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Wario Land 4 Subverts Everything

Wario Land 4Far too many popular video game franchises and hardware are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, but let us not overlook the tenth anniversary of Nintendo's Wario Land 4 for the Game Boy Advance.  Released quietly in 2001 and overshadowed by the likes of Super Mario Advance and other bigger titles with larger audiences, the fifth Wario Land adventure (the Virtual Boy installment was conveniently swept down the memory hole) broke most of the conventions found in 2D side-scrolling platformers in ways that still puzzle those looking in from the outside. has a look back at ten ways that Wario Land 4 is downright awesome.

Despite the fact that Wario is obsessed with wealth and that the emphasis of Wario Land 4 is firmly on gathering as many gems and coins as possible to fatten the fatty anti-hero's wallet, you never quite shake the impression that the developers weren't taking the concept of acquisition entirely seriously. Yeah, you can trade currency for goods that level the field against tricky bosses, and there's certainly a thrill of satisfaction in snagging one of the rare, valuable, giant gem stones, but for the most part you simply collect for collection's sake and it doesn't matter one way or another how comprehensive you are outside of a small medal displayed next to each completed stage. You're ultimately graded on how quickly you defeat a boss, not how much crap you pick up. Meanwhile, the sole collectible good besides money and keys -- CDs used to unlock sound test items -- are basically an elaborate troll. You'd think the sound test would unlock a jukebox for the game's great music, right? Nope. Wario Land 4's jukebox is full of weird sound effects and Game Boy Camera photos of developers making faces at you.

Ah, so that explains why I could never find the sound test tunes in the game itself.  The article goes on to detail how this game went on to spawn the WarioWare microgame series, something for which I have trouble forgiving it.  I understand that Nintendo's development teams are always moving on to the next thing and not eager to repeat past projects, but the Wario Land series was one of my favorites back in the 1990s and to see its platforming perfection give way to a compilation of attention deficit disorder busy work always disappointed me.  Wario passed through other development teams outside of Nintendo proper for 2003's Wario World, 2007's Wario: Master of Disguise and 2008's Wario Land: Shake It!!, but the series has never managed to recapture the subversive feel of the original Game Boy installments.  Here's hoping that we see Wario Land 4 again as a free release for Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors.  More people need to experience it.