Wario Land 4’s sound room still haunts me

Twenty years after its release, the GBA classic Wario Earth 4 it is still a fascinating artifact. Not only is it a slick platformer that could rival any 2D Mario outing from the same era, but also a clear commitment to developing an aesthetic texture for Wario games that has informed many of Wario’s later appearances. There are many factors that contribute to this texture, such as Wario’s now iconic seedy charms or Charles Martinet’s vocal performance. However, the aspect that leaves the biggest impression in 2021 is the variety of strange audio experiences in the game. Wario Land 4The soundtrack, particularly the game’s haunting unlockable “sound rooms,” communicates a unique sound to Wario that remains relevant to the character decades later.

In order to understand Wario Land 4, you just need to look at his introductory scene and title screen. Sound reverberates through the small Game Boy Advance speakers as Wario starts his car and sets off on his journey, listening to a throbbing funk song with lyrics that are hard to discern due to strong audio compression. This same track plays from the main menu as Wario drives through an endless desert landscape, until you finally hit the start button, propelling him forward. There is a rhythmic quality to this intro sequence that never loses its energy, no matter how many times you experience it.

Screenshot from Wario Land 4 Game Boy game, Wario is jumping on lava.  The art style is pixelated.

Image: Nintendo

In the game, the soundtrack spans an impressive variety of genres to accompany Wario’s frenetic nature as he leaps between different worlds. Most of these tracks are catchy, lyricless loops that attempt to complement the locations they are used in, with everything from upbeat romantic pop to visceral progressive rock accompanying each level’s timed escapes.

The game’s sound room, however, is where the audio experience of Wario Land 4 takes a turn for the strange. There are 16 brand new tracks in the sound room, which are unlocked by finding hidden discs in secret passages in each of the levels. Each of these tracks teases you with ominously abstract titles like “About that pastor“or”Tomorrow’s blood pressure. “You will be forgiven for thinking that you are suddenly accessing the soundtrack of another game, especially once you press play and let the strange audio streams play.

On the first listen, you can try to make up a connection between the track names and the sounds they label. The first track, “About That Shepherd”, is just a few dogs barking in a windy field, with rare sounds of sheep. Sure, you may think, to the life of the shepherd could it sounds like this. “Tomorrow’s Blood Pressure” has a heavy industrial feel to it, a temperamental sequence of humming machinery and jarring notes that convey a sense of impending danger. This fits in with the idea of ​​tomorrow’s blood pressure, which inspires anxiety simply because it is a future event, forcing you to contemplate all the dangerous possibilities of this upcoming blood pressure in the time you spend waiting for it. While these two tracks have the strongest link between their names and sounds, there is still a touch of ambiguity that is key to the central weirdness of the Wario Land 4 sound room.

However, the previous two tracks present a false sense of security, as the connections between Wario Land 4 ‘s tracks from the sound room and their titles only get more hazy. For most sound room audio, there is no obvious link between titles, sounds, and the small number of images that accompany them. “The moonlight“It just reverses the melody of the happiest lyrical track in the game”,Palm tree paradise, ”To create something much more whimsical and spooky. “The short futon”It can only be described as an exchange of concise whispers with an underlying musical accompaniment: it is something incredibly normal that is made weirder by Wario Land 4 combining it with music. These haunting sounds use the Game Boy’s limited audio capabilities, a vague title, and an abrasive premise to create confusing and even slightly terrifying bytes of sound.

Wario Land 4The sound room is a virtual music box that is both fun and haunting. It intrigued me when I first played as a kid, and it continues to intrigue me today. While many games today have additional unlockable content, few are experimental work of art that encourages the hunt for collectibles so that you can laugh at (and perhaps gaze uneasily) any strange disc that will be unearthed next. In hindsight, it feels like home as part of a Wario game. The sound room is an oddly satisfying set of musical distractions orbiting the understated strangeness that WarioWare titles have become everything.

Although we may never have another game in Wario Land Serie, aspects of its charm live in the WarioWare experience. The WarioWare series enjoys the strange audio that Wario Land 4 mainly kept secluded in this sound room, embracing the fusion of the mundane and the musical to create some deeply out of the ordinary microgames. Through its audio, Wario Land 4 it feels like a key evolutionary link in what Wario has become. The sound room was an essential part of that, even if it is still quite eerie.


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