an ugly cartoon man surrounded by shiny computer-animated gold coins. With no characters of similar cartoon integrity to bounce off of, Wario is the worst kind of fat, ugly man -- he is a fat, ugly, and lonely man. Is this Nintendo's idea of a mature game? Make the pastel-colored hero fat and ugly instead of chubby and cute? No, no -- Nintendo is above that kind of lowbrow Oddworldliness. Wario's lonesomeness is a fluke, and a bad kind of fluke, at that.

Wario is made even lonelier by the absence of any big, burly, rolled-up-sleeves kind of game-design risk. To be sure, Treasure games, in their cleanness, are all about polishing the confines of genres, and encrusting with one singular, well-set gameplay jewel: take Ikaruga -- Treasure's idea of a "simple top-down shooter" -- blessed with the deep brilliance of the polarity-system, which allows psychotic players to beat the game without firing a single shot. Take Gunstar Heroes -- a seemingly typical run-and-shoot -- with its gentle insistence that you get up close, and hug your enemies.

Take Gradius V, with its bite-sized Vic Viper Starship, and aimable options that can be re-grabbed following a death. Sure -- we've seen options in Gradius before; we've seen revival (respawning immediately after death rather than skipping back to the beginning of a level or segment) in a shooter before; we've just never seen option revival. This is the kind of combination and revision Treasure always has been good at doing.

It's just not the kind of thing Wario's good at bringing.

Nintendo's WarioWare for GameBoy Advance sees Wario as the MC for a twirling, twirling, twirling tirade of sickening, eclectic funness. (Put that on the box, IGN!) This is Wario used in the same manner as the equally ugly Queen of England: a figurehead. The game itself has little to do with Wario; putting him there on the box makes me like Wario as much as we like the Queen of England when we drop a ten-pound note for the latest issue of Edge.

Watching what happens when a more-than-respectable developer fixes itself to the task of building an entire game around the ugly lump is interesting, if not entirely pretty.

"Brilliant concepts," these days, in videogames, are tough to come by. The way I see it, there are two bookends. Grand Theft Auto displays its brilliance in allowing the player to do everything. Ikaruga's brilliance is that it allows the player to do close to nothing. Wario Ware, the middle ground; a game that sees videogames as videogames, it is brilliant in that it forces the player to constantly reinvent himself.

Wario World is not brilliant for any reason. It is simply what it is.

And . . . what is it?

It can't be called a moneymaking strategy -- Wario's too bloaty a character to make much money.

It can't be called an artistic risk, because it doesn't strike out in any bold territory. It neither excites nor inspires. It is lonely.

At least it the rendering of the ugly man looks smooth -- maybe even "nice." Unlike the differently ugly Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, Wario World makes use of cleanly-traced ugliness, which makes it maybe-palatable to Japanese design sensibilities. Inversely, in America, where, most of the time, UGLY = TEH COOL, the game is promoted with the most hideous of box art.

Something about the fact that the page cites "Nintendo" as the developer makes me feel some kind of sick duty to play this game. In this day of entertainment news programs informing viewers which movies produced by Jerry Bruckheimer are actually directed by Michael Bay, I feel this swelling desire, this . . . frothing demand, to let someone know that developer names like "Treasure" are important knowledge for casual gamers. This, combined with the experience of having read Shepard's review, inspires me to play through Wario World once, as a Treasure fan; I figure I can complete it in three hours. So many people have been relating to me their "d00d that game's S0 short" stories; I figure I'll see what I can do about relating similar stories of my own to some other people.

Until then, I think I'll play some more Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for Saturn. I appreciate pretty character designs running around an elegant gothic atmosphere.

And as far as antiheroes go, Alucard could so kick Wario's ass.

--tim rogers will give you five to one on mario vs. richter




Release Date
June 24, 2003