DS

North America

Wario: Master of Disguise

by Michael Cole - March 20, 2007, 8:53 pm PDT
Total comments: 21

5

Seriously, Nintendo, make Wario immortal again. Please?

Ever since Wario stole the handheld spotlight on the Game Boy in Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, he has grown in popularity with his zany abilities, crude behavior, and stylish moustache. Wario reigned supreme on the Game Boy Color, greeting the platform with a color-enhanced re-release of Wario Land 2 and sending it off with the incredible Wario Land 3. While production quality has slipped in Wario's subsequent adventures, Suzak and Nintendo's Master of Disguise easily marks a low point in the anti-plumber's shady career.

The plot's premise is adequately preposterous for a Wario game. While watching television, Wario happens upon a show featuring Count Connoli, a rich but average fellow who can transform into the Silver Zephyr, a master thief, using his magical talking wand named Goodstyle. Wario thinks the Cannoli is a pushover, so he creates an absurd invention to enter the show and usurp the spotlight. By swiping Count Cannoli's wand, Wario gains the power to assume various personalities at will, along with their associated powers. With his newfound powers, Wario decides to hunt for an Ancient Egyptian treasure powerful enough to grant his wishes. Of course, the affluent Cannoli is far from amused with Wario's antics and chases down the brute in hopes of reclaiming his powers (and finding that ancient treasure).

This all sounds good, but in actuality the game's presentation is lacking. The game looks and sounds inferior to Wario Land 4, a first-generation Game Boy Advance title. Lazy (even recycled) CG graphics decorate the menu, mostly generic music barely accompanies cliché environments, and Flash-quality animations further cheapen the experience. What's worse, Master of Disguise introduces dialog within the levels, bringing the game to a halt to further plot or provide clues. While Wario has always been more talkative than other Nintendo stars, this banter is rarely of any note, and the game's use of uninspired emoticons (think Golden Sun) instead of, you know, sprite animation, completely clashes with Wario's persona.

Of course, I would let the amateurish presentation slide if the game were any fun. You control Wario with the D-pad (or face buttons) and touch screen, using the D-pad to move, jump, and climb. Drawing gestures allows the player to switch among unlocked disguises, which in turn have their own touch-based attacks or special abilities. Ironically, Wario's default disguise, Thief Wario, seems to be a significant handicap: he cannot butt-stomp or perform his signature ramming charge. Instead, he can sort of shove himself forward briefly with a tap on the screen to pummel baddies. This disconnect with prior games featuring the yellow brute is the first of many. While the disguises are upgraded over time with more moves, they are still limited in ability, and having to swap among them often ruins the game's pace. For example, Arty Wario is frequently necessary to create blocks on which Wario can stand. However, this means the player must:

  1. Stop (since Arty Wario cannot move at all)
  2. Draw the Arty Wario gesture (a rectangle ending in one diagonal line)
  3. Draw one or more blocks (draw a box)
  4. Draw the Thief Wario gesture (a check mark)

Of course, most likely you'll draw the box poorly or in the wrong spot on your first try, so you'll have to spend more time as a crippled, starving artist. And while most of the disguise gestures are recognized accurately, the game is very stubborn with one of the later disguises (Dragon Wario), possibly because the stylus absolutely must begin on Wario (and not next to him). The treasure chests are also particularly cheap. Instead of having to collect a key or perform some special task to open the chest, Wario must merely stand in front of the chest and complete one of eight shallow Wario Ware rejects picked at random. If you fail, you can simply try again at another random selection.

Levels are designed around Wario's various powers, but not through terribly clever means. You may need to use Sparky Wario to light up a dark room or Genius Wario to see hidden platforms, but the levels only provide challenge in the sense that they're mini labyrinths. Each level has two sides connected via doors (The Goonies II, anyone?), and you must often enter Side B to reach an area of Side A. It can be frustratingly unclear where you must go next: for example, you may need to collect an item or hit a switch somewhere but may not know that because you didn't enter the correct room first. Granted, Wario Land games have always had a help-yourself exploratory attitude, but Master of Disguise's levels are not particularly fun to traverse thanks to unsatisfying combat and almost nonexistent platforming. Hell, even Wario World had more satisfying level design than this game, and it was a brawler.

Boss battles are perhaps the only enjoyable portions of the game. Aside from the uncharacteristically decent music, bosses require precise use of Wario's various disguises. While not all that difficult, landing a hit is often a multi-stage process of exposing and then exploiting a weakness. While the imperfect gesture controls sometimes muck things up, you will briefly forget Master of Disguise's terrible flaws during these fights, demonstrating that the game could have been much better.

It is frustrating to see Nintendo's once-cherished handheld superstars so neglected. It's great that Nintendo is working with third party developers, but not if Master of Disguise and Kirby Squeak Squad are the results. While Master of Disguise may look like a Wario platformer on the surface, the game is plagued by terrible pacing, obfuscated level design, and unsatisfying controls. If you're not going to do a Wario game right, Nintendo, don't do it at all.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
5 5.5 6.5 5.5 5 5
Graphics
5

Lacking Wario's animated charm or the technically impressive environments found in the Wario Land games, Master of Disguise is a budget title through-and-through. Wario's Game Boy Color games had far better presentation.

Sound
5.5

The upbeat boss battles are good, but otherwise the game is seriously lacking in sound production. The mini-game and menu tunes might possibly appeal to a preschooler.

Control
6.5

The touch screen controls —especially the offensive abilities— often feel detached from the game, but perhaps the barren levels are partially to blame since the controls seem adequate during boss battles. The Wario I know and love wouldn't stand for stubborn gesture recognition and a skeleton set of abilities.

Gameplay
5.5

It is generally unclear where Wario must go within a level. That isn't necessarily a bad thing (just look at Metroid), but exploring Master of Disguise's monotonous levels isn't especially interesting. And since your disguises are unlocked and upgraded with treasure, even the challenge of finding the required power-up has been reduced to a treasure hunt. I had some fun with the boss battles but was otherwise thoroughly bored by this game.

Lastability
5

While the game's levels aren't actually very long, you'll still waste lots of time wandering about like a disenchanted kid stuck in a clothing store…or more likely turn the game off. While the game keeps track of high scores and best times, I don't think anyone would actually want to replay this game.

Final
5

It seems with all the microgame madness, Nintendo has forgotten how to make a Wario Land game. A franchise once celebrated for clever levels and their unique use of enemies is now about drudging through contrived mazes, scrolling through atrocious text, and repeatedly solving the same uninteresting puzzles. If you were considering Master of Disguise for your treasure-hunting needs, you'd best find a copy of the timeless Wario Land 3 for GBC or the more recent Drill Dozer for GBA.

Summary

Pros
  • A handful of decent songs
  • Fun, if easy, boss battles
Cons
  • Cookie-cutter graphics and play dough music
  • Detached touch screen controls
  • Tedious level design
  • Underdeveloped powers
  • Where's the butt stomp?
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

I earnestly believe Nintendo should hand Game Freaks the Wario franchise for a honest-to-God Wario Land 5.

IceColdMarch 20, 2007

Suzak? What else have they made?

It seems Suzak also made F-Zero: GP Legend and the more lukewarm F-Zero Climax.

...And a bunch of other stuff I don't recognize.

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusMarch 21, 2007

Ouch... I thought this was game was seriously underrated by everyone. I am on the 4th level as of right now and I am still really enjoying it. I will agree that it would've turned out better had Game Freaks tackled the project rather than Suzak. Either way though I still like it up to the point where I am.

CericMarch 21, 2007

According to this review Nintendo Gameplay is doomed DOOOMED.

Ian SaneMarch 21, 2007

"It is frustrating to see Nintendo's once-cherished handheld superstars so neglected. It's great that Nintendo is working with third party developers, but not if Master of Disguise and Kirby Squeak Squad are the results."

Another example would be Star Fox Assault though at least in that case the third party had some credibility.

When Nintendo farms out their properties to third parties like this it gives me the impression that they don't really care. Like as long as the game isn't buggy it doesn't really matter how good the game ends up as long as it sells. It's a very corporate attitude to have and I don't like it. If they can't make a decent Warioland game then they shouldn't bother making Warioland games at all. I'd rather Nintendo abandon a franchise then to just turn it into uninspired product.

The fact that Nintendo picks such random developers to work with makes it more frustrating. It's like they consider all developers equal and it doesn't matter who works on what. In the past at least Nintendo collaborated with devs with somewhat of a positive track record. Rare, Factor 5 and Silicon Knights all had a least one game you could point to and say "hey that was a pretty good game". There was some indication that they had some talent. But these days you're lucky to have even heard of the devs Nintendo works with and when you find out what they've worked on it's like some lousy licenced game. N-Space? Kuju? Artoon? Suzak? Who the hell are these guys and what qualifications do they have that allows them to work on Nintendo published titles, let alone Nintendo franchises?

Artoon, at least, was made up of former Sega devs.

thatguyMarch 21, 2007

What's the earliest case that Nintendo tried to farm out a dev? I can think of Rare, but I don't even know if that counts, as they were second party at the time. Personally, I think they may be looking for a new or small developer, to eventually set some stake in, and turn into the main dev for specific IPs. I can't think of any case I know of for sure that they've done this before, but I'm sure that if one of these developers they seem to give hand-outs to actually made a game comparable to the original, they'd probably buy them up. I think they want to bulk-up their first party houses, and have been in the process of looking the one-in-a-thousand great small developer that they could basically make a steal on. I also think they want to bulk out IP, and they can't pump out original IP and the IP that all the fans want without a few more developers helping out.

KDR_11kMarch 21, 2007

When Nintendo farms out their properties to third parties like this it gives me the impression that they don't really care. Like as long as the game isn't buggy it doesn't really matter how good the game ends up as long as it sells. It's a very corporate attitude to have and I don't like it. If they can't make a decent Warioland game then they shouldn't bother making Warioland games at all. I'd rather Nintendo abandon a franchise then to just turn it into uninspired product.

However ignoring a franchise makes fans complain, running it into the ground makes them stop demanding a sequel and appreciate newer franchises. Of course it's silly since it devalues the franchise but well, had they run Kid Icarus into the ground you wouldn't see people think every unannounced game is the Kid Icarus sequel :P.

IceColdMarch 21, 2007

Quote

Artoon, at least, was made up of former Sega devs.
Makes sense. They almost did to Yoshi's Island what SEGA did to Sonic.

EDIT: Ian, I don't like the farming out much either. The only recent success I can think of with these small developers is Q-Games with StarFox Command. From what I played of that, it was pretty good. Still, Nintendo just doesn't have enough resources, and if they wait too long on developing, franchises will lose a lot of their recognition.

I think that Nintendo should let these developers either make more new IPs or make franchise games with new concepts. For the new IP part, Cing (Trace Memory, Hotel Dusk), iNiS (Elite Beat Agents), Q-Entertainment (Meteos) have all made great new games under Nintendo's guidance. For the "new concept" franchise games, Alphadream with Mario&Luigi, and Next Level Games with Super Mario Strikers have had success. Handling the main series of a franchise may not work, but these spinoff games were really good.

Excite Truck (Monster Games) is kind of a hybrid between the two. So would Battalion Wars (Kuju) I guess.

GoldenPhoenixMarch 21, 2007

Hey I actually enjoyed Kirby Squeak Squad even if it was really easy. Not only that but I found YI2 to be quite enjoyable (and challenging) as well!

Aaron really liked YI2 and gave it a good review. Even so, I have not tried it. Maybe I should.

Karl Castaneda #2March 21, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: MegaByte
Artoon, at least, was made up of former Sega devs.


They also did a lot of the legwork for Blue Dragon, which has gotten a lot of positive buzz.

As for Nintendo farming out franchises to random third parties - yeah, it's a little disheartening to see a good series take a punch to the gut because Generic Studio C wants to give Star Fox a shot. At the same time, though, you never know when a developer is going to come out of nowhere and re-define what that series can be. Case in point? Who had even *heard* of Retro Studios before they got the Metroid license.

It's just unfortunate that, for every Metroid Prime, there are three Master of Disguises.

KlapauciusMarch 21, 2007

Quote

Originally posted by: ViewtifulGamer
Quote

Originally posted by: MegaByte
Case in point? Who had even *heard* of Retro Studios before they got the Metroid license.


I was just about to mention that.
Retro Studios is wholly owned by Nintendo now though, making their games technically 1st rather than 2nd party.

Also, Kuju did a damn fine job with Batallion Wars.

Well that was an interesting misquote.

Infernal MonkeyMarch 22, 2007

Finally, a Wario game that matches his body odor.

Ian SaneMarch 22, 2007

"Case in point? Who had even *heard* of Retro Studios before they got the Metroid license."

Wasn't Retro Studios created specifically by Nintendo? I don't think they had even made a game as a team prior to Metroid Prime.

thatguyMarch 22, 2007

Take a look at some of IGN's news of Retro, and tell me that Nintendo didn't help a seemingly pathetic developer to become something great through the use of a franchise. The entire place seems like it was falling apart until Nintendo forced them to drop their "Raven Blade" project and only focus on Metroid Prime. The real problem is that Nintendo doesn't own these developers that they're farming IP to now, so they can't exactly force them to get things right. Or at least, that's my guess.

IGN's Raven Blade coverage:
http://cube.ign.com/objects/016/016579.html#news

KDR_11kMarch 22, 2007

They are the owner of the IP that's being licensed, they can force whatever they like.

Quote

Originally posted by: thatguy
The real problem is that Nintendo doesn't own these developers that they're farming IP to now, so they can't exactly force them to get things right. Or at least, that's my guess.

Of course they can. Nintendo is publishing the title, and therefore Nintendo is funding the title. They can direct development all they want to get the product they want. However, the whole point of teaming up wiht a third party developer for any given game is to either
(1) get more manpower to create a great product, becuase Nintendo is really busy/doesn't have experience in that genre or
(2) get a quick budget title out and make some money for both companies

Now, for (1) Nintendo is still willing to dedicate a significant amount of resources toward directing the game w/ advisors, etc. For (2), which Master of Disguise falls under, Nintendo gives some general direction and advice on how to improve the game, but doesn't have/want to provide the budget to fix and polish up where a game went wrong (also known as upending the tea table). If Nintendo chose the right partner, the product turns out pretty good without Nintendo's intervention. If not, you get a bad game. Obviously, "the right partner" might be too expensive/busy, but it may also be unclear (e.g. Suzak seems to have done a decent job with F-Zero on GBA, but Wairo is another story.)

Ian SaneMarch 22, 2007

Nintendo might not even really notice that Master of Disguise is a "bad" game. From a technical perspective there isn't really anything wrong with it. The graphics and sound aren't bad (not necessarily good but they're "good enough") and the game isn't buggy. The control problems are do to forced touchscreen usage which Nintendo is all into (that was probably a requirement for the game). This isn't like one of those games where you push up and nothing happens or a boss just doesn't show up. The game meets the production value requirements to be a Nintendo retail product.

Plus TYP pointed out that this a quick budget title. Nintendo put a lot of effort into making sure Metroid Prime was a great game and it made sense because that was one of their "A" games. Gamecube sales were riding on it. The successful relaunch of the Metroid franchise was riding on it. Plus it was a 2D franchise being converted into 3D. Nintendo had a perfect record on that and I'm sure that was a reputation they wanted to remain intact. Metroid Prime was a very important game that HAD to deliver the goods.

Wario and Kirby are some of Nintendo's "B" franchises. They aren't used to sell systems and they don't get the same attention. Nintendo doesn't arrange their release schedule around these games. Most of the non-spinoff games in these series are on portables. Hell Kirby has three games that were released on an old console after the newer console had come out. So if a Kirby or Wario game doesn't quite reach the standards of excellence that the best of the franchise offers I don't think Nintendo really cares provided it sells. In the longrun Wario: Master of Disguise doesn't really matter. It's a "filler" game to eat up space in the release list between the big DS games. If Pokemon DS was turning out crappy then Nintendo would be likely to jump in because it's much more important for that game to deliver.

I just think Nintendo should be a little more choosy with who they work with.

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Kaitou Wario the Seven Box Art

Genre Action
Developer Suzak
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Wario: Master of Disguise
Release Mar 07, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Kaitou Wario the Seven
Release Jan 18, 2007
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Wario: Master of Disguise
Release Jun 01, 2007
PublisherNintendo
Rating7+
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