Review by MTLH

"The pinnacle of the Super Mario Land series."

Although Wario is now one of Nintendo's more prolific characters, having starred in numerous games in several genres, his first appearance was as the main adversary in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. Wario's first step towards his current status began with that game's sequel. Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land was the first game that put him in the role of main protagonist., replacing the hero from the main title. A Mario game without Mario, can such a thing actually work?

The first thing that anyone will notice is just how massive Wario himself is. He could probably fit Mario from the first Super Mario Land under his helmet with room to spare. Not only is he big, our questionable hero is also quite expressive with his unnervingly permanent grin and the smirk he gives while bashing away his enemies.

This level of detailing and animation is fortunately also present throughout the whole game, affecting standard enemies and guardians alike. The environments show a surprising amount of variation, both between the themes and within them. And all this is achieved without even a hint of slowdown. All in all, Wario Land is certainly a good looking game.

Wario Land's soundtrack is great. Atmospheric, varied and frequently appropriate to the theme of the stage. A jolly and upbeat piece of music for a stage set on a pirateship for example while a stage set in a cavern actually sounds very subdued. Sound-effects are good too, giving amongst other things Wario's rushes just the right amount of power to be credible.

After his defeat in Super Mario Land 2, Wario has set himself a new goal: to gather as much wealth as he possibly can in order to get a castle of his own. He discovers that the pirates of Kitchen Island happen to have a huge golden statue of Princess Toadstool in their possession, a treasure that Wario intends to take for himself.

Wario Land, like it's predecessor, takes it's cues from the likes of Super Mario World and it's ilk. This means that the game features an overhead map which contains several areas, each consisting of several stages. Wario's journey is linear in the sense that he must go through these areas in a predescribed order to reach the end. However, it is not necessary to complete each and every stage. There is even a whole area that can be skipped and there are also secret stages to discover.

Skipping those voluntary areas would defeat the point of the game, seeing Wario's aim is to gather as much money as he can. Our unlikely hero can collect the numerous coins found throughout the stages as well as treasures. There are fifteen of these in the game which can mostly be found in rather obscure places. These valuable items are locked away in a room that requires a key to open which can usually be found in the vicinity of the door. Finding these treasures isn't so difficult but it is both rewarding and adds some longevity to the game.

Wario can defeat his enemies by jumping on their heads or slamming into them and dazed foes can be picked up to be used as projectiles against their comrades. He can also use different helmets to aid him in his task. These allow him to breathe fire, to fly and to become stronger. He is assisted further by sharp controls.

The level design makes good use of these different helmets, especially when it comes to the hidden treasures. Levels range from the straightforward left to right variety to more elaborate constructions. They are also generally quite clever with a lot of neat little touches. Each area ends with a decidedly old-fashioned boss fight where a guardian has a set attack routine and usually one glaring weakness. They are fun to defeat though and certainly not the walkovers from the previous games.

Wario Land isn't an overtly easy game. It is certainly more difficult then it's predecessors and will last a good while. Wario may be a powerful character, he never becomes too strong. Furthermore, Wario Land also has a healthy amount of stages, about forty, which are not that short either. Expect to get a good few hours of entertainment out of this game.

Wario Land's presentation is simply great and ranks amongst the Game Boy's finest. The Super Mario World inspired gameplay is executed almost to perfection. The only minor point would be that the game could have been a bit more challenging even if it isn't exactly a walkover in it's present state.

One thing that bugged me to various degrees about the first two Super Mario Lands was their style. Although the second entry remedied this somewhat and they where certainly not bad games, both felt a bit off. They never felt like a true Mario game should. Giving the third title a new protagonist, with different goals and behaviour, was a masterstroke. This time the deviating style actually suits the game. Wario would go on to star in a myriad of games of various quality but his first outing as the leading man simply is a classic.

OVERALL: a classic worthy of a 9,5.


Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 03/29/10

Game Release: Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land (EU, 05/13/94)

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