Wario's first starring role on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance came in 2001 with the release of Wario Land 4 (Wario Land Advance in Japan). The game abandoned the "can't die" feature of Wario Land 2 and Wario Land 3 and instead equiped Wario with a life meter. In addition, the transformations of the past two games were scaled down and our anti-hero must rely on his body slam and stomping abilities more often than his transformative ones. Nevertheless, the transformation triggers are still present and are used as needed. The game begins with one of the most memorable cut scenes in recent years as Wario speeds to the jungle in his sportscar where news of a pyramid filled with treasures has brought out his inner greed. Wario plans to loot the pyramid, but a misstep causes him to fall deep inside the ancient tomb. Now Wario has to escape while grabbed some treasures on his way out.

Wario Land 4 is a joy to look at. The graphics are rich and colorful and really show off what the Game Boy Advance is capable of. Scaling and Mode 7 abilities are used extensively, but not so much as to become repetitive or annoying. All characters have extensive animations and facial expressions. The music is memorable, but the sounds really make the audio shine. Wario spouts some of his trademark grunts and cries as he progresses through the game.

As for the game itself, there are four levels each divided into four stages plus a mini game plus a boss (with the exception of the intro level which is a simple tutorial stage). In order to move on to other stages Wario must locate the ghost key and bring it to the exit before time runs out. Accessing the boss requires Wario collecting the sixteen jewel stones that unlock the door to the boss. There are four jewels per stage. If Wario escapes from a stage without all four jewel pieces, he can return to pick up the ones he missed. Collected jewels remain collected if (and only if) Wario exits a stage with them. A hidden treasure chest with a CD inside unlocks more and more aspects of the karaoke mode, although these CDs are not necessary to beat the game.

As for the bosses themselves, Wario can choose to battle them directly or purchase items from a local item shop to help in combat. The store clerk will then deliver the item to the boss room where it will automatically knock a few hit points off the boss's life meter. Items can be purchases with coins that are won in the mini games: a simple baseball game, a jumping game, or a face match game. It seems that these little minigames could have been the inspiration for the microgame slant in 2003's Wario Ware Inc., but that is just speculation on my part.

Wario's first GBA adventure is a winner through and through. The game is easy to find at stores due to its newness and is a must-play for any platform game fan. Different difficulty modes keep the challenges coming and hidden aspects make treasure hunting all the more fun. Forget Super Mario Advance; Wario Land 4 is where the action is.

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