Today I learned that a Certain Someone bought a copy of Wario: Master of Disguise for DS. This game is absolutely awful and I now feel the need to inform people, especially those that might be getting into the Mario series, about the watered down, 2nd-rate Mario-related platformer/action titles that Nintendo started releasing about 5 years ago.
History: From 1981-1993, all games in the Super Mario and Donkey Kong series were produced in-house by Nintendo’s own studios. In 1994, Nintendo began publishing Donkey Kong games developed by Rare. These games were of a high quality and very commercially successful, as their development time and investment warranted. In 2003, Nintendo started farming out Mario-related games to outside developers in what can only be called a cheap, money-grubbing move. Most of these games have rather low budgets. Even the games that turn out well could be called unnecessary as they explore old themes. Here they are, the outsourced Mario/Donkey Kong/Yoshi/Wario games . . .
2003, GameCube, developed by Treasure
Treasure has made some awesome games and some mediocre. This falls into the latter. It completely ignores the great play mechanics and ideas established in the Wario Land games and instead becomes a BEAT EM UP. Some things are awesome, like the music and the bonus levels but most of it is just okay. Like many of the games on this list, if feels like Wario was just thrown into some unrelated game.
MARIO VS. DONKEY KONG
2004, Game Boy Advance, developed by Nintendo Software Technology Corporation (aka Nintendo of America)
This game was technically not farmed out but the Nintendo STC, based in the US, has no connection to the Japan-based studios and this game shows it in spades. It’s actually NOT a bad game but COMPLETELY fails to capture either the Mario or Donkey Kong feel. It’s an attempt to continue the gameplay ideas of the 1994 Game Boy Donkey Kong but I’d much rather see the original studio oversee such a project. Still, a decent game on its own terms.
YOSHI TOPSY TURVY
2004, Game Boy Advance, developed by Artoon
The critics ravaged this game but it’s nowhere near as bad as they say. Still, it’s nothing awesome. It uses an experimental technology with a motion sensor in the cartridge. When you tilt the GBA one way it tilts everything in the game. Yoshi and Mario-related characters and settings are mostly half-assed and could have easily been replaced by something else.
DK KING OF SWING
2005, Game Boy Advance, developed by Paon
Oh, neat, an interesting new idea. In this game Donkey Kong doesn’t run around and jump – instead, he swings from pegs. Not a bad concept and not a bad game but definitely a short one. Some of the levels are challenging but overall it feels like half a game. Maybe they can do something cool with a sequel?
2006, DS, developed by Nintendo Software Technology Corporation
Apparently someone at Nintendo STC sat down and said, “That last Mario vs DK game was decent but how can we improve on it? We can’t? We’re not talented enough? Okay, let’s rip off Lemmings.” That’s what this game is, a Lemmings rip-off. Nintendo STC has plenty of experience developing games from other companies’ licenses (Bionic Commando, Crystalis, Ridge Racer), they may as well have just licensed Lemmings instead of force the concept on a Donkey Kong game.
YOSHI’S ISLAND DS
2006, DS, developed by Artoon
When I first heard about this game, originally called Yoshi’s Island 2 I almost shit my pants. Then I found out Artoon was developing and not Nintendo Entertainment Analysis Division (Miyamoto’s studio) and I almost became constipated. BUT in the end, the end product was really beyond my wildest dreams – and almost totally unnecessary. On a system that can produce Nintendo 64-level graphics we are presented with a game that slavishly recreates the look of the original Yoshi’s Island for Super NES. The gameplay is 90% the same. Not much new. STILL, I have to give credit in a couple of key areas: 1) they really nailed the Mario/Yoshi feel 2) the game plays very well, is long, and is challenging.
Grade: B+ (points off for lack of originality)
WARIO: MASTER OF DISGUISE
2007, DS, developed by Suzak
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh. Until this game came out I was a blind Super Mario loyalist and would play any side-scroller starring him or his crew. This game ended all that. What a piece of shit this is. It basically attempts to use the current Castlevania style of exploration and item-retrieval and does it very boringly. There are no elements from the Wario games here at all – no enemies, settings, powers, etc. It forces you to use the stylus in contrived ways to horrible effect. Worst of all, it’s just plain fucking boring. Feels like they just put Wario in an unrelated game that was originally intended to star SpongeBob SquarePants or Hannah Montana.
DONKEY KONG JUNGLE CLIMBER
2007, DS, developed by Paon
The sequel to King of Swing. And it SUCKS. It’s just plain BORING. Big spaces without enemies or anything in particular to do. Aimless wandering. Argh. Cemented my new lack of faith in Mario-related titles.
At the moment, Nintendo doesn’t have any more games of this sort scheduled for release so maybe they’re selling poorly. Wario Land Shake has been announced for Wii but the developer has been named. Will it appear on this list?!