Another Take – Wario World

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First you get the treasure, then you the winner.

There are very few GameCube exclusives I haven’t at least tried. I’m sure the same could be said for many in the AC community. In the early days of our predecessor, Aussie-Nintendo, the GameCube was our main console and many of us eagerly gobbled up the slow trickle of releases; especially console exclusives. This is may be why we’ve yet to cover a GameCube game in this feature until now; as anything we cover seems like preaching to the converted. Wario World is a game that I almost bought many times back then. I always wanted to play it but never so much as rented it. A few years ago, I finally bought it, but it sat on my shelf for another two years before I finally began playing it for this Another Take.

One of the main reasons at the time that I didn’t pick It up was a combination of retail price and its overall length. As I think back to the message boards and gaming sites of the early “noughties”, the length of a game was of almost constant interest and anything with an average time of less than ten hours was sure to be one I’d only buy cheap. While I’m sure this still goes on, the price of Wario World has obviously dropped significantly and with a lot less time, I’m a lot less worried about a games length these days. That goes especially if it is a quality experience.

So after two paragraphs, I’m ready to talk about the actual game. Let’s begin on probably the most interesting, if not significant detail about Wario World – it was developed by Treasure. The same Treasure that has produced almost nothing but gold since their legendary first game,  Gunstar Heroes. Treasure is probably most well known today for Ikaruga, which also saw release on the GameCube after the first home console relase on the Dreamcast. This detail alone made me very interested in Wario World. Although it was developed by Treasure, the game feels very much like an internally developed Nintendo title. This is not to be taken as a negative because from the entertaining opening cutscenes to the first time being dropped into a whimsical world of upbeat music and colourful environments – you can’t help but feel like you’re in Nintendo Land.

As someone coming to it today, what almost immediately struck me were the similarities Super Mario 3D World has with it. Wario moves across a 3D landscape with a fixed camera. This changes in many of the many bonus areas where the camera can be fully rotated to aid solving puzzles. The levels are designed to be traversed either left or right like a traditional platformer though there are also chances to ascend and descend in some multilevel environments. These are my modern eyes though and setting it in its time, it was clearly designed to be a 3D version of Wario’s excellent Game Boy titles.

It would be wrong to merely classify it as a platformer as it is also something of a beat em’ up. Wario attacks enemies in a variety of ways including punching combos, throwing objects and of course throwing, butt-stomping and even pile-driving dazed enemies. He can even swing enemies and certain objects around which can additionally be used to open certain doorways. There are also plentiful puzzles to solve and levels are loaded with collectables and secrets to seek out.

As I mentioned initially, Wario World is a short game but this is in some ways deceptive. There are four areas, each with two levels. Unlike Super Mario Sunshine, and many of the modern 3D Mario games, there are no individual scenarios that end a level once completed. Rather, everything can be done, if you’re willing to spend the time looking and are up to the challenge. So each level can take as little as ten minutes to over an hour, depending on how you play. The design of the game really encourages you to explore and find everything too. Something the game certainly isn’t light on is boss battles. There are actually more boss battles than there are levels in the game. Most are fairly easy and it always comes down to finding the (sometimes obscure) weaknesses. Regardless of this, it still won’t take long to finish but there is so much variety in the environments that this didn’t much bother me. Nothing felt overused or there to pointlessly lengthen the game.

Another criticism that will be leveled at the game will be its difficulty. If you play it to finish and not to completion, the game is indeed very easy but this is absolutely by design. Anyone familiar with Treasure knows they have made plenty of notoriously challenging games. The consequences for failure in Wario World are losing a certain number of collected coins and being able to continue where you fell. I never came close to running out of coins during my playthrough and I imagine few players would. There are still a few head-scratching puzzles, clever bosses and some genuinely challenging platforming sections to find if you take your eyes off the endgame for a while. And the lack of difficulty doesn’t reduce just how fun it is to play. There are actually great incentives not to just rush through the game as some collectables affect the ending and others let you unlock some WarioWare games that can be played on a Game Boy Advance with a link cable. Even without them, I can’t imagine many people not wanting to hunt around every corner of each level to find the secrets as it’s just fun to do.

If you’ve played the original Wario Land on GameBoy then you’ll likely remember that it wasn’t too difficult either. The enemies seemed like they were there just to be toyed with and the main punishment was losing coins. The Wario series, while not literally the opposite of, was designed to be different from the Mario series and the same is true of Wario World. It does a fantastic job of bringing this gameplay into a 3D world and it is only regrettable there isn’t more of it.

I generally like to cover games that can be easily found in this feature. At the time of writing, Wario World is still only available for GameCube but a PAL copy can be had for under $50. I can’t remember seeing it much cheaper ten years ago so the price has certainly remained steady. The game sold very well in Japan and as such, Japanese copies are much cheaper (mine cost less than $10 at the time of writing). If you can find the game below the $50 mark and haven’t played it, then it is a definite recommendation. If you’re a GameCube collector then you definitely should own it. Hopefully it will be made available more widely in the future. And though doubtful, I’d love to see a sequel.

January, 2016

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