Review by Jotun

"Another great Mario game! No, wait... Wario game!!"

I remember that when Super Mario Land 2 came out there were a lot, and I mean A LOT of idiots who thought that Wario was one of Mario's possible transformations! I was still very young and was still attending elementary school and I used to bring my Game Boy with me to have fun during boring breaks, and all the classmates who owned this game like me kept on asking me ''did you find out how to morph Mario into Wario?''...
I had to admit, though, that the idea of being able to control the porky goon had potential, and it didn't take long before someone at Nintendo thought the same. Thus was born the third chapter in the Game Boy's arguably most successful series: Super Mario Land 3... though actually this label was diminished to a subtitle, as the game's main name was Wario Land, because this time it was Wario's turn to be under the spotlight!
I found this game at the beginning of a summer vacation and I kept on playing it all summer long, and of course even later on. The reason? This is a hell of a game, pretty simply. It's loads of fun, it's technically superb, and it has a lot of stuff in store for the player. I still rate this as one of the best Game Boy titles ever.

We all know that Wario had its fat butt kicked out of Mario's castle in SML2; this, however, didn't make him lose his lust to own a castle of his own. One day he came across some interesting hearsay: the Brown Sugar Pirates had stolen Princess Toadstool's giant golden statue, and of course our old pal Mario was already after it to bring it back to its owner. Wario immediately figured out that if he could make it to the statue first he would then be able to ask an enormous reward for it (the chick's a princess, so she's gotta be rich) and use it to have the castle of his dreams built. So he arrived on Kitchen Island, where the Brown Sugar Pirates have their headquarters and where this new adventure takes place.

SML2 had bigger graphics than SML, so it would be natural to think that SML3 should have bigger graphics than SML2, and indeed it has. But size isn't the only feature that's been improved here. First, Wario's layout has been completely remade since SML2 (which is a very good thing), and now he looks cooler and has a whole lot of great animations for your eyes to admire. Next come the enemies: forget all kinds of koopas, Goombas, beetles and all that usual Mario stuff... enter the Brown Sugar Pirates, a long series of completely new characters, each of them with its own look, techniques and animations. This is IMO a much needed innovation, as we always found the same kind of enemies in EVERY Mario game, with the exception maybe of Super Mario Bros 2, but you see my point anyway.
The backgrounds are also large and more detailed, and also more varied than SML2. This game took the best out of the Game Boy's graphical capabilities, and it clearly shows, as to this day it stands the test of time as on of the best looking games on this system.

Like in SML2, we have a main theme that plays throughout the whole game in different versions (fast for the intense action levels, slow for the watery levels, gloomy for the dark levels...), so nothing really new here, although the result is more than good. I really liked some of the tunes, actually, and they're still in my mind to this very day. The sound effects are also well done, and they set the mood of the game perfectly. Nothing ear-blowing, sure, but hey, it's still a Game Boy we're talking about.

Are a Wario game's controls good as a Mario Game's? Ph yes, they are. Despite his size, Wario is amazingly easy to move around, and he is very responsive to your commands. He's also strong, and you can unleash his most brutal power by simply pressing the B button. Can it get any better?

Once again we are presented the world map system: you proceed through the various levels progressing on a map where the levels are shown as spots; once you've completed one, another one will appear, and you can also go back to levels you've completed before. Strangely, unlike SML2, this game only allows you to progress through the main areas in a determined order, so it's more similar to Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Land. There are 40 levels to be found in this game, definitely not a small amount for a Game Boy cart! Also, once again you have levels which have a hidden exit leading to secret levels; actually if you find the right exit you find a whole secret zone!
To make it through, however, you must master Wario's signature moves. A real innovation is the way of defeating enemies: stomping on them will only stun them for a while (unless they have a spiked head, which of course will have Wario damaged); the real way of defeating them is throwing them to other enemies (by picking them up while they're stunned; notice how bigger enemies will make Wario's movements slower!) or by charging them with Wario's body slam, which also allows you to break blocks. Like Mario, he has his own set of transformations provided by pot shaoed power-ups you can find by opening your traditional blocks. Meet Jet-Wario, who can use his charge to fly thanks to his rocket hat, Bull Wario, which is stronger than your standard Wario and can also crush enemies and blocks by falling on them with his butt (!!) and stick to the ceiling thanks to the horns in his hat, and finally Dragon Wario, who wears a fire-breathing dragon hat. Another interesting new feature: should Wario get hit (no matter what state he's in), he will become small and can no longer charge; now he can be killed with one hit, and to get back to his normal status he must find a garlic power-up! There are, however, many one-hit-and-you're-dead hazards through out the game, so watch out anyway.
Another thing we're used to in Mario games are coins, and here they are too. However, this time they are no longer used to gain points and extra lives: each coin you collect is added to a grand total which will be spent to build Wario's castle at the end of the game. Of course, the more coins you collect, the better castle you'll get. there are, however, quicker ways to raise your total: in some levels there are hidden treasure chests which you may open by finding the key hidden in the same level: each treasure is worth a lot of money and when you finish the game the value of every treasure you collected will be added to your total!

This game is not very hard, actually, but has a great replay value! First, you get different endings depending on how much money you have when you finish the game, and secondly, you have the hidden levels and treasures to find!

A truly amazing platformer, well worth buying. Actually renting it wouldn't be enough to enjoy its depth.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/13/03, Updated 06/13/03

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