Note: Since this review was released, the game has now been added for purchase on the Wii U Virtual Console. If you have a Wii U, we would hence really recommend that you buy this game, since it’s absolutely fantastic and deserves all the promotion it can get.
When it comes to game quality, the Wario series is a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand, you’ve got some of the best 2D platformers around in the form of the Wario Land series, and some also pretty fantastic party games in the form of the better WarioWare games. But then… there’s stuff like Wario Master of Disguise or Game & Wario, complete rubbish with the brand slapped on it to get a few bucks out of the unwary.
Thankfully though, Wario Land 4 falls on the better side of that divide. Indeed, you could even say it’s the last truly fantastic Wario platformer, given how it came right before Nintendo outsourced the series to whatever random third parties were willing to work on it. Never the less, here’s my review of this excellent game.
Graphically, Wario Land 4 looks pretty much fantastic. The backgrounds and tilesets are colourful and full of detail and character, the character and enemy sprites are well animated and feel more lively than those in other 2D platformers, and generally the game looks very nice indeed.
But do you know what makes the graphics here even better?
The fact the game never reuses them. You see, other platformers, tend to be big on palette swaps and reusing the same tileset over and over to save on work. Like how Donkey Kong Country 1’s bosses were each reused at least once with a different colour scheme, or how Super Mario World used a fairly small pool of objects over and over again… or even how a certain eShop game I can’t remember (I think Mighty Switch Force) used the exact same foreground for every single level in the game with merely a bit of recolouring to hide the blatant laziness.
Above: Crescent Moon Village, a unique level in both style and level design
Wario Land 4 doesn’t do this. Instead, it makes sure that each and every level has a brand new set of graphics to make it look unique and memorable. And once the new graphics are introduced? That’s it, no other level in the game will ever reuse them (except the bonus room tileset). As a result, the game really does feel more interesting to play, since you don’t know what graphics to expect in any given level or what new ‘look’ will be introduced when you go through a door or pipe to another part of the same level. For instance, Pinball Zone has what, about six unique backgrounds in it?
Above: Look at that map. Impressive gfx work for just one level…
This level of graphics detail and care is one reason I score the game so high, because the people making it put all their heart and soul in the title and as a result made something that you never get bored of. So as far as graphics go, Wario Land 4 gets a 9/10. It’s not ‘perfect’ (perhaps because it doesn’t have as unique a style as the likes of Yoshi’s Island or Donkey Kong Country), but it’s damn near close to it and for good reason.
Music wise, Wario Land 4 is fantastic.Seriously, I would say the music is arguably the best the GBA has ever been capable of.
Why is this?
Because the music is both catchy and unique. There are at least ten different music styles represented here, and each and every one of them is done nearly perfectly. The Wildflower Fields level has a great country style theme to it, the Crescent Moon Village level has a catchy yet haunting song that beats any ghost house music in any Mario game to date and the likes of the Toxic Landfill even has what sounds like an electric guitar based theme with a feel totally unlike anything you’d expect from a Nintendo game. Have a listen to some of these songs and tell me they’re not impressive for GBA music:
Above: Heavy metal/electric guitar music in a platformer works surprisingly well…
Above: Ridiculously relaxing
There’s something else that’s neat here too. Yes, this game has actual singing in it! You know, actually audible vocals on a GBA!
Not in a satanic or literal sense mind you, but more in a ‘this game is actively trying to sabotage your attempts at winning’ one. Yes, Yoshi’s Island DS is pretty much the nearest thing Nintendo have ever made to a kaizo style ROM hack, and seems to be designed by someone who thinks the best measure of game quality is how much it can predict its players behaviour and make their experience a living hell.
That said, it isn’t a bad game in itself, just an annoying one. The graphics are very well done and mostly match the style of the original (while still updating it to look good on modern systems). And while the music is often rather poor compared to the amazing soundtrack of the original title, it’s most bad in a bland and inoffensive rather than ‘ow my ears are burning in agonising pain’ way.
But it does start to falter a bit in the level and game design in general. For one thing, the difficulty curve is basically non existant. It starts out easy for a world or two, then hits about halfway through world 3 and ends up at roughly Yoshi’s Island 1 endgame level. And past world 5-1? God help any player who even attempts it.
You can see this best in how many insta kill elements get chucked in your face as you progress through the adventure. Whereas in the first game the levels generally went light on the ‘kill Yoshi in one hit’ traps and made somewhat logical looking levels that could still challenge the player, Yoshi’s Island DS just chucks them all over the place. Hell, some levels like Moltz the Very Goonie’s Castle:
Above: How many spikes did they shove in there?
And Bowser’s Castle itself feel like they’re made of nothing but spikes as a crutch to cover poor level design. That only gets worse in the secret and extra levels where any pretense of the game being legitimately fair go flying out the window.
Take A Light in the Dark for instance. Interesting secret level, but it’s just too long and too difficult to be even remotely fair. You’ve got a huge maze filled with darkness and spikes, then a blind skiing section with lots of precision jumps to make and then even more platforming before the level’s over. Let there be Light? You have to jump off a switch over a spike pit, something which requires literally frame specific precision. And when you see things like the lava trap in another secret level (of the ‘mess up and go back three rooms and try again) kind or the damn near impossible to predict with any accuracy egg platform in Yoshi’s Island Easter Eggs, you realise that the game was blatantly made by someone who didn’t really know what they were doing.
Above: I don’t think anyone even knows how to beat this room without dying at least once. Heck, I don’t think the likes of Professor Layton could figure out the ‘legit’ strategy…
Indeed, that whole room shown above is just so ‘random’ there’s no real way of even judging it. You fire eggs at the platform wheel, it moves. Fire quicker and it moves/accelerates quicker. Hit the wheels above the spike barriers and they move up. But the control scheme is so imprecise and the ways to mess up so easy that nearly every attempt ends in certain failure. Go too slow and you run out of eggs. Go too fast and the platform shoots straight past the barrier and leaves you stuck in an unwinnable situation. It’s not well thought out or designed at all.
And honestly, much of the game is kind of like that. You’ve got areas and bosses like the first few which are too easy to the point they probably weren’t tested well, you’ve got parts of levels where traps you can’t see or predict in advance get sprung on you at random and a general zero acceptance for minor mishaps (no items here, if you run out of points or eggs, you’re literally incapable of getting a good score or sometimes beating the level).
But despite what I said about poor level design, the game is still pretty fun. The platforming is fun, the basic game mechanics work about as well as they did in the original and there are brilliantly unique ideas in here (like the boss fought in freefall), it’s just that the game is just a little too frustrating for most people.
Above: Probably one of the most interesting bosses I’ve seen in a 2D platformer. Maybe Super Mario Galaxy 3 should use a similar concept except in 3D...
The extra modes are pretty good as well. Time Trial is neat to have, although the whole ‘get items to lower your time’ kind of kills the point of it all, the mini games are fairly decent if you like that kind of thing and the enemy museum is actually pretty cool if you want to see how the monsters act without getting hurt in the process.
And there’s one more important piece of advice for you. So listen up! Time keeps on ticking even as you are reading this message!
Above: The Time Trial messages are… funny too.
And while the transformations and things are fairly rare this time around, some of the new stuff involving them is pretty cool. A rocket that takes you up into the stratosphere and has you avoid planets on the way to the next part of the level? That’s pretty unique for a Yoshi game. As is the kangaroo riding and mine cart related gameplay.
All in all, Yoshi’s Island DS is a fairly decent game if you like difficulty and has some pretty fun concepts. It’s got some good boss battles and levels, some fairly nice music and some clever new ideas in general, so it’s definitely had some effort put into it. Just keep in mind that the difficulty does severely ramp up during the later stages and that it’s not a game for the faint hearted.
If you don’t like difficulty? Just seriously play something else, because this isn’t the game for you.
Note: This review was originally posted on Talk Nintendo before it’s closure, and the opinions of the author may have changed since that time.
With the Legend of Zelda series finally getting a new game on 3DS after the console’s two years on the market, expectations were running high. A sequel to A Link to the Past in a familiar style? A proper overworld to explore with a ton of interesting content and connected locations? Difficult arcade based gameplay? That all sounded a tad ambitious back when the game was first shown. Heck, some people were even worried this title was going to hurt the legacy of the SNES classic with its association alone.
Thankfully though, everything has turne d out fine. And based on my recent full playthrough of The Legend of Zelda A Link Between Worlds, I can hence say that the game is one of the best, most well designed and thoroughly enjoyable titles in recent Nintendo history. Here’s my review of this modern day classic…
Luigi’s Mansion 2 is a brilliant game. Yeah, that’s pretty much the entire gist of the review and the one message you should care for right off the bat, so there’s no real question whether it’s a game you should buy in future.
But let me explain why it’s a great game in more detail via this review. Basically, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is better than the first game in every way. It’s better on a technical level, it’s better on a gameplay/design level, and it’s so much better on a replay value/difficulty level that the original can’t even begin to compare to it. Let’s start with the technical side and the graphics and music first…
Graphically, Luigi’s Mansion 2 is one of the best games on the 3DS. Every mansion looks absolutely fantastic and is packed to the literal rafters with detail, the ghosts are all generally well designed and it looks so clear and non blurry that the game could quite easily stand on a home console with only minimal changes.
Above: This is running on a handheld system. My god game graphics have come a long way since the Game Boy…
This is even more noticeable in the Secret Mine, where the snow effects and general feel are so outstanding in their quality that you end up forgetting that this is a game that’s running on a handheld games system. Seriously, if you still don’t think the graphics are amazing immediately, go and play through the last few mansions since they are some of the best examples ever of what the 3DS is capable of graphics tech wise.
P.S. There’s also quite a few neat background things. Like how you can see King Boo fly past you in the background in numerous missions…
As of a few days ago, Mario & Luigi Dream Team was released in Europe, giving me the chance to play it through to the ending. It had a tough job following up on Bowser’s Inside Story (thanks to its predecessors high quality in general), and some people were skeptical it could. After all, other recent Mario games were a bit disappointing…
But now I’ve played it, I can safely say it is most definitely a worthy follow-up to the previous Mario & Luigi games, with a level of quality and gameplay depth that makes even the best elements of the last few games pale in comparison. So here’s my review of it at last, Mario & Luigi Dream Team (Bros).
The first thing to mention here are the graphics of the game. Yes they’ve got a 3D look to them rather than the cartoony sprite style of the first few games. But damn, they look amazing.
Above: Mario & Luigi Dream Team’s visuals are utterly fantastic, and work really well.
The colours are vibrant, the backgrounds and settings are full of detail, and the characters even have a range of unique sprites for just about every possible scenario. As far as converting the series look to 3D goes, Dream Team succeeds brilliantly.
Musically, Mario & Luigi Dream Team is absolutely amazing. No really, it’s arguably got one of the best soundtracks of any Mario game going, and one which is even better than that from Bowser’s Inside Story.
The boss battle themes? Epic. The normal one is good enough…
But then things like the giant battle theme or a certain villain’s boss theme blow even THAT away:
There’s also the catchy and overly dramatic final boss theme, but obviously I can’t spoil that too much.
Normal music wise, this game is definitely an improvement too. The dream world much is suitably upbeat and catchy with a weird feel that has to be heard to be believed, and each normal area has a memorable theme that fits it perfectly. And the character leitmotifs are catchy too…
All in all, it’s an amazing soundtrack with not a single bad song included. And refreshing too, given how many Mario games with bland, generic music we’ve been given in recent years (New Super Mario Bros, Mario 3D Land, etc). The music here is great.