Release Date: June 23, 2003
Directors: Kouichi Kimura and Hitoshi Yamagami
Solve all your problems with your fists!
Our mischievous and greedy anti-hero is on a romp through 8 stages collecting treasure, platforming, and whomping bosses in his first 3D adventure.
Wario controls quite different from Mario as his controls are much simpler to grasp and execute compared to the much more advanced acrobatics available in 3D Mario titles. He can jump and nimbly turn his body around to any direction in midair. This allows him to jump off a platform, turn around in midair, and grab its ledge. He cannot shimmy on ledges but can jump freely out of a ledge grab, which can be used to grab onto higher up blocks. He cannot wall jump or triple jump for added height. His means of moving fast are by dashing. He can cancel his dash by either punching or by holding the opposite direction of his dash on the analog stick.
This game has much more combat than his debut title. Wario has several moves to put the hurt on his antagonists: shoulder bash, punch, punch (x2) that can be followed up with a headbutt, jump punch, ground pound. Whatever you choose your enemy will always end up getting stunned. Then all of these options of attack have no effect on the dazed enemy. Mad Moves (a throw, a move that spins picked up enemies around called Wild Swing-Ding, and Piledriver) are required to finish enemies off. With the exception of baby-sized enemies, enemies cannot be flat-out destroyed unless you employ one of the Mad Moves.
The game starts by dropping Wario into a barebones hub. Its structure is one of a tiny central area connected to four bridged paths that lead you to typical themed worlds for a platformer each radically partitioned off from one another in a way only a videogame could do. The stages themselves look like terrain leveled and built by and for human beings but now populated with burly animals. Expect a lot of flattened space, gentle inclines and thorough evenness. You mostly go from left to right like you would expect in a belt-scroller beat-em-up except with the ability to fully scroll back. Stage elements, such as conveyor belts, are blown up to enormous proportions.
Stage 1 has good flow allowing you to move rampantly through the stage searching for treasure chest activating buttons and then treasure chests; grabbing enemies at your whim to quickly go plunging under trapdoors to access sublevels of puzzles or platforming. Any enemy you see walking around is entirely bypassable and they are quickly dispatched when engaged. Stage 2 and on are tediously broken up by one of the most mundane things in video games: force field enclosed battles. This cuts into the quick stage-scouring of item collection since getting temporarily trapped in small arenas makes the affair no longer breezy as it was on Stage 1.
Enemies on stages are plentiful, and with their movement speed set to saunter, common enemies have been limited to one wind-up attack: an invincible bum-rush, a haymaker or a flurry rush. For most of the game the enemy AI is very passive when it comes to attacking Wario and are easily sent scattering. Ironically, the most aggressive enemies do not hurt Wario but spill his coins. They are found in the underworld, a place you end up when Wario goes out-of-bounds. Once there invulnerable enemies called Unithorns, purple phantom dog heads, violently shake Wario and can toss or push him into poison water while he is trying to escape. In very little time it becomes readily apparent enemies function better (and more appropriately for the genre) as nuisances when in the middle of trying to do something rather than as actual combatants.
One place the above is put into effect for fun are later levels where a descending invulnerable stampede must be crossed requiring the player to dodge and weave. These parts are slightly challenging and you can get knocked off the stage if you’re not careful. Let’s move on to discussing the design of sublevels.
The otherworldly sublevels are creatively designed rooms or sky courses devoid of enemies. With swirling spikes, coalescing coins, and rising platforms moving around, Wario must make his way to the end platform where a red diamond and gold statue piece await. Wario doesn’t have an internal physics engine that allows him to build up momentum unlike Mario. This means he is reliant on the stage and stage elements for providing fun Wario-hurling/dropping/suspending physics, which are in abundance here.
One prominent new stage element, which is a personal favorite in the genre, is known as the glue globe. These are yellow levitating spheres that Wario clasps onto and can rotate 360 degrees around (quite an amusing sight!) that give off an extremely satisfying sound effect that sounds like a crisp potato chip crunched on while simultaneously emitting colorful sparkles on contact. This stage element works wonderfully and is only possible with the grabby-natured physics engine of Wario World. Most other game character’s have awkward rotation when clung onto objects, but for Wario, it is top-notch.
Every small course brings on new feats to overcome. Entering them places the camera behind Wario and gives the camera option of shifting 360 degrees around Wario in addition to an overhead view. Treasure was very ambitious in presenting a wide variety of stage designs to platform about on (e.g. doing huge drops, running on the inside of a spinning spiral).
On the puzzle rooms: The puzzles barely classify as puzzles until the last world. They are all confined to a box-shaped room with a cozy rustic aesthetic. There is nice hip-hop style beat boxing music playing. Spacious floor space within an enclosed space. Most of them are designed around navigating your way upwards in various maneuvers generally of one type of elevation (i.e. jumping up a structure via edge grabs on blocks). These rooms are a good showcasing of Wario moving around in a 3D space, although the high majority will take less than 1 minute to complete. Some of the sublevels are so short they should be chained together.
On the platform stages: Courses suspended in the sky with serene music playing in the background. Super clean looking floating blocks that move in a guided fashion as if powered by an invisible conveyor belts and piston machinery. Narrow floor space for classical platforming goodness and terrific leaps. Lots of action launching upwards, plummeting downwards, launching forward, and scurrying up tilting surface sides of large rotating blocks. While very creative, the short length of them limits the sense of accomplishment. Anxiety-free – Don’t think anything of screwing up a jump. You’ll be brought back to the start of the sublevel without any loss of health or coin. There are no bottomless pits of death to be found in this game.
Another major strength that Treasure got right here is that hit feedback packs an oomph. When it comes to knocking the stuffing out of anything walking, Wario wins. Punching anything from a wall to an enemy gives off a big resounding impactful hit. When you hit an enemy a visual effect of a large circle burst is produced accompanying the twanging body-wobbling bop. The enemy’s entire body flashes yellow, red, or blue depending on how they were hit. I gotta say that the headbutt that comes at the end of 3-hit combos that dazes foes has immensely satisfying hit feedback. There is a trade off for making Wario a powerhouse though.
There will be times when you’ll get hit while Wario is in the process of hoisting a dazed enemy above his head. Without a defensive option of dodge/block/counter button, it pays to be mindful of the distance gap of nearby baddies. If the number of enemies that surround Wario attacked without delay in close-quarters the player would quickly be overwhelmed with the only defensive option being to jump away. 90% of fights play out as follows: a large group forms around Wario, he pummels an adult-sized enemy in said group stunning it, then using its body clears out the room.
Forced fights I – Destruction is kept very simple in timed arenas with interactable stage elements consisting only of columns and enemies. Throwing or Wild-Swing-Dinging a column is exactly the same experience as flinging around a large baddie. You just don’t have to stun the column to use it… This sucks since plenty could have been done by adding in bombs, springs, or some hazardous element from the stage’s motif for a chaotic bash-a-thon like what is seen in the underworld. But the reality is that you’re stuck doing battles in bland arenas. While slightly annoying, these fight sequences are over when the minute timer counts counts down to zero seconds.
Forced fights II – Stage themed mid-bosses are another impediment but are generally quite enjoyable to fight. They take 3 projectile attacks to stun or kill. Avoiding getting hit is fairly easy since it is hard to pin down such a highly mobile character like Wario. The only mid-boss with a truly devious attack is on the snow stage who launches sliding ice chunks in a STG bullet pattern formation. Wish the game had more screen-filling projectile barrages in it to dodge. My favorite mid-boss is the Tree Freak who drops spiky fruit.
After collecting the required amount of red diamonds in a stage you can drop down into the boss of the stage’s lair. Wario comes face-to-face with legendary, mythical monsters each with their own unique design and attacks, some magical others physical. Bosses remind me of Donkey Kong 64 bosses: they look like large demented plastic toys that are sometimes in a darkly lit stage. They are toppled just like normal enemies: stun, then use a Mad Move. The stage bosses quality falls off at the end of the game with the last two being extremely easy and uninspired. What is troubling is the little-to-no verticality utilized for regular bosses.
World bosses are consistent on providing good entertainment value and novelty. Their massive area-consuming attacks complement Wario’s defensive combat playstyle relying on jumping out of the way and otherwise larger wide-ranged movements that smaller traditional dodge mechanics wouldn’t make sense for. Attacking their large bodies greatly shows off the visual hit feedback in this game of the entire body flashing one color upon each hit. These smoothly surfaced creatures with a rubbery look take hits betraying rubbery insides. Victory showers the player in coins as these Goliath-sized foes keel over, which then becomes quite a visual feast, almost barbaric, to see Wario bathing in coins and gorging himself on them with hypersuction. The last world boss has 6 attacks and a great stage where you go bouncing high in the air back and forth between two ships with action of dodging large explosions, throwing barrels, and performing sky-high piledrives! The final boss is a big disappointment to encounter after all that with its flat stage and 3 attacks (one being shock waves you jump over), especially since the pre-fight arena formation cutscene is on an epic scale.
Definitely worth playing through. It’s even short enough to play through in one sitting if you speed through it.
IMPROVING WARIO WORLD
- Give the ability to accurately toss enemies from a Wild Swing-Ding.
- Mix fast and slow enemies more often.
- Only one enemy, a mountain ram, has a fast leap attack that doesn’t force the enemy to stroll an arms-distance from Wario to hit him.
- Division of pleasure – Splitting off the more abstract fun parts (sublevels) from main functionally structured areas (hub, levels) negatively impacted the game. The main levels are hub-like and don’t capture the transcendental nature of platformers; the sublevels are the opposite. Wario does not have a complex moveset that allows him to build momentum or interact with walls (wall running or wall jumps), and that means he must be acted upon in greater capacity by stage elements for heightening pleasure. And that is not what hub-like levels are designed towards.
- Incorporate hidden “puzzle” treasure chests
- Improve the main stage design by having it solely dedicated to platforming and only introduce a group of enemies or a mini boss that have to be killed to progress midway in the level and at the end of it.
- Coins should buy things other than health (i.e. powerups)
- If you go inward on the screen a large enemy can obfuscate Wario. Another result of moving inward is that the camera cuts off from view the enemy who was at the bottom of the screen.
- The camera on certain mid-bosses should move back so that the boss on the right side is in view when you move far to the left. The camera control only lets you shift the camera a smidge ahead or back — very lacking and only particularly utilized on one stage. The camera should lock-in place against mid-bosses (?).
- There is a negative contrast when attacking an upright club-wielding enemy where there is an interruption in attack feedback when the club is knocked out: their hit-box is a momentarily disabled with no visual indication as they lower to all fours. During this Wario’s punches come off exactly as if air was being struck. A disconnect between action and response.
- Little thing that struck me as flawed is how pile driving an object into bosses not doing damage. Nothing happens when throwing the Shivering Mountain boss into an eruption when said eruption knocks this floating boss down. Also, strange is the fact that lightly throwing the World 1 boss into a pool of lava does nothing but chucking him in does damage.
- Activate-to-pass mechanisms: Wild Swing-Ding gets used in a lame non-combat way to elevate a platform and for Wario to be able to do a barely noticeable higher jump to make it onto the other side. Flat tracks (?).
- Good chunk of the enemy roster (i.e. common enemies) only undergoing an aesthetic change between worlds.
- Frame rate improvement on Pecan Sands (last level).
New Scenarios Ideas
- Boss Rush Mode.
- 2-Player VS Mode where enemies can be punched into your team’s color to attack other player.