Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 01/21/1994
    • US 03/13/1994
    • UK 05/13/1994
Score: 85%

This review was published on 07/14/2013.

Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game developed by Nintendo and originally released for the Game Boy in 1994. The title of this game is a little on the misleading side; even though it's technically the third game in the Super Mario Land series, it's not actually a Mario game. Confusing, I know. This game stars the titular Wario and features decidedly different game play from the Mario series, though it does bear many similarities. It's kind of a spinoff, but it eventually evolved into its own series. Wario was originally the main villain of Super Mario Land 2. Because Wario was a minor character at the time, Nintendo decided to use the Mario name to help sell the first game. It apparently worked, because Wario Land sold enough copies to spawn its own series. Wario's games don't quite compete with Mario, but they're a nice deviation from the Italian plumber's heroic efforts. The first Wario Land is no different in this respect.

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Wario is kind of a big deal. Okay, not really, but he likes to think he is. Greed is Wario's passion in life. The fat, brawny man cares not for justice or saving princesses, unless there's money in it for him. This is a stark contrast to Mario, the pudgy plumber who always fights for what's right. Wario Land enabled you to play as the villain, in a manner of speaking. You have to admit, that's pretty different for Nintendo. Wario isn't quite the villain he was in Super Mario Land 2, but he's still a selfish jerk in this game. The story goes that Wario stole Mario's prestigious castle in Super Mario Land 2 and at the end of that game, Mario got his castle back. Wario was then reduced to pauper status, no longer having a place to call his own. His mission in Wario Land is to accrue enough wealth to afford a caste, nay, a land of his own, hence the game's title. It's an ambitious goal, to be sure. The way in which Wario is to accomplish this goal is by plundering the land of all its treasure. That sounds pretty legit to me. So if Wario was a villain, then who is the villain of Wario Land? That would be Captain Syrup, a female pirate that leads a gang of pirates known as the Brown Sugar Pirates. Those are some corny names. Captain Syrup is also into plundering loot, so Wario and Syrup compete to see who can get the most booty. The two aren't above stealing from each other, of course. There is no honor among this group of thieves. And that's basically all there is to the story. It's simple, yet effective. Wario is a really fun character to play as, since he's greedy and proud of it. Playing as the bad guy is fun every once in a while.

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There are some fundamental differences between the way Wario and Mario control. Both can jump around in a platform adventure, but they have unique moves. Being a portly fellow, Wario is a little on the slow side, unable to run at high speeds by holding a button down, an ability Mario has in almost all of his games. Wario makes up for what he lacks in speed with power; he can perform a powerful shoulder tackle that can destroy any blocks or enemies in his way. It's also possible for Wario to defeat enemies or crush blocks by smashing them with the butt stomp, which can be performed by jumping in the air and then holding down above your target. What truly separates Wario from Mario is that Wario can't defeat his foes by simply jumping on them. He must use offensive maneuvers like the shoulder tackles or butt stomps to actually defeat enemies. Jumping on an enemy as Wario will merely temporarily knock the enemy out, on top of providing Wario a boost. The other unusual thing about Wario is that he stuns or knocks out enemies by touching them. What can I say, he's a powerful guy. The only situation in which Wario can be harmed by touching an enemy is if the enemy is wielding a sharp object, like a spear. Touching spears is bad, and this will hurt Wario for sure. Not even Wario's brawn can stand up to spears. It's also possible for Wario to pick up any knocked out foes and throw them, either at other foes, or at blocks. As you can see, Wario's core move set is a lot more versatile than Mario's. The only drawback to Wario is that his jumps have a lot more float to them, which will throw off any veteran Mario players. Wario's large plethora of moves makes him a fun character to control.

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Much like a Mario game, Wario Land has a few power-ups. Instead of getting Mushrooms and Fire Flowers, Wario's power-ups consist of various hats. I guess Wario fancies himself a snazzy dresser. It's a little strange, since he doesn't seem too concerned about his appearance otherwise. The hats act as Wario's health as well as granting him certain abilities. When Wario isn't wearing a hat, he is small, has no special abilities, and dies in one hit. The default explorer's hat Wario wears increases his size and lets him do his customary shoulder tackle move. This hat can be upgraded to have horns on it, which extends the length of Wario's shoulder tackle, gives him the amazing butt stomp ability, and even lets him hang from the ceiling using the helmet's horns. The horny helmet is by far the most versatile power-up in the game, as it greatly expands what Wario can do. Other power-ups include the jet helmet and dragon helmet. The jet helmet enables Wario to fly in the air for a short duration and the dragon hat lets Wario shoot out a stream of flames. These two hats aren't as common, and they're not as versatile, but they're still extremely useful in certain circumstances. The jet hat can be particularly useful when jumping across perilous platforms, whereas the dragon hat is extraordinary against legions of foes or blocks. I have to hand it to the designers on this one: Wario Land has some awesome power-ups. These power-ups have more depth than the average Mario power-up. Wario Land's power-ups are varied and versatile, lending the game a unique flavor over Mario.

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On top of all the coins you'll be collecting on your quest to becoming filthy rich, there are also optional treasures to find. Hidden in certain levels are keys, and the keys must be carried to a door within the same level in order to unlock a special treasure. Both the keys and doors are hidden, but the keys tend to be more hidden than the doors. Sometimes the challenge is in figuring out how to bring the key to the door. The good thing is that carrying objects with Wario is absolutely painless; he can run, jump, swim, and even climb ladders while carrying keys. Not even Mario can do that. There are quite a large number of treasures to collect, so this adds a lot of replay value to the game. It's obviously not necessary to collect these treasures, but it is recommended. The treasures add to your total cash count, which counts toward your ending. Depending on how much money you have by the end of the game, Wario could end up with anything between a tiny shack and a colossal palace. The more money you have, the bigger and better Wario's new abode will be. Gathering all the treasures in the game ensures that you'll at least get the second best ending, though the true best ending requires a lot more dedication than even that. It's not really worth it to go for the best possible ending, but it is worth it to collect all the treasures, because doing so is a lot of fun. The true reward here is the sense of discovery you'll feel when uncovering some of the more deviously hidden treasures.

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Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land is a delightful departure from the Mario series, without totally departing from it. Wario is fun to control, the graphics and music are great, the levels are cool, and Wario is a greedy jerk. Maybe that last one isn't exactly a positive, but I think it adds a certain bit of charm to the game that's not present with Mario. Wario Land is more casually geared towards exploration than the Mario series, especially when you factor in the optional treasures you can collect. There are really no significant issues with Wario Land. This ranks as one of the best games on the Game Boy, though it was surpassed by its sequel, Wario Land II. If you enjoy this game, then definitely check out the second one. This one is still worth checking out, though. There are enough differences between the two to make both worth playing, and they're both really good.

Word Count: 1,521

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