Wai Wai World 2: SOS! Parsley Castle
Review by Mike Finkelstein
For Americans (and, really, anyone outside of Japan), the thought that a game like Konami Wai Wai World exists (let alone has a sequel) is pretty strange. It's a crossover, cross-franchise game featuring Metroidvania aspects and a wide variety of characters to chose from, two of which were licensed by Konami, and seemingly having some weird, non-sensical plot that tries to tie the whole world of Konami together. Even later cross-franchise games from various companies (like Smash Bros, for example) don't even really bother with plot.
And yet the game was seemingly a success (since monetary numbers for games back then, let alone Japan-only titles, are hard to find at this point). It was popular enough to even rate a sequel, Wai Wai World 2: SOS Parsley Castle. And this game is as weird as the original.
For starters, forget everything you know about the first game -- Wai Wai World 2 is a direct sequel only in name. Instead of the weird, semi-open worlds of the first game, Wai Wai World 2 features more traditional, linear platforming worlds and shooter stages. There's no searching around for more characters, no finding special weapons -- at the start of the game you're given a choice of a trio of heroes to play as (from four pre-set groups) and that's all you're gonna get for the rest of the game.
It also looks nothing like the original game. While the first title featured some new graphics (for characters that weren't originally in side-scrolling games), most of the characters appeared as they had in their original titles. Wai Wai World 2, though, gives everyone a super-deformed chibi style, one that feels much more kid-friendly. It's weird to see the two games side-by-side -- if one wasn't told the two games were sequels, you'd be hard-pressed to know from looking.
Like the first game, Wai Wai World 2 has a weird, nonsensical plot -- something about how the evil ghost Warumon has kidnapped Princess Parsley, so the friendly robot Rikkuru has to go out into Konami World to save her. It's better than the first game, although sadly we no longer get Konami Man or Konami Woman to play as anymore (alas, poor Konami Woman -- one game and it's back to the trash heap for you). Rikkuru can trasnfrom (via powerup) into other heroes (of the three you selected) and the three have various powers (like Simon, who has his whip, and Goemon, who can throw his staff). Rikkuru then must travel through the various stages (the player sometimes gets a choice on the overworld map, so not all the stages are played in a single playthrough).
Some things have been improved since the first game. The difficulty is somewhat easier (even if the health drops are less plentiful), with enemies less likely to be able to pull-off "gotcha" moments (much of this because the characters is properly centered in the middle of the screen). The hero is also immune to damage while playing as one of the three special heroes (although the limited timer for each hero runs down quicker when they are damaged). It makes the game much easier over all, which is more likely to lead players to try the game more than once.
There are some questionable changes, though. There are too many auto-scrolling stages, especially at the start, where the first stage is an auto-scrolling platformer that just seems to go on forever. This is then followed up by an auto-scrolling shooter on the very next stage. If the player chooses the right paths, they could even end up with an extra shooter, making half the game auto-scrollers. For what should be a light and fast platformer, that's a lot of time watching the screen slowly scroll by.
The connections to the heroes is also more tenuous at times. Since the graphics have been changed, the stages are often more of "inspired by pieces" than real homages to the games of Konami. The Contra stage, for example, is a spot on recreation of the first stage from the original game. By comparison, the stage set in Dracula's castle could be any creepy haunted house -- the music comes from Castlevania III, but without that you wouldn't really know what game you were supposedly playing in.
Plus, the hero selection is really unbalanced. As mentioned before, the heroes each come with their own main weapon. Sadly, the sub-weapons (which featured so prominently in the first game) are gone this time around. This means that while Bill Rizer (of Contra has a gun that can shoot across the screen (and in mutliple directions), Simon is stuck with his short-range whip (without any ranged abilities). You'll end up playing with one, maybe two heroes the whole time and ignoring the rest of the selection.
While the game is fun, and easier, it does feel like some of the charm is missing. It's a game playing at being a retrospective of Konami, but because the graphics are so different from the games it's related to, it feels more like an imitation than the real thing. It's fun for a time, and more fun to play than the original, but you can't help but wish it was more like the games it's trying to celebrate. Its... boring, really. And even a fresh coat of paint and new graphics can't cover for that. As with the original game, then, play it if you somehow find a way, but don't expect this to become a classic of your collection.