Friday, January 18, 2013

Wario Land II (GBC, GB, 3DS VC) Retro Review

We end this week of reviews with a review of the retro variety: Wario Land II. It originally released on the Game Boy in 1998 before receiving an enhanced color version on the Game Boy Color the following year. How does it compare to Super Mario Land 3? Let's find out.

Less Traditional, More Special

There are a wonderful amount of Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles that have yet to make it to the Nintendo 3DS's Virtual Console service. However, instead of moaning about what isn't there, I'd rather be happy about what is there. One such worthy title is Wario Land II, Wario's first full platforming adventure without any ties to his rival Mario (i.e. no "Super Mario Land" in the title). It's a game that proves that Wario can do just fine on his own without Mario's star power to help.

When a series of Captain Syrup's goons pillage a sleeping Wario's goods and treasures, the yellow and purple clad plumber finds himself pursuing through forests, oceans, ruins, and castles. Don't these fools know that stealing is Wario's job?

Wario Land II is quite different in both structure and gameplay than its predecessor, Super Mario Land 3. The traditional power-up system has been replaced. In Wario Land II, Wario can get hit as many times as he wants and never dies. There are no lives in the game. Instead, Wario collects coins, and each time he takes damage, he loses some from his total. The challenge of the game comes from obstacles that get in one's way as well as puzzles.

You might wonder how bosses work in Wario Land II, then if Wario cannot die. You see, bosses in the game try to knock Wario out of the battle arena somehow. For instance, a bee boss tries to sting Wario so his head inflates and causes him to float out of the arena, forcing the player to start the encounter anew.

As stated, gone are the power-ups from yore. Replacing them are different forms of Wario. I mentioned one of them when Wario gets stung by a bee. Another happens when a fire enemy breathes its hot flame on Wario, making him do a mad dash across the level, allowing him to burn up certain blocks after this process.

In each level there is a treasure to collect, collected from winning a mini-game. Unfortunately the door to the mini-game looks the same as every other door in the game, but usually you can tell as the door is hidden away in a secluded and/or hard-to-find spot. The mini-game that you play has eight tiles in two rows and four columns. The lock on the treasure shows a specific enemy. When the countdown chimes to zero, the eight tiles will turn over, revealing the enemy portraits they hold, before quickly flipping back. Depending on how many coins you spend, the tiles will reveal themselves for a short or longer period of time. Choosing the tile that has the same face as the lock on the treasure chest will net you that treasure.

Collecting coins are important not only for that mini-game, but also for the end of level mini-game. There is a 3 x 3 spread of tiles. The entire spread is hiding a number from 0-9. As the tiles turn over, you spend coins in  increments of fifty. Guess what number the tiles are hiding, and you win a piece of the map.

Beating the game and seeing the "ending" are just one part of Wario Land II. Once Captain Syrup has been initially defeated and the credits have rolled, you can visit past levels. You will notice on the level select screen that there are sometimes two exits in a given level: one easy to find and one secret. In order to get 100% of the game completed, you must beat every level, find every treasure, and collect every map part. That is no quick task as there are tons of levels in Wario Land II. Compared to Super Mario Land 3, Wario Land II boasts an exponential amount of playtime.

The controls of Wario Land II have that Nintendo-quality tightness that fans and players alike have grown to expect from the company. Wario has an assortment of attacks to assist him through his adventure such as the ability to charge (great for plowing through weak walls), to chuck enemies, and to ground pound. Complaining about the controls of Wario Land II is something I never did for the 10+ hours it took me to do everything in the game.

The game was originally developed for the Game Boy and was the last first-party developed title for that platform. A color-enhanced version (the one that this review is based on) was released a year later. The game sports big sprites and objects that are easy to see, so running into something that blends into the background is something that doesn't usually happen. The music is appropriately jaunty in most cases, subdued in others. All-in-all, Wario Land II looks and plays in a fine fashion.

Comparing Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 to Wario Land II is something that can be done, but it doesn't do either game justice. They are different experiences, albeit sharing the same platforming at their cores. Both are terrific Game Boy-era platformers that still hold up well in this day and age. While Super Mario Land 3 is a more traditional platformer, Wario Land II still offers a lot of fun despite not being able to die. The amount of platforming puzzles and other physical impediments create a clever game that most 2D platforming purists will enjoy.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.75/10]

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