Review by CaptainDrakesGhost
Negative press hurt this game way more than it should have.
A couple of years ago, Nintendo turned Wario from a platforming antihero into a microgame maniac with Wario Ware. Since then, there hasn't been a single Wario adventure game. Now, after 4 years, Wario is finally back for treasure hunting goodness. But does the game live up to the expectations?
The game has another wacky Wario plot that you've come to expect by now: Wario's watching a TV program about a master thief called the Silver Zephyr, who can transform at will using a magic wand called Goodstyle. Wario obviously gets ideas, and invents a special helmet (The "Telmet": "Television! Teleportin'! And, uh, it's a helmet.") and uses it to travel into the program. There, he runs into the Silver Sephyr, from whom he steals Goodstyle, who immediately acknowledges Wario as his new master. The Silver Zephyr reveals that without Goodstyle in his hands, he is less powerful and is known simply as Count Cannoli. He will continue to antagonize Wario throughout the whole game, often leading to more cutscenes which really flesh out Wario's character some more, something that has never really happened in previous games. There are even some plot twists in the story near the end of the game.
Goodstyle then teaches Wario how to transform: This is done by drawing various shapes on top of Wario on the touch screen. Goodstyle instantly grants Wario the ability to turn into Thief Wario, which is the basic form Wario remains in for the rest of the game. In this form, Wario has slightly higher jumping hight than in other forms, and he is able to run faster. Also, if you touch the touch screen anywhere except Wario himself, he will perform a charge attack in the direction he is facing (Note that this does not work like the shoulder barge in previous Wario games - After charging forward a small distance, he will return to his original position).
I'll say right away that Master of Disguise is very different from previous Wario adventures (Wario Land 1-4, Virtual Boy Wario Land, Wario World) in almost every aspect, right down to the core gameplay. First off, you will only use one set of buttons on the DS: Either the D-pad (Right-handed players) or A, B, X and Y (Left-handed). These will let you move left and right, duck and jump. This feels odd at first, but you quickly get used to it. Most of the other actions are done through the use of the touch screen.
Throughout the adventure, Wario will find 7 Guise Gems - These let him transform into 7 forms besides Thief Wario. Among these are Cosmic Wario, who has floaty jumps and fires lasers, Arty Wario, who can create blocks and Genius Wario, who can see hidden platforms or passages.
All but one of these disguises are acquired in the first 4 levels of the game and help you get around more easily. You will most likely still spend the most time in Thief Wario form, however, as he is able to run and jump around quickly. Each of the forms requires you to draw a different shape on Wario, which, surprisingly, does not get confusing. After drawing each a few times, you'll know them off the top of your head. What some people have been having problems with, however, is the game failing to recognize drawn shapes, and instead thinking you've drawn something else. I, however, have not had this problem at all. Note, though, that I have the European version, which came out months after the other ones - It is thus possible that they addressed these problems for the release.
Levels in the game are very much unlike traditional Wario Land levels, and even more unlike Wario World levels. Instead, they resemble Metroid-esque levels, as they are basically large worlds divided into squares, some of them connecting to one another and all that. But on top of this, all but one level also have a backside, reached by going through doors in the stage. The very last level actually has even more different sides.
Your job in each of these stages is to make your way towards the end, where you will find a boss. Defeating this boss will end the stage and open up the next. To get to the end, though, you will have to solve large amounts of platforming and puzzle challenges, and, yes, minigames. To obtain treasure, key items and new disguises, you must locate treasure chests strewn about every level. When opening these, you must first win a small minigame - These range from squashing cockroaches, to tracing an image, to colouring in a picture. This is one of the game's big flaws - You will find these minigames to repeat A LOT, as there are only 7 different ones, yet there's a ton of treasure chests. The first two levels have very easy minigames, after that, the difficulty slightly ramps up. Only the last 2 levels of the game have the third and hardest difficulty minigames. These minigames all feel like somewhat of a chore, as you must skip through a gameplay guide and a countdown before you can begin to solve them.
When you've completed a stage, all the treasures you found will be converted into money (Dollars, pounds or yen depending on which region you live in - Yes, they actually bothered to change it), which will go towards your total. As you achieve higher amounts of money, you will go up in rank, which will earn you trophies and decorations on the level select screen. All treasures you have found can be viewed in an encyclopedia, and each of them has a unique description - A first for the Wario series, which has featured collectible treasures since the first game, yet has never had detailed info on them. The information supplied for each treasure is always of a humorous nature, and is sure to get a laugh out of you. There is also a bestiary, where you can keep track of the enemies and bosses you've defeated thusfar.
After beating a stage, the next one will be unlocked, and so on. However, as with previous Wario games, you can revisit any previous stages you've cleared to attempt to get more treasure, or try to beat your time and score records - All chests, doors and whatnot in a stage are reset if you revisit it, although disguises are replaced with a few new treasures. As each treasure has it's own individual monetary value, you can go back to stages you have beaten and try to collect all treasures to increase your highest score for the stage - Only the highest score goes towards your total amount of earned money. The game also keeps track of the time record, which means you can try to race through a stage as fast as possible.
After a few stages, you will begin to find places that your disguises can't help you into. For this reason, you must find Mastery Gems - each disguise has it's own, except Thief Wario. These Mastery Gems will add a new skill to the disguise they go with. For example, Cosmic Wario's laser shots will be upgraded to ricochet off walls, allowing them to reach into places Wario can't get to, in order to hit switches.
The game has 10 story stages, plus 5 additional racing stages, where you must quickly recover 3 treasures in a limited time (These 5 levels are all ones you've already visited before).
The levels themselves are pretty diverse - There's the fairly standard Wario fare, like an ice stage, a haunted stage and a volcano stage, but there's also areas you would actually expect to be in a game about a master thief, such as a museum, a pyramid, jungle ruins and more. The varied environments help keep the game fresh, and each offers their own unique challenges. For example, the museum stage has you answering clever riddles to open doors, while the jungle stage requires you to block multiple water flows to stop a waterfall in order to get behind it.
The music's a mixed bag - There's a few generic tunes that sound good, but ultimately aren't memorable at all, and some theme songs that are very good, especially the boss themes and later level themes.
After completing the main game, you can try to collect all treasures or get your rank up, along with beating your best times and records on each stage. Wario games have never been much about replay value (Instead being much better to stash away for awhile and then completely replay some months or years later), but this game does things slightly different, at least.
Besides the flaw that is the treasure chest minigame solving (And possibly drawing recognition in some versions), I see nothing wrong with Wario: Master of Disguise, and I think it is a worthy addition to the Wario series. Ignore all the bad press this game's been getting - The reviewers are probably just mad Wario's cooler than they'll ever be.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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