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Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – Game Boy

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 – Game Boy

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): March 13, 1994

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

It sure is nice to be the bad guy for a change.

Oh boy, let me tell you – it’s no surprise how I feel about this game. You see the rating. You know it’s good. But allow me to gush a bit.

12_Mario_Character_Shapes

My boys

This was such a pleasure to review.

I had Wario Land as a kid and was immediately drawn to this antihero. Soon, Luigi had a companion on my list of favorite Mario characters, and he was big, mean, ugly, and yellow! I loved the game so much in my youth, and you know what? To my surprise, as a semi-matured adult with a far more critical brain, I am impressed to an even greater degree with it now. Let’s dissect this specimen and see why Wario truly is the Game Boy’s champion protagonist.

Wario made his debut in Super Mario Land 2, making Wario Land its spiritual successor. His roots are in handheld gaming, and this is where our favorite foul fiend will always shine.

Wario Land’s formula is similar to a Mario game, but where Nintendo’s mascot fell short in the portable realm, Wario soared. Though some elements do overlap, there’s more than enough fresh material and structure to set this game apart as a force of its own.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 10.19.41 PMMario is your basic video game character who jumps on enemies, grabs power-ups, and receive a number of special abilities – namely some form of projectile or means of flight. Wario is like Mario; he can jump on enemies, grab power-ups, break blocks, and even shrink down to a tiny size. Save for a few other details and basic platforming staples, that’s about as far as it goes.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 10.35.32 PMWario has a unique ability in his charge, which can only be executed while you’re of normal size. With this as his main attack, he can knock enemies out of the park, break walls, and even run on air!

Playing Wario Land really feels as though you’re controlling an enemy character, and here’s the real twist – you’re more of a threat to your competition than they are to you. Sure, you can jump on grunts to stun them, but for the most part simply touching enemies flips them over. So now you’re wondering, “how is this any fun?”

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 8.04.00 PM

Watch out! You’re vulnerable as Small Wario, and that D.D’s got a sword-er, boomerang!

You can still get hurt. Many of your enemies have deadly points, whether it’s a weapon they carry or some extension of their own anatomy. If you touch this point, you shrink to Small Wario. Touch it again and you’re dead.

But still, how does one make a game challenging when your character is such a threat? This is where expert level design comes in, and it works brilliantly!

Enemy placement is on point! Obstacles are tricky. And both elements in tandem create a high probability of failure.

In fact, Wario Land is pretty tough, especially for a Game Boy title. It’s the kind of game where you’re liable to make countless stupid mistakes, though you will definitely get your money’s worth. And I know in the past I’ve said Game Boy games tend to be easy. Oh, is this an exception.

It’s not impossible though. It has a save feature, checkpoints, more than enough power-ups, and an overstock of extra lives. Seriously, you’ll round up lives like Top Gun carts piling up at a retro game shop. And I was able to claim victory at a fairly young age, so I’d say the level of difficulty is very even.

If you play with the sole purpose of making it to the end you can probably complete Wario Land without much trouble or time invested. But what really adds a couple of notches to the ol’ difficulty belt is your incentive to collect as many coins as possible.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.30.31 PM

Wario Land encourages greed, hoarding, and miserliness. The whole purpose here is to gather enough coins to build a great big castle at the end, so you really aren’t playing if you’re not trying to maximize your coinage. After all, you may defeat the enemies, the final boss…that’s all well and good, but if you don’t have a castle at the end there was no point playing to begin with. Once you decide to embrace your inner cheapskate, a new level of strategy and risk enters the fray.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 1.16.45 AM

Despite my greatest efforts, log cabin seems to be the best I can do. I had the same results when emulating for screenshots as I did playing the actual cart. Oh well, looks like Wario’s happy, anyway

Every time you ram an opponent you collect a coin from their helplessly star-bound form. Because of this, you will want to maintain your ramming ability, lest you miss out on a plethora of coin. The two forms incapable of ramming are Small Wario and Dragon Wario. I suggest avoiding the latter as often as possible, and of course, trying your best not to receive damage.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 8.00.16 PMYou have two other hat power-ups available to you.

The bull helmet allows you to cling to ceilings, break blocks faster, charge further, and ground pound. You will often need this butt-stomping ability to access areas with extra coins, passageways, and other goodies. The bull helmet has an icon of its own, but is also the natural progression after regular Wario. To clarify, if you’ve shrunk down to Small Wario an onion will return you to normal. From there, eating another onion turns you into Bull Wario.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.22.19 AMThe other useful power-up is the jet hat, which allows you to shoot across the screen in the air while ramming whatever is in your way. This can come in handy for breaking blocks underwater, clobbering enemies underwater, and of course, helping you span wide gaps.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 7.47.15 PMThe dragon hat can also break blocks and such underwater but you’ll incinerate enemies, robbing you of vital coin. You’re better off avoiding this hat if you really want to pack your piggy bank.

Some strategy comes into play when trying to maximize your wealth. Every now and then you’ll cross paths with a Chicken Duck (yes, that’s it’s name). Tossing enemies into its basket will result in a cool 30 coins. If you can successfully lead a baddie to its hapless demise by either a Pikkarikun’s lightning bolt or under the weight of a Pouncer, the result is 10 coins. Additionally, you have the opportunity to double up your loot at the end of each round through a chance mini-game. Three tries, two buckets. You could potentially triple your earnings, but be careful! Each time you tug the wrong bucket you lose half your coins. You can also opt for the heart mini-game, but come on! You don’t need more lives, trust me. Just look at the screenshots for crying out loud.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 10.58.30 PM

7 out of 10 times I choose the wrong bucket. This is why I can’t build a damn castle. And why I don’t gamble in real life

Okay, okay, I know I’m talking endlessly about money, but just one more point before we move on, and that’s treasure. HiddenScreen Shot 2015-08-09 at 11.37.42 PM throughout certain stages are strange skull doors. Find the key, throw it in the door, and uncover a treasure chest containing a sacred trinket. Now here’s the rub – you can’t crack it open as Small Wario, so make sure you’re big because adding these to your collection is well worth it. Necessary, in fact. At the end when all your coins are tallied, you’ll really make bank off these artifacts. The total value of combined treasures is 90,000, so collecting coins alone simply won’t cut it. And it forces you to explore while using your brain a bit. Why, after so many years of repeated Wario Land runs I still haven’t uncovered all the artifacts.

Phew. Okay! Get the picture? Coins, coins, and more coins. Let’s move on, there’s more to cover.

Graphically, this is one fine specimen. Wario and all his opponents are wonderfully detailed in a cartoony style so fitting for the tone Nintendo was going for. He’s the anti-Mario, and it shows – all the way from his crooked eyes and brash movements, to the cute, yet vile characters and backgrounds. It’s always amazing to see how much a world can come to life on the Game Boy’s screen.

Controls are really comfortable. Though he moves at a slight leisurely pace, he travels fast enough, with the charge giving you an extra speed boost if you’re impatient. Crossing pits when pulling off his ramming move is a hoot, and he has a jump that’ll put Luigi to shame. A friend of mine characterized his jump as floaty, which I think is true, but it’s also tight, giving you excellent maneuverability. And holding up while jumping causes you to leap all the way to the top of the screen. Wario never has to worry about reaching the highest shelf.

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.37.30 AM

Say what you want about Wario…with a jump like this he could easily compete in the Olympics

And now for the audio discussion. I say audio because the sounds are worth mentioning as well.

I love the sound effects. They’re acute, sharp, and crisp. Breaking bricks is so satisfying. Wario’s footsteps are a pleasant touch. And the music. The music is so fitting. Much like Wario, it’s crooked, blunt, obnoxious, unapologetic, and yet, somehow catchy as hell. Not to mention a track or two sounding suspiciously similar to the opening phrase of Duran Duran’s Save a Prayer.

It’s hard for me to pick out any flaws in Wario Land, but if I had to find some fault, I suppose I could mention how most (but not all) boss battles follow the same formula. That’s not to say they’re in any way easy or even boring. It’s just, save for maybe two bosses, you pretty much always have to knock out one of the grunts sent after you, catch them, and throw them back at their leader three times. Then rake in the coins, baby! And gamble them all away…

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.21.11 PM

Big pirate bird sends small birds after you. Throw small birds back at big pirate bird. A little formulaic, sure, but it’s still quite difficult

Can I really call it a flaw though since each of these foes has a unique attack pattern and gimmick?

I guess while I’m being all nitpicky I will say your hitbox seems a little inconsistent. Not a big deal though.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 7.38.39 PMWario Land is so much fun. It’s platforming at its finest, with excellent controls, tight level design, unique gameplay, and a protagonist you can’t help but love to hate. I’m telling you…greed never looked so good! Wario is to handhelds what Mario is to consoles.

Boy am I forgetting something? Probably, but this is a fairly lengthy review, and I think you get the point at this juncture of the analysis. Buy the game. Now.

Hey, what are you doing? No, put that cookie down and buy Wario Land. You won’t be sorry!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 9.58.35 PM

Wario
Main Series
WarioWare
Other

 

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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