RGB Recommends: That time Namco revived Wagyan Land on Nintendo DS

Game: Hirameki Action: Chibikko Wagyan no Daiki na Bouken (literally Insight Action: Kid Wagyan’s Great Adventure) | ひらめきアクション ちびっこワギャンの大きな冒険

Details

Release Date: January 2009
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Namco and Now Production

Directed by: Masami Shimotsuma (Klonoa 2 GBA, Splatterhouse 3)
Supervising director: Hideo Yoshizawa (Ninja Gaiden, Klonoa 1+2, Ridge Racer Type 4, Wagyan Paradise)

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Namco’s DS revival of its long running Wagyan Land series appears to have gone under the radar since its release almost 15 years ago.

This is likely owing to the platforming series’ complete absence outside Japan. The lack of information about this DS sequel compared to the last console game, 1994’s Wagyan Paradise, made me curious to check this one out.

And I’m really glad I did! Wagyan games can be hit and miss, as their included brain teasers and word riddles sometimes come at the expense of the platforming. Wagyan Paradise, was a winner, though, coupling tight and evolving platforming sequences with the series’ tried the tested riddles - riddles which matched their difficulty to the player’s entered age.

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Thankfully, Chibikko Wagyan no Daiki na Bouken (Wagyan DS) continues the legacy and feels like an evolution of what Wagyan games are all about.

In Wagyan games, you play as a mecha dinosaur who primarily attacks enemies with his shouts (Wa! Gya! Ga!).

Enemies cannot be defeated, but they will be stunned, allowing you to climb atop them unharmed, creating new platforms in the process. Boss battles take on the form of brain teasers, such as tile matching games, word guessing, janken matches (rock paper scissors).

Wagyan DS sets itself apart from previous games in three distinct ways:

1) You can now shout at enemies by charging up Wagyan’s yelps.

  • Shouts displace stunned enemies, allowing you to move around the platforms you’re created out of them.

  • This is used by the designers to place a greater emphasis on spatial positioning. There’s a more thoughtful process to puzzle solving in both the more cramped underwater and ruins stages and the open air desert and forest levels. Your management of enemies’ behaviour, where being hit leads to instant death, remains key.

2) Wagyan’s jumping and momentum are extended.

  • Holding down the jump button now makes Wagyan try to eke out some extra jumping distance - think Yoshi’s Island. If you manage to make it to the edge of an enemy or platform he’ll just about run up the corners of it. If you’re underwater you can use it to paddle upwards.

3) The Nintendo DS touchscreen does wonders to the brainteasers

  • This speeds up rearranging characters and picking tiles and cards under time pressure against the CPU, making these segments flow much faster than previous titles where they could drag. Being able to swipe and draw on the screen also allows for much more variety in the brainteasers themselves.

It’s all wrapped up in what is some of the most beautiful presentation on DS. The graphic design is excellent with a stylised cel shaded appearance neatly fitting the ruins origin of the game’s narrative. Lively menu animation also adds life to proceedings as you move between levels. Even the dodgy compressed FMV sequences aren’t too offensive.

I think the designers recognise that there’s a deeper game to be played here too, as the hidden collectibles (three pieces of a gold coin) encourage exploration, while each level goal has a hidden, often risky, switch that grants a 1UP.

Most importantly, Wagyan DS avoids the softened difficulty trap that many games aimed at a primarily younger audience fall into. The complexity and intensity ramps up nicely and the brainteasers feature dynamic difficulty, becoming gentler after repeat failure. I was worried it would be a dull game, but that isn’t the case at all.

I’m guessing this attempt to revive the Wagyan Land series in a big way underperformed, which is a shame as this really is a quality platformer with a lot of thought and effort poured into it. Highly recommended.

2 Likes

I remember playing the Game Gear installment when I was a kid, and it had some puzzle games that were impossible without knowledge of Japanese. Does this have anything similar?

Nice! That one’s still on my list!

The DS game does still have some brainteasers based around Japanese vocab - you might have to select two objects that begin with the same syllable for instance, or rearrange characters to form a word.

I think you’ll be fine if your Japanese language is limited, though, as the game seems to use dynamic difficulty in these sections. I was failing badly at a rock-paper-scissors one, but noticed it was getting steadily easier with each attempt. So it’ll probably reach the point where trial and error is feasible.

That sounds familiar. I could deal with matching pairs games, but the stuff that needs some language skills is definitely beyond me.

I’ve always liked the look of Wagyan Land games though, so next time I dig my DS out I might seek this one out.

1 Like

You won’t be disappointed, luckily the minigames expand beyond word teasers as well, though I’m struggling with the final boss as that does not have dynamic difficulty. I can do the first two rounds, including a cross-word like puzzle, but my vocabulary recognition isn’t fast enough to take me through the last round. Had to watch the ending online, haha.

The last two worlds were fantastic, one is set in the sky with a bunch of fluffy, bouncy clouds changing how you platform, and the final level features switches which turns gravity on and off. The level designers run with that!

Have added a longplay to the OP.


Managed to get all the gold coins last night!