Wario Land
Platform:  Virtual Boy
Players:  1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

    Wario Land, or Wario Land: Treasure of the Awazon for those with the Japan release, is the only Mario-type platformer to be released for the Nintendo Virtual Boy.  In Wario Land, you perform the usual Mario platformer duties, including running, jumping, using warp pipes (or doors), collecting power-ups, and stomping enemies.  But there is a big difference between it and Mario games.  Your object is to collect as much treasure as you can find, and it is hidden EVERYWHERE!  For completists, this is a dream come true.  There are also mini-games (Wario Ware! Oh, wait.  These aren't fun Microgame$...) which I will describe soon enough.

Description:  You play as Wario (obviously) in this red monochrome, pseudo-three-dimensional world.  The story opens on Wario relaxing on the shore of the Awazon river.  Shortly thereafter, he hears a noise, and notices that baddies (I thought Wario was a baddie!) are stealing treasure!  Now, anyone that knows Wario realizes that he cannot put up with anyone having more treasure than he.  Wario quickly sets off in his sweet airplane to reclaim the treasure.  Gameplay scrolls in all four directions and, thanks to the Virtual Boy, lets you move to and from the background.  With the parallax setup, you get what looks to be three layers of graphics.  You have the main foreground where you do most of your adventuring, the background that you normally springboard to with special blocks or catapulting platforms, and the close foreground, which doesn't act as a playing area but is used to give the illusion that there are hazards to the side of Wario.  This is demonstrated immediately with the spiked balls that swing from background to close foreground without a pendulum (or anything else attached to them for that matter).  Your power-ups are as follows:

The game has two main objectives.  One is to collect the ten main treasure pieces that you see in the opening scene.  The other is to defeat the four bosses along the way.  There are 14 levels in total, including the boss levels.  Once completing a level you are presented with the option to gamble your hearts and coins away in a mini-game.  These are really a waste since you collect so much along the way.  Collecting coins only gives you a greater amount of treasure upon completion, and hearts allow you to obtain extra lives once a hundred have been collected.  I've played the mini-games once or twice just to experience them, but I feel these can be skipped altogether.  Enemies are not too varied, so you won't have to tailor different strategies to most of them.  Almost all of them can be disposed of with the dragon or king dragon hats, stomping the ground and throwing them, or jumping on them Mario-style.  You have the ability to dash into them, but I wouldn't recommend this beyond the first level.  Most enemies have some forward attack that will harm you when trying to dash them off the screen.  Boss fights are interesting, using the foreground/background areas to form a strategy for defeating the boss.  Beware of the final boss, however.  This guy requires patience and precise timing (hint: jump into his proboscis).

Graphics:  All right, before we get into this, keep in mind that there are very few game systems that give a 3-D feel.  Because Nintendo had the fortitude to adventure into this foreign game territory, I am letting the color issue slide.  Forgetting this, the graphics are very nicely done.  Sprites are big and easily identifiable, comparable to Mario Land 2 and 3.  There are a number of different level settings used, from rocky mountain areas to underwater and subterranean levels.  The foreground and background areas are used to create a three-dimensional environment in the main portions of the levels, but are skipped for smaller areas that are usually entered through a door or pipe.  The movement of objects from foreground to background and vice-versa are smooth, except for a certain spiny fish that is meant to look like it is moving between the two.  In actuality, it is drawn in the foreground and is just drawn brighter and larger when it is supposed to be in the foreground.  This caught me at first because I attempted to shoot it with fire (yes, you can shoot fire under water) while it was "in the background."  I assumed it was part of the scenery and started to swim past it.  As soon as I was in front of the fish, it came up to the foreground, causing me to lose my power-ups.  The game allows you to set an automatic pause, stopping the game at certain points to allow you to rest your eyes and prevent you from turning into Mole Man.  I ignored this and continued playing.  Upon backing away from the Virtual Boy, I was blinded by the dim lighting in the room.  Make sure you stop frequently, maybe even more than the system has you do. All in all, the graphics are the best I've seen on the Virtual Boy, on an even level with Teleroboxer.

Sound:  Considering this was originally intended to be a "portable" game system, the sound is standard for portable systems of the time.  It's a step up from NES sound and music, but not much better.  The music is memorable, however, and if you play through a second time, you'll quickly recognize the song and start humming along.  As with most portables, sound is best experienced through headphones, allowing you the full stereo experience.

Play Control:  Control is basic but is nicely done.  I personally love the Virtual Boy controller setup.  Because of its design, you won't be presented with the same problems as some systems.  You move your character around with the left directional pad, use the a and b buttons to jump and dash, hold down either L or R button to run, and use start to pause and bring up the stats menu.  Entering and exiting doors is performed by pressing up in front of them, pipes are traveled by pressing the direction into them, and jump pads are used by pressing jump while standing on them.  One point to remember while playing is that you can climb up areas with waterfalls.  I was stuck for a little while trying to figure out how to reach an area that had no hidden blocks when I stumbled across this.  I'm assuming it tells you this in the instruction booklet, but I cannot get my hands on a copy to validate.

Replay:  This is a very fun game, with lots of hidden treasure to collect and areas to explore.  It is an easy game as far as difficulty level, which normally increases the replay value for me.  I try to avoid stressing myself out when I'm not at work.  Since the game also allows you to backtrack and revisit levels, you can go back to previously explored areas and claim treasures you may have missed, adding to the replay value of the game.

Final Verdict:  I personally think this is the best game for the Virtual Boy.  Most of the games for this system tried to dazzle people with 3-D graphics while sacrificing play control and gameplay.  This is a must have for Mario collectors and fans alike, but unless you already have a Virtual Boy, you may want to see if there are other games on the system that pique your interest before investing in one.  I have obtained all of my Virtual Boy games for dirt cheap compared to other classic games, so money will only be a determining factor if you need to purchase the system.  For those with a Virtual Boy, you should definitely own this game.  This is an excellent representation of what the system can do and where it should have gone.
 

Written on 04-28-06 by Shane, shane@fullcirc.net


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