Konami's all-star crossover game is a strange creature, fascinating yet confounding all the same. It stars original mascots Konami Man, a costumed superhero, and Konami Lady, a scantily-clad android. They are tasked by Dr. Cinnamon (the same scientist from the TwinBee series) to rescue six heroes held captive in stages that correspond to their character: Goemon (Ganbare Goemon) in Edo-era Japan, Simon Belmont (Castlevania) in Dracula's castle, Fūma (Getsu Fūma Den) in Hell, Mikey (The Goonies) on a pirate ship, Moai Head (Gradius) in ancient ruins, and King Kong (yes, that King Kong) in a big city. The stages are structured similar to Metroid in that most of them are non-linear with several pathways and hidden items set aside from the sought-after characters themselves. The goal in each stage is to find a key (some of which are held by bosses) and locate the jailed character, using the key to bail them out. You get to play as the rescued ones with the ability to switch between them by holding Up and pressing A. Each character offers different strengths and weaknesses, and each one can acquire a subweapon powered by bullets dropped by enemies. Some abilities are mandatory to advance in certain areas, like Mikey squeezing into small passageways and Fūma's sword destroying breakable blocks. Konami Man and Konami Lady can also gain the ability to fly.
As with any crossover title, part of the game's appeal stems from its fanservice. Konami Man appeared in a few Konami games before starring here whereas Konami Lady is an original character, but both fit in well with the cast. All other characters are accurately based on their origins; Simon has his powerful whip and tosses crosses, Goemon throws and coins and bashes enemies with his pipe, and the walking Moai head spits out its trademark energy rings and headbutts enemies up close. Mikey Walsh, who kicks enemies and fires slingshot rocks, is not technically Konami's character, but Konami did develop two games based off of the '80s cult film The Goonies, the latter of which had nothing to do with the movie (while the first one was somehow never released outside of Japan except for Playchoice-10 arcade machines). American audiences are likely not too familiar with Fūma from Konami's action-adventure epic Getsu Fūma Den, but he carries over his rock-breaking sword and shurikens. King Kong, who brings strong punches and deadly rocks to the fold, seems like a bewildering inclusion, but this incarnation of the giant gorilla is based on Konami's overhead action game, King Kong 2: Ikari no Megaton Punch; this license came from King Kong Lives, the maligned sequel to the 1976 remake of the original film released internationally as King Kong 2.
Each character has an individual lifebar, making it wise to switch up between characters when one is low on health. Of course you will need as many of them as possible, as certain parts of stages require different characters to pass. While you can choose any of the six stages at the start, you can only make significant progress in Castlevania and Edo at first. The pirate ship is also manageable, but without Simon's long-range whip, it's incredibly difficult to get past a certain tricky platforming segment involving sea anemones. Only Mikey can enter the big city, and Kong's athletic jumping ability is needed to enter Hell. It is advised to keep all characters alive if possible, but the game has lots of tough segments that make it difficult to survive. Some stages toss out speedy enemies who are obnoxious to hit if you are not using projectile weapons, and the game's hit detection is off-kilter, making it nigh-impossible to hit fast enemies who rush through you. Each character can take a decent amount of damage before dying, though pitfalls are instant death even if there are not too many tough jumps to clear. If anyone kicks the proverbial bucket, you can shell out one hundred bullets to revive them thanks to Dr. Spice, apparently Dr. Cinnamon's evil twin brother.
However, if everyone dies, in comes the game's greatest frustration: You lose half of your bullets and only Konami Man and Konami Lady are revived. Everyone else remains dead and you will have to grind for 100 bullets each to restore them. It is already enough of a pain to revive characters on their own, but it is just plain boring to hang out near the beginning of a level, beat up whatever tries to mob you, and hope they drop enough bullets before you give up from excessive banality. Each bullet icon is worth five bullets, and enemies do drop both small and big hearts which recover life points, but you better manage your characters carefully lest you have to endure this fate. As an alternative, you can try to play the slots in Goemon's stage, but that's still tedious. Wai Wai World can take a bit of time to complete, as while none of the stages are too lengthy, you will likely spend a fair deal of time tracking down everyone's subweapons and some bonus items that enhance everyone's power and endurance. You can at least save your progress while passwords, which may be best if you want to avoid burning out from bullet hunting.
After all eight characters are ready to go, the final stage begins and totally shifts the genre to that of a vertical shooter similar to an overhead stage from Salamander. You get the choice of either the Vic Viper from Gradius or TwinBee from the series of the same name, both sharing some weapons and bringing unique ones from their respective origins. This part's not too difficult by shooter standards except for the boss at the end, a giant one-eyed bony alien head. After obliterating this scary skull, you touch down on the enemy planet for the final segment, loaded with obnoxious floating blobs, which home in on your position and suck the life out of you. This finale resembles the last stage of Contra, even including the familiar alien lair music for the end boss, a giant triple-headed xenomorphic monstrosity. After killing it, you have to hotfoot it off of the alien base before the time limit runs out, or you will have to restart all the way back from the shooting level... and grind for six hundred bullets to revive everyone at that. D'oh!
Konami Wai Wai World is an awesome concept muddled by bad hit collision and segments that feel more frustrating than legitimately challenging. You can have two players in on the action simultaneously, but it will not curb the steep difficulty curve unless your teamwork is impeccable. It might not be Konami's most difficult title (though it is a contender), nor is it their most entertaining, but the numerous characters represented make it worth a play. It bleeds that juicy eighties Konami nostalgia which so many classic gamers adore, and it is not too difficult to play without knowing Japanese, though an unofficial English translation exists.
The game was re-released in 2006 for Japanese mobile phones, and it's mostly the same except for two roster changes: Mikey and King Kong. As Konami lost the film licenses for these characters, they were substituted by Upa from Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa and Pentarou from Antarctic Adventure, though they offer the same attributes as the characters they replaced.
Konami's second (and last) crossover platformer is a far different entity from its predecessor. All adventure elements are excised in favor of focusing on the action, resulting in a faster-paced and overall more enjoyable experience. The plot involves an evil ghost-like villain named Warumon (a name that would be used three years later in TwinBee for the villain Dr. Warumon) kidnapping Princess Herb of the peaceful Parsley Castle, prompting Dr. Cinnamon to create a suspiciously Mega Man-esque hero robot named Rikkuru to save her. Rikkuru is a competent fighter on his own, but he has the ability to channel the power of several Konami superheroes to crush his opponents. Before the game starts, you get to choose between four choices of three Konami heroes from a total pool of five all-stars.
Goemon, Simon Belmont, and Fūma return from the first game along with two new fighters: Baby Upa from Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa and commando Bill Rizer from Contra. Upa's game of origin never made it to American shores until 2008 on the Wii Virtual Console, but it is a creative platformer in which Upa must bonk enemies with his magic rattle to inflate and ride them upwards like balloons. Bill is definitely more recognizable, from the popular high-action run-and-gun Contra series. You are primarily in control of Rikkuru, who trots at a decent pace and attacks with a quick crescent projectile that travels through about a quarter of the screen. It is not a powerful attack, but it beats out Konami Man and Konami Lady's punches and kicks. Rikkuru does have the added advantage of a double jump, good for avoiding pits and enemy fire. He can also take eight hearts' worth of hits before he loses a life, and there are medkits to heal him. However, you will likely not be Rikkuru for too long once you pick up a C icon (provided by floating containers akin to Contra), as this causes the three character icons to flash red one by one.
Like the first Wai Wai World, jumping while holding Up will transform you into whatever character icon is currently highlighted. You remain in that form for sixty seconds, during which you are technically invincible, as each hit just takes five seconds away from the clock instead of hearts. You morph back into Rikkuru when time runs out, though medkits can boost the timer and picking up another C icon allows you to re-morph into your current character or choose a new one. Unlike the first game, it is not crucial to pick any specific character for unique situations; everyone has advantages and disadvantages, but they are all essentially power-ups who exist to do more damage than Rikkuru and take punishment in his stead. Goemon tosses pipes which boomerang back to him about one-third across the screen, Simon's iconic whip does good damage but is a bit slow, Fūma's sword is strong but has short range, Upa's rattle is quick and turns enemies into platform clouds, and Bill fires quick bullets full range across the screen.
The levels this time around are completely linear, and while some may miss the exploration element of the first, the flow of the game works better as a straight-up action-platformer. Admittedly, things start out slow with the first level, which automatically scrolls at a sluggish pace; however, the autoscrolling is justified for the second segment of the stage where Rikkuru commands a small jet fighter in a Gradius-like shmup sequence. Things take off at stage two, an affectionate homage of the Goemon series set in feudal-era Edo with soldiers wearing helicopter helmets as propellers, ballerina sumo wrestlers, and a pogo stick samurai as the boss. Stages four, five, seven, and nine are also platformers, respectively based off the origins of Bill (an alien-ridden jungle), Upa (a delicious candy land), Fūma (Hell itself) and Simon (an ominous castle). The final stretch contains small versions of familiar bosses from each characters' series (like the Cyclops from Castlevania III) before you reach the last battle with Warumon, who is super-simple to defeat as Bill.
The remaining three levels, announced by Konami Man and Konami Lady, switch up the gameplay style. The third level is an overhead shooter where you pilot the TwinBee. You get to select between two different levels, and this segment actually plays faithfully like the original TwinBee before switching to a Space Harrier-esque bonus stage where you have to collect as many bells as possible. The sixth stage is particularly bizarre, as it offers a choice between two completely different genres. The first choice faces you off against three sliding puzzles where you have to form the full image while also keeping Konami Lady protected from a rogue train at the bottom of the screen. The second selection is an overhead racing segment, which is based on the (best forgotten) racer Road Fighter. Finally, the eighth level has you pick one of two levels to pilot the Vic Viper in a horizontal shooting sequence. While you use the standard Gradius arsenal, the cutesy graphics bring its semblance closer to Parodius. Just when you think you have beaten this section, in swoops a giant battleship which looks like the classic Big Core from the original Gradius, an impressive boss by NES standards.
Wai Wai World 2 is one of Konami's best latter-era Famicom titles thanks to innovative level design, bright and colorful graphics, delightful soundtrack full of familiar tunes from other Konami games, and an overall more refined feel than the first game. It also offers simultaneous two-player support where the second gamer controls a blue Rikkuru, as well as Winbee and Lord British in the respective shooter segments.
If there is anything negative to be said (aside from the slow first stage), the game is almost too easy to beat. This is preferable to the hair-tearing infuriation the first game could incur, and the game rarely gets boring due to its level variety, but it does feel like the enemies could be stronger and the bosses more erratic. It is made easier by the transformation power-ups, where you can literally wait as long as you need to choose which identity you want to assume. You can keep the change cursor going until you run out of time with your current hero and immediately transform again. Unless you have a predilection for falling into death pits (where the amount of tricky jumps is surprisingly low for a Konami game), you can remain potentially invincible with careful power-up usage. The Gradius section might be the toughest part due to losing lives instantly if you are not protected by a shield, and the prelude to the Castlevania level strangely begins with a minigame that plays like Frogger, where all enemy vehicles can destroy you in one hit if you're not careful. Even if these are the only segments where the game gets tough, you simply start at the beginning of the current stage when you die and have limitless continues. While not a hard game, Wai Wai World 2 is a fun one, and that is all that counts for the best Konami crossover game without the portmanteau "Parodius" in the title.