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Virtual Boy Wario Land – Virtual Boy

Virtual Boy Wario Land – Virtual Boy

Platform: Virtual Boy

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): November 27, 1995

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10

Look ma! I beat my first Virtual Boy game!

You heard it right folks. Virtual Boy. Nintendo’s most beloved mistake.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.27.57 PM

How can I review this without talking a little bit about the console itself? After all, its design and features weigh heavily on the final score of the game at hand.

In brief, I like the Virtual Boy.

Yeah. I know.

11997830_10207252922304415_1812113999_n

Yours truly, playing a Virtual Boy for the very first time in his 26 years of existence

But I really like it. A lot. I think it’s one of the coolest fucking things I’ve ever played.

Now, I know it’s a shitty system, and I will agree with most of the complaints. I do, however, enjoy the red and black – as crazy at that sounds – and am lucky enough to be fully capable of playing without headaches or eyestrain. That’s not to say it’s a comfortable experience, but we’ll get into that a little later.

Now, without further ado…

Virtual Boy Wario Land!

Boy oh boy!

Virtual Boy Wario Land is the true sequel to the first Wario Land, and it sure as hell plays like it. This is not to say I don’t love and appreciate Wario Land II, however, it is refreshing to know a proper sequel does exist.

For a more comprehensive rundown of the basics, read my review of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, as it is largely similar in terms of gameplay.

Before all the wacky conditions/reactions, the invulnerability, and the mandatory mini-games, Wario was a little closer to Mario. He’d shrink down when he was hit, die in his smaller form, and collect power-ups.

And in 1995, it was still this way.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.21.59 PMVirtual Boy Wario Land, like the original, is more action oriented, only it’s taken a step further with retooled power-ups, updated graphics, and a 3D gameplay gimmick that actually work quite well. Let’s break it down.

The power-ups…

Bull Wario, Dragon Wario, and Jet Wario all return, and there’s even a new upgrade not seen before.Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.09.16 AM

Bull Wario is more or less the same, except he can’t cling to ceilings now and is no longer the most powerful form. His battering attack sure is insane this time; just hold down the B button and watch him fly across the screen!

Dragon Wario (now Sea Dragon Wario) is also similar, except instead of pressing the button once to activate theScreen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.08.28 PM flame you hold it down to keep it going, which feels more like operating a real flame thrower (not that I’ve ever used one myself…). Oh, and in this game, if you incinerate a grunt they’ll leave behind a heart, as opposed to the jack shit you would receive from torching an enemy in Wario Land.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 11.59.24 AMJet Wario (now Eagle Wario) still flies across the air while ramming any helpless victim crossing his path, but he can also span a greater distance when you tap the jump button again, which was not seen in the game’s predecessor.

And now, for the new Wario…

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.21.25 PM

Hail to the King, baby!

King Dragon Wario!

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 7.26.15 AM

King Dragon does it all – even ground pound

King Dragon Wario results from combining the Sea Dragon power with the Eagle power. This supreme form gives Wario the ability to jet, shoot fire bullets, and ground pound. Unfortunately, he cannot ram enemies, so you won’t be nabbing extra coinage from your fallen victims as King Dragon Wario.

The graphics…

It’s a little hard to tell when the image blurs together as a result of your retinae burning from the bright red assault on your optic nerves, but Virtual Boy Wario Land looks great! Of all the games in the series I’ve reviewed so far, this is the one where Wario looks most like Wario. That’s not to say I appreciate the style of and what the developers did with the earlier games any less, but it’s nice to see our man fully detailed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 4.17.10 PMWario looks like a cartoon character – one who’s fairly well-drawn. The animation is for the most part really good, complete with a creepy breathing cycle and detailed frames of Wario growing and shrinking! I’ve never seen as smooth a transition from big to small and vice versa in any Mario-related game as I have in Virtual Boy Wario Land. You’ll have to see it for yourself.

Now, the gimmick…

Wario is the odd duck of the Mario universe, so he was a perfect choice for the Virtual Boy’s flagship game. As such, Virtual Boy Wario Land makes as much use of the “virtual reality” feature as it can.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.59.02 PM

Wario launches into the background

A foreground/background system is in place here, making for some interesting gameplay and challenges. Featured throughout are springs placed to launch Wario far off into the distance. Enemies and hazards make liberal use of the 3D illusion, playing deeper into the game’s structure. You also have some boss battles take advantage.

Though it is very gimmicky, it’s well-done, used frequently, enjoyable, and thus it works. I like it. And since I find the Virtual Boy to be a really fun, novel device, I appreciate the amount of 3D tricks implemented here.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.50.45 PM

While we’re on the subject of 3D, I’ll note the game itself mostly has some shallow depth. It’s there, and it’s pretty exciting to see, but Wario and his opponents look flat. You can tell they tried to make him pop by putting his arms on slightly different planes, but it’s hardly noticeable. And when you do notice, it doesn’t work. Oddly enough, while most backgrounds are pretty shallow, occasionally you’ll see some with impressive depth.

In Virtual Boy Wario Land you run through a stage, find a key, reach the end, and unlock a door leading to a lift. The lift takes you up to the mini-game room, featuring two bonus rounds similar to those found in the first Wario Land. From there, you return to the lift and take it up to the next level. I’m not sure exactly where Wario is, but if I had to guess I’d say he was deep in the darkest chasms of hell. Makes sense, right? I mean, you are progressively making your way up to the highest floor…Wario is the kind of person who belongs in the fiery underworld…and the red and black really helps to reinforce the notion you’re in hell.

Yes Wario…you’re in hell

Sooo….what are my overall thoughts? Well, because it builds off the first game, which you know I adore, and it perfectly utilizes the awesomeness of the Virtual Boy…this could have been an amazing game! Really, the gameplay is addictive and fun, and you’ll want to keep coming back for more between trips to the optometrist. Only…there’s one…big…glaring…flaw.

Virtual Boy Wario Land is short and easy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 7.21.40 AM

Disregard “total time” here. I take my time when I go for screenshots

10 measly levels. Four bosses. That’s it. And they’re all pretty much a breeze.

Power-ups are everywhere. You’ll barely spend more than 30 seconds as Small Wario before you gain an ability. Extra lives are easier to obtain than Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt cartridges. Even though the last two or three levels are hard, it’s too little, too late. You may scratch your head for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do next, but there’s so little game left it doesn’t matter.

Because it’s so easy, the replay value is very low. Sure, it keeps track of your overall time, and you could try to beat it in one go, but…wait, no, you can’t do that. Even Nintendo discouraged users from playing more than 30 minutes or so with a built-in automatic pause.

Best keep that sucker on for good measure

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.04.13 PM

That’s right! Treasure! Collect them all!

The only replay value is in finding all treasures, which unlocks a second quest featuring more hazards for increased difficulty.

I mean, really? What is this, 1985? The levels are all exactly the same save for an ample supply of added spikes and…yeah. It doesn’t help the game’s cause at all, it’s simply lazy. Virtual Boy Wario Land is still too short, and if you want to make it difficult, make it difficult the first time around. Don’t make me play the same game twice because you didn’t feel like building a longer, more complex game. Some people may enjoy this, but I sure don’t.

And guess what. This harder quest actually makes the game look worse. The spike traps draw attention to the amateurish programming of boss battles. They also emphasize how difficult it is to distinguish elements red on red. I mean, half the time you simply won’t see the spikes. This is not how you make a game hard. This is how you make bullshit.

Screen Shot 2015-11-21 at 11.35.09 AM

There’s so much red noise, how are you supposed to see the spikes there? In fact, good luck finding Wario in this image. Kind of like playing a game of Where’s Waldo

Now let’s talk about the last boss. This battle…oh god, did it cause my blood to boil.

The score for Virtual Boy Wario Land dropped by the second during the final match. After I came to my senses, of course, it settled back to a 6. Let me explain exactly what is so frustrating about this one.

Imagine the stress you’d normally feel when facing a daunting task. You’re tense, right? Maybe your shoulders tighten, your spine stiffens, your heart is pounding? Well, imagine this while hunched over into a fucking Virtual Boy like an asshole. Your shoulders and back are already hurting even when you’re calm, so of course multiply normal tension by Virtual Boy and you get increased blood pressure. And possibly a bonus back injury.

This final stage is disproportionately harder than the rest of the game. It doesn’t fit the overall difficulty, therefore throwing you for a loop. Coupled with the urgent desire to pull your face away from this deathtrap of a console, you’ve got a recipe for piss soup.

The way you inflict damage upon this villain requires unreasonable precision. However, after a healthy amount of trial and error, you will figure out the timing. Surprisingly enough, while I couldn’t get more than one hit for the first 5,000 attempts, I managed to go from 0-60 on my last try and make all five shots I needed. It’s possible, but it might not be worth the chiropractic adjustments you’ll need after.

Oh, and it also doesn’t help that the final boss has a stupid fucking face you just want to pummel and repeatedly smash into a brick wall.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 4.45.27 PM

Spoiler-fucking-alert

Phew.

Okay, just punched a hole in my computer screen, I’m good.

So, last but not least, the music. It’s well…I’ll say this – it’s probably the most fitting soundtrack I’ve heard in a Wario game. Never before has a set of tunes so perfectly matched the rude, unpleasant vibe you get from Wario himself. It’s not bad, though most of it wouldn’t make my playlist. It’s not catchy or memorable like the others. The Virtual Boy’s hardware produces some interesting, unique sounds, and at times you’ll hear notes reminiscent of original Game Boy audio in this game.

Okay, wow, I’ve rambled on long enough. I should hope I’ve said everything I need to about Virtual Boy Wario Land.

Anyway, yes, this was a huge letdown. I’ll probably play it again because I love what’s here…but there’s just so little of it.

If you have a Virtual Boy, there’s no reason not to own this. It’s a staple, a necessary addition to your collection. You will have fun with it.

If you don’t have a Virtual Boy, well, then, you’re probably a fairly sane person.

Thank you for staying with me on this lengthy review. Until next Wario game…

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 10.02.53 AM

**Special thanks to one of my favorite video game shops, Steel Collectibles, for hooking me up with a great deal and making my dreams of playing/owning a Virtual Boy a reality!

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Written by ZB

ZB

Since the tender age of four, I have been playing video games to occupy my free time. Raised on Nintendo and Sega Genesis, I have an extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for the classics. Also an avid collector, I have accrued such consoles as the Atari Jaguar, Super Famicom, Odyssey 2, Sega Nomad, just to name a few.

Got any questions, comments, concerns, or threats? Feel free to email me at zb@nerdbacon.com. I am happy to hear your feedback!

 
 

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2 Comments

  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    Glad you were finally able to pick this system up after all these years.

    I could never handle the damn thing. I have eye problems now just looking at my HDTV for too long. This isn’t the system for me.

     

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