Review by JIrish

Reviewed: 10/02/02 | Updated: 10/02/02

Ruthless Greed

Something very unexpected had happened with the second Super Mario Land game, SML 2: 6 Golden Coins for the GameBoy. The lead villain, an obese, crooked-moustache bearing, evil doppelganger of Mario, named Wario, had become quite popular. Popular enough to merit a game starring him! And thus, Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land was born, and Nintendo now officially had a mascot character that had more attitude than Sonic the Hedgehog could ever dream of. After all, he’s a greedy son-of-a-gun.

So greedy that when he hears a group of pirates have stolen a gigantic golden statue of Princess Peach Toadstool, he can’t pass up the opportunity to go searching for it to sell it back, and maybe also get some more treasure. His ultimate goal? A castle, one that’s far more grand than the one he took over from Mario. So, arriving by canoe at the island hideaway of Captain Syrup and her gang of misfit pirates, Wario proceeds to steal the loot the pirates stole from their dirty work on the seas in the first place. No honor amongst thieves and all that.

Here’s what Wario can do: instead of merely stomping enemies to defeat them, like that other guy in overalls, he has a few different options. The most basic is to charge his enemies shoulder first. This outright blows away smaller critters, stuns larger ones, and can also break down bricks where coins might be found once they’re broken. Wario’s powers are reflected by the hat he wears. The pith helmet is the most basic, with a short charge and average block breaking abilities. The bull helmet is stronger, allowing for a longer sustained charge and to break a block with one hit. Wario can also hang from the ceiling by holding up while wearing this helmet. The winged helmet allows Wario increased speed and jumping ability, and the longest sustained charge of the lot. It is also the only one that allows you to charge underwater. The dragon helmet is the odd one of the bunch, with Wario losing his charge in exchange for a flamethrower, that also works underwater. You can’t get coins from enemies through this, though.

In fact, defeating enemies by charging is the most direct way you can get coins from them and the only innate way Wario can do so, but there are other, less obvious ways to get better riches from the pirates. Wario can also pick up enemies when they’re stunned, and throw them at each other or hazards in the level. By holding up and pressing the B button, Wario can even produce a 10-coin piece to throw around, which comes in very much handy.

Once you finish a level, you have three choices: bet money for more money, bet money for lives, or just deposit your ill gotten gains. The first takes you to two buckets on a rope. One has a money bag, that will double your coins collected in the level. The other has a 10-ton weight, which will cut those earnings in half. You pick three times total or you can quit anytime. The second option is a shooting gallery. The more money you stake, the targets get faster and the prizes get higher. This isn’t the only way to get lives; defeating enemies on your terms (rather than by hazards) nets you hearts, and you can find large hearts worth 10. Get 100 such hearts and you get a 1-Up.

This all looks like a lot to remember, but like any good Nintendo platformer, it all feels natural and uncontrived. Controls are good, and the difficulty curve is nothing that can't be overcome with some good practice. And bosses range from fairly easy to downright challenging. I don't think I've ever played a platform action game originally created for the GameBoy that was this well balanced, but that's not saying a lot, since I haven't played the other three Wario Land games. Yet.

The graphics are on par with SML 2, if not a little better. Wario is a commanding presence on screen, considering he’s twice the size, width-wise, of his pasta packing counterpart. His evil smile is ever present, reminding you that he’s not exactly the good guy even if you are playing as him. The pirates are all pretty well done, particularly some of the larger bosses. Stages themselves are standard GameBoy stuff for the time, with some nice touches here and there.

The soundtrack is composed mostly of songs based on a similar theme, as has become the standard with Mario games. None are annoying, a few are memorable. The other sounds are as good as the “now starting to show its age” system could crank out.

All told, this was an exceptional change of pace for the Super Mario Land series, to give this new face his own chance to shine. Here we are now, getting ready for his first platform title on a non-portable system, while the GameBoy games are now into the fourth installment, on the GBA. And to think it all began for Wario when he broke into Mario’s home…

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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