Wario Land II
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    GB
    • US 03/01/1998
    • UK 03/26/1998
    GBC
    • JP 10/21/1998
    • US 02/10/1999
    • UK 02/25/1999
Score: 90%

This review was published on 07/15/2013.

Wario Land II is a 2-D, side-scrolling platform game developed by Nintendo and originally released for the Game Boy in 1998. This game has special advantages when played on the Super Game Boy attachment that lets you play Game Boy games on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, like added color and a unique border. Wario Land II was the last first-party game released for the original Game Boy, but it was later remade for the Game Boy Color. It's mostly the same game on the Game Boy Color, just with a lot more color. The Game Boy Color version can't be played on the Super Game Boy, though. Wario Land II is the second game in the Wario Land series, which started with Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land. Wario initially wasn't popular enough to have a game named after him, so Nintendo used Mario's name to help sell more copies. It worked, apparently, because by Wario Land II, Wario was popular enough to have a game's title entirely dedicated to his name. Wario Land II is a very unique game, even when compared to the previous Wario game. It's also quite good, debatably the best Wario game of them all, though it doesn't seem to get a lot of recognition.

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Having gotten filthy rich in the previous game, Wario now owns his very own castle. All was well for a time, but things soon go awry for the big W. One early morning, when Wario was still fast asleep, a gang of thieves snuck into his castle. These thieves are known as the Black Sugar Gang, and they're led by a saucy female pirate named Captain Syrup. Wario caused trouble for these thieves in his previous adventure, so they wanted revenge on the greedy guy. The gang of thieves steals Wario's treasure, on top of doing plenty of other devious things, like flooding Wario's castle by leaving the tap on. Wario wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock and soon realizes that he was robbed. This obviously enrages him, and he sets of on a grand quest to recover all of his treasure. Along the way, Wario actually gets a lot more treasure than he originally had. Why not, right? You can never have too much money. Greed is good, according to Wario. By the end of the game, Wario becomes richer than even Bill Gates. And that's the plot. There are no fair princesses to save, or a world in peril. Wario Land II is a simple tale of one greedy man getting back his stolen goods. Let it be known that if you're stealing from Wario, you're stealing from the wrong guy. The cutscenes in this game all have no dialogue, so everything is communicated through actions rather than text. There aren't many cutscenes beyond the one at the intro, but they're all short and sometimes comical. While Wario Land II doesn't take its story too seriously, it actually employs really good story telling techniques that more games should adopt.

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Wario is the protagonist of this game, or maybe the antagonist? Either way, you control Wario for the entire duration of the game. Wario can jump, just like Mario, but he can do a lot more. Most of the moves from the first Wario game make their return here, like Wario's trademarked charging shoulder tackle and his trusty butt stomp. Both of these destructive moves can be used to defeat enemies or destroy blocks, among other things. Various enemies can also be picked up and thrown. Wario can also duck, and even walk while ducking. The man is amazing. What's truly amazing, however, is that Wario is completely invincible in this game. You read that right; there is no way to die in Wario Land II. There is no health bar, no lives, and no Game Over screen. Wario can take an unlimited amount of punishment from any foe or hazard without ever kicking the bucket, but that's not to say that it won't hurt. Getting hit by harmful stuff like spikes will still cause a minor inconvenience to Wario by knocking him back a bit. I'm not sure what the plot explanation is for Wario's newfound immortality, but it makes for a vastly different experience. So if you can't die, then where's the main challenge of the game? Well, you lose coins every time you get hit, and coins are needed to earn some of the game's optional prizes. In addition to that, some puzzles and bosses in the game need to be repeated if you fail them, much like any other game. That means there is still an element of challenge to the game, but it's not nearly as punishing as most other games. There aren't many games that use such a mechanic, making Wario Land II truly unique.

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Every level has its own objective, and there are a lot of levels. As a matter of fact, there are fifty of them. The objectives aren't always the same thing, though many of them merely resulting in getting from point A to point B. What awaits you at point B, however, could be just about anything. In the first level of the game, Wario's objective is to destroy his alarm clock, which can be heard ringing in the background. That's what I do in the morning, too. The second level is all about Wario turning off the running tap water in his castle, so he can undo the flooding that was done by the thieves. What's brilliant about Wario Land II is that some levels have alternate methods of being completed, and completing a level in a different fashion usually unlocks new levels. Here's a little secret to illustrate my point: the normal objective of the first level is destroying the alarm clock, but you can actually sleep in to beat the level. Is that genius or what? Most of the levels require a little bit more effort to finish, though, so don't expect sleeping in to be the solution to all of your problems. Generally, the level design in Wario Land II is more about exploration than totally linear action. The choice of completing a given level in multiple ways isn't always present, which does mean you're sometimes forced down a linear path of levels, even if the levels themselves are designed in a nonlinear fashion. However, the game does have multiple branching level paths, and these paths will lead to multiple endings. For all intents and purposes, Wario Land II is a decidedly nonlinear game. There is a level select screen that you can access at some point, so that allows you to replay any level you want in order to get all the endings. It's a task worth doing, because the game has a lot of levels and they all range from good to great. If you were to look up brilliant game design in the dictionary, then you'd see a picture of Wario Land II.

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Many levels in the game feature puzzles that involve altering Wario's condition in comical ways. Some of these conditional changes may seem negative at first, but can be necessary to solving a puzzle, although sometimes the conditions really are negative and only serve to impede your progress. Whether they're helpful or not depends on the situation. If Wario is squished by certain heavy objects, he will become as flat as a pancake, which allows him to get through narrow passageways, on top of being able to gently float downwards like a leaf. To get out of this condition, he needs to be stretched back to normal by certain bats that will pull on his head. If Wario eats a cake, he'll become extremely fat, rendering him incredibly slow, but allows him to smash through normally unbreakable blocks. Wario can get back to normal by, quite literally, doing exercise. If stung by a bee, Wario's face will inflate to gargantuan proportions and he'll be able to slowly fly in the air like a balloon. Some wizards can shrink Wario down to size with magic, temporarily cursing him with a tiny state. Wario can even become a zombie in this game if he's bitten by one. Also, it's possible for him to get drunk, but this was kind of censored in the North American release. There are plenty more conditions, all with their advantages and disadvantages, and they're all humorous to some degree. Wario Land II's new condition mechanic is unconditionally awesome.

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On top of levels having secret objectives that can lead to alternate paths and different endings, there are also optional treasures to collect. There is exactly one treasure per level, and the treasures are held within special bonus rooms. These bonus rooms have a simple mini-game to play in order to win the treasure, but the catch is that you need to pay coins to play the game. The more coins you pay, the easier the game gets. This is where the game's challenge comes into play. Despite being totally indestructible, Wario does lose coins every time he's hit, and he won't be able to collect the treasure if he can't foot the bill to play the mini-game. It's not a problem in the early levels of the game where coins are plentiful and dangers are few, but it is later in the game when hazards become incredibly hard to avoid. That means you'll actually have to play well and avoid getting damaged if you want to get all the treasures successfully. The other thing you can do is get bits and pieces of a secret treasure map that eventually unlocks the game's final level, and therefore, final treasure. This is the greatest treasure of them all, the proverbial mother lode. After every level, you can play a mini-game to get the chance at winning a map piece. It's a fairly simple mini-game where a slightly obscured digit is shown and you have to guess what digit it is. There are as many map pieces as there are levels, so this is a task that will take you the whole game to complete. Wario Land II is not lacking in replay value, that's for sure.

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Wario Land II is almost too good to be true. This tiny cartridge is filled to the brim with content; it has a ton of levels, many multiple endings, and lots of optional treasures to collect. All this results in a game that can last you many hours, way more hours than any side-scrolling game normally would. On top of all that, it has some of the best graphics and music that the Game Boy is capable of. The only hitch is that some people might be thrown off by the no death thing, but it's not really a problem, as the game can still be quite challenging. Wario Land II is one of the best Game Boy games with relative ease, and also one of the best games in the Wario Land series.

Word Count: 1,846

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