Since his first appearance in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins in 1992, Wario, a greedy man with a desire to collect money and treasure, has become a popular character, not only appearing in Mario games, but also starring in a few games of his own. Many of them have been either 2D platform games or entries in the Wario Ware series, which feature addictive mini games that last only a few seconds each. In 2003, Nintendo decided to give Wario his very own 3D platform game. Developed by Treasure, the game, called Wario World, had plenty of potential, and indeed, it has its moments. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, it is not the great 3D platform game it could have been.
To begin with, the plot, such as it is, is pretty weak. While relaxing in his treasure-filled castle, Wario gets a huge shock when one of his treasures, a black jewel, suddenly comes to life. It turns out that the jewel is evil and it decides to cause trouble for Wario by changing his treasures into monsters and transforming his castle into several worlds. Needless to say, Wario is not happy about all this, and decides to fight his way through the newly-created worlds, collecting treasure and defeating monsters along the way, in order to settle the score with the jewel. I know that games do not need a strong story to be any good, but Nintendo could have come up with a better plot.
In each stage, Wario must accumulate treasures and defeat as many enemies as possible. He has a lot of neat moves to help him out. He can dash into foes to hurt them. He can throw any knocked out foes out of his way or finish them off with a pile driver maneuver. He can even suck up any nearby coins using a suction ability similar to Kirby’s. Coins are important for a couple of reasons. Not only are they used to purchase health-restoring garlic at some places, but they are also required to resurrect Wario should he lose all his energy. If you do not have enough coins to restore Wario to life, you must restart the entire stage. However, coins are never in short supply, and you can collect so many of them that it is difficult to get a game over at any point in the game.
As Wario explores each level, he can collect items that can unlock features or are needed to help him progress. Within boxes are Spritelings, and freeing them will unlock hints that can help Wario during parts of the level. Rescuing the Spritelings is also key to giving Wario a new castle: saving more of them will result in Wario getting a better castle at the end of the game. Pressing special switches will make treasures appear, and collecting all eight of them within a level will unlock a Wario Ware mini game that can be downloaded onto the Game Boy Advance. Since this game was released shortly after Wario Ware: Mega Microgames came out, these mini games are designed to give those who had not yet played that game a taste of what to expect from the complete version. Also hidden throughout the level are pieces of a golden Wario statue. Accumulating all eight statue pieces will result in Wario’s life meter being extended by one-half of a heart.
The most important type of collectible, however, is the red diamond. Unless you have collected a certain amount of diamonds by the end of the stage, you will be unable to fight the level boss. These diamonds are hidden in rooms found within trapdoors scattered throughout each level. Some trapdoors will lead you to rooms in which you must solve a puzzle in order to reach the diamond. Others will place you in a special stage high above the clouds where you must make it through an obstacle course to obtain the diamond. Falling off of these stages forces you to start over from the beginning. However, most of these special stages are fairly simple, and only on rare occasions do they become somewhat frustrating.
As mentioned before, every stage ends with a boss fight. By defeating these bosses, you will clear the level. Also, for every two levels that you finish, you will end up in a battle against the boss of a world. If you are triumphant over these foes, you will gain part of a key that, when completed, will allow you to enter the treasure chest where the black jewel is hiding. These battles can be thrilling and enjoyable, but many of them are also on the easy side. Even the final boss is a piece of cake, especially when you consider that his attack pattern is the same throughout the fight and does not change even when he is low on health.
While it is fun to explore each level, there are a number of flaws that keep this game from being a solid 3D platform title. For one thing, the game is quite easy, with only a few difficult tasks to be found. If you fall off of a level, you will end up in a room filled with coin-stealing Unithorns, and escaping from these places while avoiding these creatures can be a bit of a pain. There are forced mini boss levels throughout many of the stages, and even toward the end of the game, these fights never really change. The enemy design changes with every level, but the enemies in later levels behave exactly like the foes found in earlier stages. As mentioned earlier, there are so many coins to collect that the chances of being forced to restart the entire level are quite slim. The downloadable mini games are pretty much useless to people who own the complete version of Wario Ware: Mega Microgames.
The game’s biggest problem, however, is that it is too short. In total, there are eight stages (two in every world), and five major boss battles, including the final fight. Granted, the game’s length is extended somewhat for those who want to accumulate every treasure, diamond, etc., but even with these optional tasks, the game can be beaten within a couple of days. If Nintendo had added more levels and made the game a bit more difficult, it surely would have turned out to be a better game. Wario Land: Shake It, released five years later, featured more stages and more difficult missions, and it was a 2D game! It is possible for Nintendo to craft a wonderful 3D game, but whether for lack of time or ideas, Wario World became a short game filled with wasted potential.
This is a shame, because there are hints of a good game to be found in Wario World. The levels range from a circus-based stage to a haunted house to a snowy level, and each of them are filled with some neat surprises. Wario’s moves are nothing short of awesome, and the puzzles and special stages, while mostly easy, add some depth to the game. In terms of visuals, the game looks fairly good, and runs at a consistent frame rate with only the occasional bit of slow down popping up. The music can be quite catchy at times, and Wario himself can bring a smile to any player’s face with some hilarious one-liners. Thus, the game is not a complete failure by any means, but it could have been so much better.
Wario World could have, and should have, been a wonderful 3D platform game debut for Wario. However, its short length and lack of challenge makes it one of his, and Nintendo’s, weaker games. Perhaps it is little wonder that no other 3D Wario games have been made since, though Nintendo likely would have made sure that a sequel would be superior to the original in practically every way possible. Indeed, if they ever make a Wario World 2, it should be longer and at least a little harder than its predecessor. In the meantime, it is a bit hard to highly recommend Wario World to anyone but the most die hard Wario fans. It is not a terrible game, but it is far from being a masterpiece. With more time spent on the game, it would have become one of the best platform titles on the Gamecube, but it ended up being just another mediocre 3D platform game, which is unfortunate.