Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land Retro Review
Super Mario Land 2 was an excellent game that not only improved on its predecessor, but also introduced the character of Wario. Mario’s portly rival became so popular that he would star in his own series of games, simply known as Wario Land.
Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land features Wario as the protagonist and does away with the traditional Mario gameplay, providing a fresh change of pace for Nintendo platformers. With the success of Wario Land, Nintendo saw fit to make sequels and Wario would dethrone Mario as the king of handheld platformers, at least until New Super Mario Bros. While Mario doesn’t star in Super Mario Land 3 (despite being in the title), he does appear in a cameo that I will not give away.
Having played Wario Land 2-4 before it, I was surprised by how different this game plays. Wario’s unique transformations such as Bat Wario and Spring Wario are nowhere to be found, instead relying on power-ups that resemble Mario’s. Wario gets a dragon helmet that enables him to spit fire, sort of like Mario’s fireballs. Other power-ups include a jet helmet that he can use to glide to safety, not unlike the numerous flight power-ups Mario has used over the years. Last but not least is the Viking helmet that gives his charges more weight and provides the ability to ground-pound, a staple of later Wario Land games. While Wario Land incorporates some of the traditional Mario gameplay of hitting blocks and collecting coins, the coins are used to tally your score instead of providing 1-UPs. Collectable hearts provide extra lives and they are pretty easy to find. Like Mario, if Wario takes damage he will shrink to a miniature version of himself, being less tougher than before. If he takes damage in miniature form, he dies.
Whilst other Nintendo characters fight to save a world or a princess, Wario’s motives are refreshingly selfish. Mario collects coins as a means to survive, Wario collects them because he’s a greedy bugger and will push anyone out of his way to get them. Wario games differentiated themselves from Mario games by having you collect treasure and offering multiple endings for your efforts. While this tactic would be further explored in the later games, Wario Land does give players a decent amount of treasure to collect and the size of your castle you receive in the end depends on how greedy you are. Certain levels contain treasure pieces to collect, so be on the lookout if you’re a completionist.
Looking back, this game was made before the Wario Land series found its voice. The level designs are casual and leisurely paced, lacking the meticulous level designs in Wario Land 2-3 and the fast action of Wario Land 4. Wario’s trademark moves such as the ability to charge, throw and ground-pound are here, but they’re not used as often as they should. The puzzles are few and the treasure won’t take you a long time to find, plus the game never offers that much of a challenge. Wario’s power-ups are amusing but they’re not nearly as fun as the cartoonish transformations he goes through in the later games, such as Fire Wario and Flat Wario. Another troubling aspect is how short the game is. You could easily get to the end in one sitting. As I played this game I couldn’t help but be reminded how much better Wario Land 2 is.
That’s not to say this is a bad game. Far from it, actually. The game is entertaining on its own merits and it’s interesting to see how the franchise evolved over the years. The bosses are actually pretty good and the levels offer enough secrets to keep things interesting. What’s more, the game even introduced the Wario trademark of playing minigames. One of them is a game of chance while the other puts your reflexes to the test. However, seeing Wario hit blocks and shrink to a Hobbit seems a bit odd now as the later games would abandon any trace of Mario elements and mold Wario into a series all its own.
The graphics and sound are, for the most part, pretty pedestrian for a Game Boy title. Wario wears an explorer’s hat instead of his traditional cap and his character model would be improved in the later games. The graphics are more or less on par with Super Mario Land 2′s, not offering much in the way of improvement. With the exception of one or two pieces, you won’t find any of the musical tunes that will stick in your head, unlike in a Mario game. Some familiar enemies make their first appearance here such as the pirate duck and the spearmen, but not a whole lot.
In short, I would have to declare Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land to be the weakest in the Wario Land franchise – but it was the first. This game mainly serves as the bridge between Super Mario Land and the Wario Land series, mixing elements from both but not serving a fully satisfying product. The last game to utilize Wario Land’s style of gameplay would be Virtual Boy Wario Land, a title for Nintendo’s failed Virtual Boy console. It’s not certain if Nintendo ever plans to re-release it for the eShop, but it would be interesting to play games from Nintendo’s long-lost library of Virtual Boy titles. Plus, the 3DS’s “3D” ability should make it a snap to convert. In the meantime I’ll have to make do with Wario Land 2 and (hopefully) Wario Land 3 in the near future. As Wario would say, “Have a rotten day!”