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Wario is back in stunning 3D! By KoNeko

When it comes to platformers, the original Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 is one of the titles that many gamers hold close to their heart. The game marked the first time that a Nintendo protagonist was in it simply for the greed of it all! The result lead to a game that was maniacal, puzzling, and just downright fun to play.

Mario’s sinister alter-ego has now landed on the Virtual Boy with all sorts of new environments to explore. This time around, Wario has left Kitchen Island and decided to take a vacation in the Awazon river basin. In the pursuit of more treasure, Wario was attacked by a group of native monsters. Before he knew it, the floor collapsed under them and he was trapped in the deep, dark depths of the Earth! He vowed to seek revenge on the monsters and, of course, steal all their riches!

The game takes form as a basic side-scrolling platformer in typical Nintendo fashion. Wario can bump blocks to reveal coins, hearts, and different power-ups of a wide variety. From a simple ground pound to a fire breathing dragon, these power-ups take the form of hats (ala Kirby) that create unique ways to pummel enemies and explore the area. The object is to search the level for a key and then reach the end with as many coins as possible. For those who desire a perfect ending, however, there is a treasure hidden carefully in each level as well. After every level, you are given the option to play a couple mini-games to gamble on hearts or coins. There are additionally three mini-bosses and one big boss to defeat during the course of the game – all of which get Wario more coins. Basically, the ultimate goal of the game is to score all the riches (be it coins or treasure) and destroy everything that gets in the way.

Let’s take a few steps back to the exploration aspect of the game. Gameplay spans across several planes that take advantage of the 3D capabilities of the Virtual Boy. You simply jump on a bounce pad and Wario is flung into the background. This feature alone exponentially increases the amount of turf there is to see. The level design overall is top notch and crafted so the location of secrets from level to level doesn’t become predictable. Never is there a shortage of hidden doorways or tunnels filled with coins to sneak into. Every level lends a unique challenge in that it is simple enough to get from point A to point B for beginners, but allows for deeper playthrough for those who want to 100% the game. The plethora of backdrops for each level, ranging from a desert to a factory and more, makes every area it’s own and never causes a Deja vu sort of feeling. It’s apparent that the developers put a lot of effort into the layout of the entire game as not a single level is even remotely capable of being boring.

It’s pretty easy to maneuver Wario’s husky body around. The left directional pad moves, A jumps, B activates his current power-up, and either trigger forces Wario into a brisk run. There’s not much to be said about the controls here – they’re basic, easy, and don’t cause any limitations in the gameplay. Perfect, no?

What’s unfortunately not so perfect is the length of the game. While it does have a very high replay value (thanks to the numerous different endings), there are only 14 levels total of which 3 are bosses. If you want to nit-pick, there is a harder difficulty that is unlocked under certain conditions, but it would have been nice for at least one extra level to have been included upon completing a perfect game or something similar. I mean, come on, 15 is such a nice number! Still, the game is so charming with it’s creative puzzles and overall charm that it’s an easy thing to overlook.

Speaking of the game’s charm, the sprites and scenery in the game are absolutely gorgeous. While there obviously isn’t an immense color pallet to work with, an intricate attention to detail is present in just about everything. Character sprites are large and detailed while the backdrops are clear and cover several three-dimensional layers. What’s really nifty, is how different portions of the background appear to shift in different directions as you move! The result is an extraordinarily immersive playing area that doesn’t even seem to bother my eyes in the least.

The music in the game is also of a professional quality. The tunes always seem to reflect the mood of the level and are sure to distinguish, say, a room filled with coins from a dungeon with scary enemies. Each level generally has one main song that plays throughout, while different music can be heard when entering various rooms or tunnels. Sure, we’re not talking “Wario Land: A Rock Opera” or anything, but the 8-bit chiptunes manage to avoid becoming repetitive and are actually really catchy! It’s not the best part of the game, but it also isn’t anything to shake a stick at.

Propelling Wario into the third dimension was a decision that was sure to capture the interest of previous fans and create new ones as well. The game exhibits many key aspects involved in creating a good platformer from creative level design to a detailed aesthetic presentation. With plenty of hidden secrets, innovative new power-ups, classy 3D effects, and the fact that it is the only true platformer on the Virtual Boy, Wario Land is certainly one of the best titles available for the console. While the game is a tad short, it doesn’t take away from this unique experience on a unique system. Virtual Boy Wario Land truly showcases the system’s capabilities in an entertaining and captivating manner that boldly lives up to Wario’s prior adventure.

9 / 10

Rated: Apr 04, 2011 • 00:00