Wario Land 3 – Game Boy Color
Platform: Game Boy Color
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Release Date (NA): May 30, 2000
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
Why is it Wario Land 3 and not Wario Land III? Wario Land II was not Wario Land 2.
Anyone else bothered by such blatant inconsistency?
We’re here today to discuss the merits of yet another fine installment in the Wario Land franchise.
A 9 out of 10? That good, huh? I seldom score above 8. Is it really the best Wario game so far?
I had a lot of trouble rating this one to be honest. I didn’t like it at first. It starts off very slow, partly because you are stripped of most of your powers from earlier games, even basic techniques such as high jumping and bouncing off of enemies. Abilities are slowly rediscovered, however, until Wario has fully reclaimed his repertoire of moves.
Why, exactly, was he robbed of all his basic skills?
Your guess is as good as mine.
I also became lost early on, but after finding my way by the light of a walkthrough, I managed to move forward.
The more I played, the more I became absorbed, and I realized it was indeed good. But how good?
An 8 didn’t seem right. As such, I was inclined to stamp a 7 onto the ol’ nerd rating. Maybe a 7.5? No, no, no, that’s not right. None of this is right. The more I played, the more I realized – despite my personal tastes – Wario Land 3 was pretty close to perfection and deserved a 9. Is it perfect, though? In my eyes, no. In fact, I still like the first two better. But a bell of objectivity chimed in my head, redirecting my attention to the truth. And from here, we discuss why the third in the series is the best so far.
Let’s start with looks. Looks aren’t everything, right? But they sure are nice.
Wario’s basic design is almost identical to his appearance in Wario Land II, except… he’s wearing a white cap and shirt?
Okay, I don’t understand why he suddenly went from yellow to white, but you’ll soon forget this tiny detail when you notice just how brilliant the animation is. They took Wario’s sprites and really fine-tuned them, adding so much more to his personality not only through smoother animation but all new frames and gestures not seen before. The limitations of the Game Boy Color’s hardware slowly fade away as Wario comes to life right before you on a 2.6-inch screen. As a die-hard fan of animation, I was mesmerized.
Wario Land 3 gives you a lot of freedom with its system of progression. While you do start out limited to a few stages, the game slowly opens up until the possibilities are nearly endless. Some areas can only be accessed in a certain order, but otherwise you’re free to go wherever the wind carries you.
Your mission is to uncover treasures, which is nothing foreign to the Wario franchise; however, this time Wario is looking for artifacts to free a world inside a music box from an evil spell.
You following me here?
For the first time in his career, Wario’s objective is selfless and his treasure hunt is for the greater good. Of course, this doesn’t come without some form of incentive. The Mysterious Figure who traps Wario in the music box (also acting as the ominous overseer of all happenings) bribes our antihero by vowing to release him from this land with any fortune he discovers along the way.
See? Same old Wario, just a different situation. Who’da thunk he would be a hero for once. Maybe this was his calling to change his ways, give up all his money, become a humble farmer and…
Anyway, moving on.
So yes, treasures. There are four in every level, and most of them actually do something other than simply look pretty. Some interact with the world, opening up new stages and areas previously inaccessible – as demonstrated by a brief, wordless cutscene; others give Wario new powers (don’t get too excited, these are mostly powers he had in earlier games). And of course, a few are just glamorous shelf pieces.
As Wario acquires new moves, he can revisit levels and grab another of the four treasures he was unable to find before. Yes, there is a healthy amount of backtracking, but you have a ton of levels to keep it fresh.
After a while you’ll have so much freedom you may feel a little overwhelmed. But no need to worry! If you’re like me and not feeling very adventurous, you can always visit the Mysterious Figure, who will advise you where to travel next. You don’t need all the treasures to win, so consulting him/her/it will help you complete the game via the most direct route possible. And besides, 100% completion isn’t quite as fulfilling as it was in Wario Land II.
Wario Land 3 has a day and night cycle, which brings even more variety to the dish. Some pathway access is incumbent on this cycle, but I personally didn’t notice it much.
Though I may have rated this about as high as I can rate a game, that doesn’t mean it is without some minor flaws.
Wario Land 3 (aside from Wario himself), lacks the personality and charm of previous entries. The enemies, for one, are bland, unappealing, and soulless. The atmosphere is far different from the first two, although it is taking place inside a music box world, so I can overlook that detail.
The music is pretty catchy. The kind of catchy that might drive you a little nuts. It’s not as memorable or engaging as the music in the previous games. Wario Land II based most of its tracks on the main theme from the first Wario Land, but Wario Land 3 has a completely fresh soundtrack. Some may find it refreshing – I find it a little off-putting. Despite the musical overhaul, it’s not completely unfamiliar; the “condition” tunes are the same, and you have the return of a melodic phrase from Wario Land when you collect a musical coin. All in all, some tracks are good, like the opening theme, and others don’t really cut it.
Third, and perhaps my biggest gripe, is a cap on coins.
You heard me right.
Much like Super Mario Land 2, you can only collect up to 999 coins.
Yeah, it’s minor. All these things are minor. But in a Wario game? Come on! Nobody puts a limit on Wario’s wealth!
I will say, unlike Super Mario Land 2, you actually need to spend your coins in order to progress, so you are motivated to continue collecting despite the cap. Not like you’ll run out, or anything…
So why the 9? Well, take Wario Land II, which was a near-perfect concept, add refined graphics, an involved progression system, more “conditions” (this time known as “reactions”), and most importantly, increase the difficulty, and you have a 9 out of 10. Sure, there are some flaws – some not present in earlier installments, but take these two points into consideration:
- I have to remain objective. I am aware many people will overlook the minor imperfections I find bothersome. When you honestly look at these flaws, they don’t take away from the experience.
- Wario Land 3 is a masterpiece of a game. It’s positives outweigh the negatives so much, the overall presentation pushes this one ahead of the others.
While Wario Land II walked a thin line between easy and moderate difficulty, Wario Land 3 is hard! They perfected the concept of an immortal character who’s only penalty is being sent back to repeat a challenge. The level design is fantastic and actually poses a threat to Wario, who’s so invulnerable at this point he doesn’t even lose coins.
I will admit, some challenges can be frustrating – bordering on annoying – but the satisfaction of completion makes it worthwhile. And the game is so fun, you can forgive the more aggravating puzzles.
Boss battles are fairly frequent and a little more involved than before. Overall you’ll have to use your head more in Wario Land 3 than in previous Wario Lands. And hey, look! Our old pal Dunk the Bunny (now called “Shoot”) even shows up for a fun rematch.
The mini-game this time is a simple, yet fun, golf game where Wario must ram an enemy into the hole. It’s tough to figure out, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be (somewhat) fine. It costs coins to play and is required to clear pathways to certain chests.
Wario Land 3 is a crowning achievement on the Game Boy Color. It’s an incredibly unique, visually appealing, and full experience for a portable system.
If you recall, I asked in my Super Mario Land 2 review if said game would hold up on a home console and concluded it would not. When I look at Wario Land 3, I see a game that would not only work on a home console but excel as a triple A title. Wario Land 3 is a must-have for any Game Boy collector. Just be sure to get over the initial hump you may encounter, as it will take off once you have a few levels under your belt.
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