Tag Archives: wario

FGC #531 Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

It's getting squishyThey don’t make anti-heroes like they used to.

Literally.

Today’s game is Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. After premiering in Super Mario Land 2 as the main antagonist and only man with the raw chutzpah to steal an entire land out from under Mario’s moustache, Wario returned for his own adventure in the direct sequel. This is fairly significant, because, in almost all other cases with Nintendo characters, it takes forever for prominent villains to get their own adventures. And that’s assuming it ever happens at all! Ganon(dorf) wasn’t playable in a “real” Zelda game until Hyrule Warriors, and the canonicity of that one is dubious at best. Bowser similarly is usually only allowed to costar in spin-off titles, and King Dedede is only ever granted a turn as the hero when his wee nemesis is taking a nap. Other mascot villains don’t fare much better, as our favorite mad scientists didn’t see playable appearances until much later in their careers (Dr. Wily is, of course, represented by his creations in this example. Dude does not want to leave his hoverpod). The opposite numbers for our favorite heroes back in the 90’s were rarely controlled by the player, which was a huge shame, as everybody wants to be the villain. Wario being a playable character so soon after his introduction was unheard of in its time, and it is still a rarity today. Final Fantasy 7 Remake didn’t involve a single playable Sephiroth!

But Wario made the scene in his first “heroic” appearance. Wario wasn’t on a quest to save the princess or liberate some foreign land: he just wanted housing! Wario was homeless after Mario kicked him out of his ill-gotten estate (and what does Mario need a castle for anyway? He’s always away! He’s probably listing it on AirBnB as we speak), so Wario turned his eye to a group of pirates so he could steal their castle. Never mind that the pirates had apparently heisted a building-sized golden statue (!) that Peach had commissioned (!!!), Wario was is in it for the possibility of having a roof over his head. That’s a sympathetic quest, right? A man just wants his own sanctuary, and if a billion little round guys with spears are standing between him and his goals, that’s on them. Wario might not end up with Captain Syrup’s castle in the end (mostly because it exploded), but he does collect a hefty helping of coin over the course of the quest, so he buys his own castle/shack/planet (variable ending!) off a genie. Happy ending for everybody! Wario might be a “bad guy”, but his goals are not so much bad, just a little self-serving. It’s the American dream!

But if you think for even one second that Wario is at all a good guy, well, take a look at this malcontent:

It's Wario time

Wario is established as his own man in a variety of ways. He has Mario’s mad ups, but he also has a downward “butt stomp” that was new for the gamers of 1994. His “fire” isn’t a flower that launches balls, but a dragon hat that functions like a flamethrower. Garlic, not mushrooms, will cause Wario to become super, and his most iconic powerup turns him into something approaching a raging bull. And, whether he’s part bovine or not, Wario doesn’t run, he smashes with a forward shoulder. Wario’s Wario Land appearance is an expert case in modifying “normal” gameplay to still be extremely similar, but just different enough to establish the new protagonist as his own man. When Nintendo did the same again for Princess Peach’s solo outing, the addition of magical umbrella emotions to the Mario formula felt clunky and “gimmicky”, but Wario was a slam dunk right from the starting gate (I am working on understanding sports metaphors).

But none of that matters, because look at this bitch:

It's Wario time

Wario moves and looks like a… well… asshole. Wario is designed to quite literally walk around like he owns the place. Lesser monsters bounce off of him, blocks tremble in his presence, and the ground literally quakes at the force of his unruly ass. Through it all, Wario perpetually gazes out at the player as if to say, “Hey, I’m gonna wreck some shit. Wanna come along?” And that’s the thing: Wario doesn’t say anything. Wario is just as mute as Mario was in his previous adventures, and, long before anyone ever heard about how it was “Wario time”, Wario had to showcase his boundless personality through mime and pixels. The game starts with Wario menacing a pirate duck, and, before the player even smacks start, Wario is out and proud about the fact that he’s a gigantic jerk. Even if you missed Super Mario Land 2, this nimrod with elf shoes establishes himself inside of the opening seconds without so much as uttering a “Hello, stupids”.

And Wario isn’t alone! The pixel pioneers of the 90’s were apparently experts at establishing “this is your protagonist, but he is not a good guy.” It seems like there is a dearth of antiheroes on the pre-FMV consoles, but when you do have a bad guy in a starring role, they’re established pretty damn quick. Want to see another famous walking animation on the Gameboy?

He's a real Firebrand

Firebrand is not a friendly dude, and his jaunty little walk is the signature of a demon that is going to burn down your village. Firebrand is saving his kingdom right now, but if you need a princess kidnaped later, he’ll swoop in when he gets a chance.

And, at the risk of sounding like a nostalgic old man, you just don’t see that kind of instant character formation anymore.

Back in the day, you knew when you were dealing with an anti-hero. What do Wario and Firebrand have in common? They were both enemies first! If you stood in opposition to a brave knight or plumber, you knew you were on Team Bad Guy. Nowadays? Who bloody knows what makes a bad guy. Kratos has a kill count that is literally the population of Ancient Greece (complete with gods!), but his most recent adventure portrays him in a very forgiving light. The criminal stars of Grand Theft Auto participate in the same carnage as your average Lego title, but Trevor has terrible hair, so he’s probably the worst. And it’s telling that at least one franchise was able to hide the fact that you were playing as the main villain all along, the player just didn’t notice due to being so numb to the average amount of slaying inherent to the genre (I’m talking about this game/franchise, for the record). It’s difficult in your average modern videogame to tell whether you’re a playing the part of a vaguely homicidal hero or a villain with a heart of gold. All these heroes and villains are just so good at murdering…

That's one big birdAnd, by and large, this is by design. One way or another, the saintly protagonist of one game is supposed to look like the secret maniac of another tale for all sorts of reasons. Is this a game where the ultimate revelation is that you were the bad guy all along? Or how about you were supposed to be bad, but the plot has proven you were in the right, and it was society that was bad? Or is it just because market research has told us that mostly white guys with dark hair buy videogames? Whatever the root cause, our heroes have become indistinguishable from our antiheroes, and the only thing you can really count on is that the more villainous among us at least are going to make surly comments after encounters.

But is that all we have now? One-liners that are more or less cutting depending on the darkness of the character involved? Even the good guys have goatees, so we can’t judge someone by malevolent facial hair. Gone are the days when a walk would tell you everything you needed to know; you have to complete a 40 hour adventure just to figure out if your protagonist was on the side of the angels or the devils. And don’t even get me started on whether or not the slightest drip of moral ambiguity is going to cause a flood of youtube explanation videos that will list all the ways you’ve been wrong all along. The real villain was the player all along? Gosh, you don’t say. Throw another plank of switcheroo wood on the pile, Shamus, this lumber will keep us warm for another seven winters.

Wario does not know uncertainty. Wario does not have a greater, more benevolent motive. Wario is an asshole. He looks like an asshole. He moves like an asshole. There is no debate: Wario is an asshole, and that’s all he needs to be.

Give us more modern characters like old school Wario. Give us more amusing, unambiguous assholes.

FGC #531 Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

  • System: Gameboy. This one came back on the 3DS Virtual Console, and is well worth a look if that thing is still around.
  • Don't get stabbedNumber of players: Wario needs only his pith helmet on his quest for riches.
  • Big Bad Wario: I want to say Wario Land was the first 2-D platforming game where I was allowed to bump into a weaponless opponent without suffering terrible consequences. Mario can’t so much as get within spitting distance of a goomba without losing his powerups, but Wario bumps around bad(der) guys with ease. Unless Wario is hit by the pointy end of something (which, granted, happens a lot), he is practically invincible compared to his “good” counterpart.
  • Favorite Powerup: Give me Jet Wario or give me death. Incidentally, I was very saddened when I first grabbed a fire hat after having a jet hat, and it didn’t transform into a flying-dragon hat. That was only in the Virtual Boy game! And I liked that!
  • Bizarro World: It’s interesting to compare the map of Wario Land to Super Mario World to see how many similarities there are. Inexplicable giant dome-hills are always nice, and there’s a prerequisite Forest of Illusion waiting before the final areas, too. I wonder if this was an effort to further affirm that Wario, right down to his very “land”, is a funhouse mirror version of Mario… Or if there just weren’t that many great ideas for world maps back in the 90’s. It could go either way.
  • So, did you beat it? Not only did I beat the game, but I apparently earned Wario his own planet. I guess you only have to have all the treasures and clear about 10,000 gold to get the highest reward. And that’s not too hard when you get lucky with the “double your money” chance game after every boss fight. … Or use save states to always get the best result. Yes, I’m cheating, but it’s what Wario would have wanted.
  • Winner!Did you know? Apparently there is an unused scene in the game data for Bobo, the giant vulture boss that rules the roost of the SS Teacup. It seems to showcase Bobo sitting in the woods… and that’s about it. Was Bobo supposed to be more involved in the plot? Was he the big bird of the island that initially appeared to be the main antagonist, but was then replaced by Captain Syrup? Was this the inspiration for Captain Toad’s arch nemesis? The world may never know.
  • Would I play again: This is an excellent game, and possibly one of the best Gameboy games. That said, the Virtual Boy sequel and Wario Land 4 does this basic gameplay better, and the later Wario Gameboy titles are revolutionary in new and exciting ways. Wario Land is great for a long car ride in 1990, but it has been surpassed by its sequels in every way. I’m glad for having playing Wario Land again, but it’s unlikely to happen again while other Warios are around.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Crazy Taxi for the Sega Dreamcast! Let’s go for a wild ride! Please look forward to it!

Does this explain lousy AI?

FGC #486 Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

There’s something concerning about Super Mario Land 2. It’s clearly on display right here:

Spooky

Is it J-Son the Horror Goomba? No. Vertically moving mines? ‘Fraid not. Mario gradually turning into a bunny girl? Nah, that was always inevitable. What’s really concerning about Super Mario Land 2? It’s this right here:

Goombas gonna die

Mario has a kill count.

Mario is being incentivized to murder his opponents. That is vaguely concerning.

Granted, Mario has always been rewarded for his bloodlust. In Mario’s first appearance, leaping over a barrel would award 100 points, but smashing and bashing with a hammer granted triple the reward. Granted, the closest Mario ever got to a living thing in DK was a dubiously sentient bit of walking flame, and we can all agree that living fire is something that should stop living immediately. But Mario’s next adventure was all about extermination, as Mario was not allowed to progress until he had slain every last living thing on the screen. This wasn’t a situation where Mario was compensated for murder, murder was the entire point.

Sapping the fun out of the gameBut, depending on your perspective, things got better by the time Mario became super. Super Mario Bros. technically rewards Mario for leaping on the koopa troop and squishing goombas in new and innovative ways, but what Mario needs (precious, precious lives) are granted for feats of acrobatic prowess… that incidentally generally murder turtles. Bouncing off multiple monsters at once is what keeps Mario afloat, and if some of his enemies are shell-shocked along the way, so be it. And this seems to have been the standard for Mario going forward: Bowser’s henchmen are going to have to die, but as long as Mario looks like an Olympian during the bloodshed, he’ll receive a prize or two. That seems pretty fair for an athletic hero.

But things are a little different in Super Mario Land 2. Here, Mario’s hitherto unseen home kingdom has been invaded by the nefarious Wario. This is Wario’s first appearance, and, while he is clearly the antagonist, he is still very much Wario. Is he kidnapping princesses or threatening the state of the world? No, he’s just a homeless dude who saw an empty castle, decided to move in, and then changed the locks after a few too many keggers with Tatanga. He’s theoretically the ringleader of the other bosses in game, but, what, do you think he needed to command a gigantic creature named “Sewer Rat” to be a nuisance? Of course not. Every one of Wario’s flunkies is just futzing around Mario Land because it’s Tuesday, and what else do you have to do when you live in the eternal night of the Pumpkin Dome? Wario, at worst, just distributed Mario’s wealth to the commoners of the kingdom, and now Mario has to deal with the fallout of a peasant uprising. If things get too rowdy, they might damage his gargantuan statue of/to himself!

Goomba!But maybe that’s why Mario is getting bloodthirsty. Mario owns the castle, the place is called Mario Land, and there’s that Mario Monument over in the East. The implication here is clear: this is Mario’s kingdom, and the various enemies of the zones were previously Mario’s loyal subjects. Are they under a magic spell? Fighting against their leader under the orders of Wario? Or simply driven into a mad frenzy and attacking the first plumber they see? No, of course not: they’re rebelling. Mario ruled his land with an iron fist (that you can accidentally activate with a floor switch) for so long that the first moment his subjects had a taste of freedom, they mutinied against the very concept of ever dealing with the Mario Monarchy ever again. What does the Hero of the Mushroom Kingdom know about the plight of the common Goronto Ant? Nothing. These dudes are just trying to live their best lives, and here comes that jerk with the moustache to inform them it’s time to work on a brand new giant turtle statue with opposable neck. And all the taxes are going to building a new casino for toads? What is wrong with this land!?

Mario needs a kill count. Mario needs to know how many of these insurgents he’s stomped into the ground.

But whatever the cause of Mario’s new need for destruction, it doesn’t feel very… Mario. Yes, Mario has always had a vicious streak, but it was often tempered with a sort of… elegance. For an easy example, look no further than the persistent image of Mario sending a koopa troopa shell sailing through a row of his opponents. Yes, he is killing every last turtle in his path by using one of their own as an unstoppable, fatal bullet of green annihilation, but there’s a bit of cartoonish whimsy to such an action. And, what’s more, it’s not just about Mario’s murderous antics, but the inherent cleverness of lining his enemies up in the first place. They were an overwhelming force, greatly outnumbering their plumber prey, but Mario tricked them all and came out on top thanks to his own innate cleverness.

Piggy!But that cleverness is nowhere to be found in Super Mario Land 2’s kill count. Do you receive a point for tricking a monster into walking off a ledge and into an endless void? No. Any additional bonuses for ending a bullet bill with a touch of flare? Nope. Do you even see a smidgen of a benefit for bopping multiple victims simultaneously? Not a bit. The only way to make that number go up is kill through any means necessary. And your reward for depopulating Super Mario Land? A super star, so you can reach terminal velocity running through your casualties as quickly as possible. Destruction begets destruction, and Mario is the wrecking ball that is going to swing across his kingdom.

Luckily, Super Mario Land 2 did not set the standard for Nintendo’s legendary hero. Mario returned to being rewarded for his cleverness in later titles, whether that be through collecting peaceful flowers and coins, or discovering the secrets of another monarch’s castle. In fact, at least one later title saw Mario serving a sort of community service for the violent crimes committed in his own kingdom, and cleaning up beaches and volcanoes alike. Mario never entirely stopped being destructive, but he did at least make some grasps at making the galaxy a better place through non-violent means. And the kill count? That went to Wario and his various adventures.

And, hey, maybe that means this was Wario’s fault all along. Maybe the invasion of Wario didn’t cause the inhabitants of Mario Land to turn murderous, but Mario himself. Maybe that was Wario’s plan all along, to leave Mario alone in his castle, trapped in a kingdom that no longer respected their ruler. Maybe Wario really is the greatest, and most successful, opponent Mario ever faced.

Or maybe giving Mario a kill count was just a dumb idea.

Though this may explain why we’ve never visited Mario Land’s blood-soaked hills ever again…

FGC #486 Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins

  • SPACE MONSTER!System: Nintendo Gameboy, and wherever else Gameboy games are currently available. Nintendo 3DS? That sounds right.
  • Number of players: Mario is going this rampage alone. I shudder to think what Luigi Land looks like at this point.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Kill count aside, SML2 is a very good Mario game, and was one of my favorite Gameboy titles back in the day. Right up there with Mega Man V and Final Fantasy Adventure… which means I didn’t get to actually play these games very much until the Super Gameboy. But boy did I play it a lot then! More 2-D Mario content was like ambrosia back in the pre-Mario Maker days, and any game with this many secret exits and malevolent witches was bound to be fun for the whole family. And battling Wario for the first time was pretty great, too.
  • In Living Color: When ROB selected this title, I was moderately happy at the chance to try the new(ish) Super Mario Land 2 DX patch by Toruzz. And it’s cool! Mario Land 2 in color! And hearts are mushrooms now! And… uh… that’s it? Got some physics tweaks in there, and maybe a Luigi, but that’s about it. Look, this thing looks amazing, but it’s still just an improvement on an already great game, so it’s hard to really make an impact.
  • I know that guy!It’s the Little Things: I appreciate that piranha plants that don’t stick their teeth straight up are now spiky and wearing clear “do not touch” signs. This is coming from someone that may have tried to stomp a fire-breathing plant in Super Mario Bros. 3 and was immediately punished for my hubris.
  • Favorite Zone: Even if it is short, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Space Zone and its nonstandard jump gravity. I also love/hate the automatic scrolling stage, as infinite jumping is great, but automatic scrolling is the devil. A hippo that blows Mario-sized bubbles, though, is always great.
  • Would I play again: Probably! It might be a Gameboy game, but it’s still a lot of fun, so if I’m looking for bite-sized Mario, it’s one of my first choices.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… if you can believe it… Super Mario Bros. 2. Yes, in the year 2020, ROB has chosen two twos in a row. So now it’s time to trade Warios for Warts. Please look forward to it!

Buzz buzz

FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

Just like that legend!Motion controls, “shaking”, and general stylus/touch gaming… it’s all terrible. Buttons are here. Crosspads are perfect. Why reinvent how Link wanders over his world because you need to accommodate the latest gimmicks? Mario spin jumps just fine with that A button, thank you very much. Trick controls are lame, and I loathe their implementation in otherwise worthwhile games.

But WarioWare: Touched! isn’t lame, it’s fun.

WarioWare: Touched! is a phenomenal experience that was released early in the DS’s lifespan. This was a godsend, as previous Nintendo DS titles did little to push the benefits of the system. Oh boy! I can play a falling block puzzle game, but now I can tap on random squares for some opaque reason? No, that’s not going to push any portables. And this was a time before touch-screen cell phones began to dominate the market (hard to believe, I know), so even the mere concept of “touch here” seemed weird and foreign. I have to use this pen thing? Like I’m in school? No thank you, Nintendo. This sucker will never work. I’ll just put some preorder cash on the inevitably super successful Playstation Portable. That’s the future right there.

But WarioWare turned those opinions around in one tight/bonkers experience. Fresh on the heels of the previous WarioWare, Wario returned with more silly microgames meant to get the player using that stylus, microphone, and touch screen. And, like WarioWare before it, those minigames had a tendency to lean heavily into “what’s going to happen next?” (which is rather fun when “next” is all of ten seconds away) with games like “cut the snot”, “blow up the planet”, or the incredibly ludicrous “play the Metroid game”. It winds up being one of those experiences that can easily be described as entertaining, and, whether you’re five or five hundred, everyone can enjoy dicing flying vegetables.

Loop forever!But why does WarioWare Touched! work? Why, at a time when touch controls were new and scary, did WWT prove conclusively that touch controls are pretty damn awesome? Why does Wario succeed when even Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link all completely failed to push the idea that “gimmick controls” are your friend? And why did anyone ever think that Phantom Hourglass was a good idea? … Okay, that question is only tangentially related… but still!

The answer is simple: WarioWare Touched! works because it isn’t like other videogames.

Touch controls are an interesting beast, because, conceptually, they should be the same as buttons. “Touching” is a basic move for any given human. Even babies can do it! And using your finger to direct someone or something, whether it be a Hylian or Mr. Driller, seems like the most basic thing in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a finger or two to trace a route through an actual map of the world (“the world” in this case being “the path to the nearest Big Lots”), and that should translate well to guiding adventurers through dungeons. And, similarly, it’s completely natural to “shake it” when something isn’t going your way, so maybe a shake or two would be appropriate when you want Mario to have an extra jump. These are all perfectly normal, almost reflexive reactions, so they absolutely should work in a videogame. You can press A to jump, and you can shake it, too. Simple, right?

WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING!?Except, somewhere along the line, games became looooong experiences (I blame this guy). The latest Zelda game has a certain expectation of play length, and you better believe you have to collect three random mipmaps before gathering another pile of otherwise useless crap. You may not defeat Ganon until you’ve eaten every last vegetable, young man. And when an adventure becomes at least 20 hours (at least), that means that what may have previously been a quick play experience rapidly spirals down into the slog hole. And you know what we don’t need in the slog hole? An excess of movement. It’s super cramped in the slog hole!

You want to know why buttons are successful? It’s not like these lil’ duders were the only things available to early systems, because you all know I’ve got that Colecovision with the light gun to disprove that theory. The reason buttons are the dominant life form on Planet Videogame is because they require nothing. It takes next to no effort to push up on a control pad, and, if you have to do it for twenty solid hours, you’re not going to think about it even once. Give or take the occasional game that is all about timed button pressing, pressing a button is natural, its subconscious, and, once you understand a controller, it’s easier than drawing a line or shaking a chunk of plastic. For further examples, please note that that this article was written via a magical device featuring at least 26 characters that I can instantly access and use to type some weirdly high number of words per minute. And ain’t nobody writing a novel with “gestures”.

RAWK!That’s why touch controls don’t work, but why do they work with Wario? Because “mini” means “not twenty hours”. The average WarioWare game is limited to a whole ten seconds, and, win or lose, it’s done in less time than it takes to sneeze. And that’s brilliant for touch controls! It means that you are active, and moving, and enjoying these touch controls in the tiniest of bite-sized chunks. The slog hole is vaulted, and we’re happily skipping along the… let’s call this The Fields of Happiness. There is never a point in a WarioWare game when the player feels exhausted, and “actively” participating in WarioWare’s touching feels more akin to playing a sport or doing that going outside thing I keep hearing about. WarioWare isn’t a hike, it’s an inning, and that means you don’t have to hear whining about stopping for a water break every fifteen minutes. Play through a few periods, hit the bench for a break, and then return refreshed to hit a few more zingers.

And this is the essence of touch gaming. The best touch-based games are not Mega Mans or Marios; they’re short, quick affairs that you can play while waiting in line (for the latest Mega Man or Mario release). WarioWare hit the nail on the head (also a minigame) well before the idevices conquered the world, and your Flappy Birds and Fruit Ninjas owe it a debt.

Short, to the point, and touchy is the future, and Wario always knew that. Wario has all the best ideas. He’s greedy like that.

FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!

  • System: Nintendo DS. Also playable on the 3DS… and I think it was a downloadable title? Maybe with Club Nintendo? That would be nice.
  • Number of players: One toucher at a time.
  • Eat-saFavorite Microgame Set: The answer to this is always the Volts, 9-Volt and 18-Volt. I could play mini classic Nintendo games all day, and… Oh, they eventually made that game.
  • Mikey likes it: Mike the Karaoke Robot exists exclusively to test the microphone capabilities of the DS… and then he disappears forever. This is in stark contrast with Ashley, who also premiered in this game, and went on to become some kind of internet darling.
  • Did you know? This game wound up released in America before WarioWare:Twisted!, the game that introduced the rich Mona lore regarding Mona Pizza. This means that that storyline in Touched is super confusing for anyone that just finished the original WarioWare. … Well, it confused me at the time.
  • Would I play again: Yes, absolutely. This is one of my favorite DS titles. I might not play from a “fresh” save file, but I’m certainly going to bite down on some random minigames again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy! Wait… just Final Fantasy? Like… the original? Not mystic, legends, adventure, explorers, tactics, theatrhythm, dissidia, or, I don’t know, Episode Pompadour? Neat. Time to save Kary for last, everybody! Please look forward to it!

Rake it in

FGC #290 Virtual Boy Wario Land

WARIO!There were 22 games released worldwide for the Virtual Boy. Considering even the biggest “failures” of Nintendo hardware have at least a hundred games to their name, not even clearing 25 is kind of an accomplishment in itself. But, as ever, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Who cares if the Virtual Boy had a limited number of games? What’s important is that the Virtual Boy had good games, games that made you say, “Yes! Great! I am glad I bought this system!” And the Virtual Boy did have good games! Or… uh… game.

Virtual Boy Wario Land is the Virtual Boy’s one good game.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Looking back, the Virtual Boy has a few games that at least qualify as “good”, like Mario Clash and Galactic Pinball. Even the pack-in game, Mario’s Tennis, is pretty alright. It was the last game with Donkey Kong Junior! I think! That has to count for something! Unfortunately, even the good ones from the VB lineup were mostly… what’s the word I’m looking for here… lame? No, “limited” would be a much better descriptor. Basically, most of the early Virtual Boy games come off as glorified system demos, like the kind of thing that today would be released on a compilation called Virtual Boy Play, or maybe a series of downloadable, $5 “microtitles”. Much though I love my pinball, it really is something more suited to randomly playing for ten minutes before moving onto something actually important, like reading your twitter feed. Basically, all of the Virtual Boy games were not videogames like Super Mario Bros. 3, they were just a way to kill time before the latest episode of Street Sharks. I got a high score! Jawsome! Moving on.

But when you look at the Virtual Boy, you realize pretty quickly that that is… terrible. Despite batteries to the contrary, the Virtual Boy is absolutely not a portable system. The Virtual Boy is large, cumbersome, and about as portable as a grizzly bear (and twice as like to damage to your eyes). The Virtual Boy is not something you whip out when you’ve got ten minutes to kill while standing in line, the Virtual Boy sits on your desk, waiting for you to insert your head into its waiting crevices. You must go to the mountain, Muhammad. And going to a mountain for only twenty minutes seems a tweak pointless. I just glued my forehead into this stupid thing, could you give me an experience that takes longer than a round of Tetris?

ToastyThe Virtual Boy provided a number of games that would have been right at home in the early, limited days of the NES (or Gameboy, for that matter). The quick, forgettable experiences of most Virtual Boy games do seem to recall such early luminaries as Ice Climber and Urban Champion. However, gaming had come a long way (baby) since those early days, and, once you’ve played Super Mario World, there’s no going back. 96 exits in one gigantic game? After you’ve experienced that, pinball kind of loses its thrill. And while you usually had to rely on the big consoles to get those long, comprehensive games, the humble Gameboy had already produced Final Fantasy Adventure, Link’s Awakening, and whatever the hell was going on in that game where you could chainsaw God. Yes, the same system that hosted a compromised Pac-Man was also capable of showcasing games that had actual, ya know, levels, and it didn’t seem that crazy to expect similar from the Virtual Boy. And, unfortunately, you sure as hell weren’t going to find that in Mario Tennis.

Thus, Virtual Boy Wario Land wins the coveted “Best of the Virtual Boy” award for actually providing a for-real videogame experience.

Wario Land has some goddamn levels. It’s a Wario game from top to bottom: There are powerups! There are treasures to find! There’s an ending that is based on your total accumulated cash, and it (hopefully) changes every time you beat the game! There’s a reason to replay the game! You could spend hours bumping around Wario Land, or you could get really good at dumping nerds into clouds, and find a way to beat the game inside of an hour or two! This is a game’s game, and a damn fine excuse to plug yourself into an entirely crimson world.

And it’s not just the “videogame” factor that makes Virtual Boy Wario Land great. There is a surprising amount of creativity on display here, and, while I do appreciate the later, experimental Wario adventures, you just can’t beat a chainsaw shark.

VRM VRM

Okay, you can beat the chainsaw shark, but only if you’re wearing a hat that is also a dragon that can breathe fire.

God, I enjoyed typing that sentence.

On any other system, Virtual Boy Wario Land might have been an interesting distraction. It’s unequivocally a good game, but it’s not quite up there with games that star a slightly less bulky fellow in overalls. However, on the Virtual Boy, Wario Land is indisputably the best game on the system. Is it or has it ever been a reason to go out and grab a Virtual Boy? Not really. But once you’ve already convinced your mom that The Death Bringer isn’t going to burn out your retinas after one play session and you’ve finally got that chunky piece of plastic home? Then, yes, Wario Land could justify your purchase.

Sometimes, it’s just enough to catch the biggest fish in the smallest pond… even if that fish is red for some reason.

FGC #290 Virtual Boy Wario Land

  • System: Playstation 3. Wait, no. Virtual Boy. It’s Virtual Boy.
  • It's saferNumber of players: The Virtual Boy had a link cable! This will never cease to amuse me. Oh, but this game is only one player.
  • What’s in a name: Apparently the chain-saw shark is named… Chain-Saw Fish. In Japan, he’s Chainsawn. Huh.
  • Favorite Boss: The final encounter is Demon Head, who, for my money, is the first “big head and two dangly hands” boss that I ever recall fighting. That style became pretty popular in the Kirby series, but I always think of this jerk when I’m fighting later Bongo monsters. Also, “Demon Head”? Is this Ra’s Al Ghul?
  • And he’s got a new hat: I really miss Wario’s hat powerups. Heck, I miss Wario’s shoulder dash and butt stomp. I miss movable Wario. Regardless, I hope someone makes mention of Wario’s previous hat adventures when New Donk City is open to the public.
  • Did you know? Retro Studios claimed to have found inspiration in Virtual Boy Wario Land while developing Donkey Kong Country Returns. So the poor ol’ Virtual Old Man isn’t completely forgotten.
  • Would I play again: No. What? I really like this game, but whipping out the Virtual Boy isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I’ll be playing you in spirit, Virtual Boy Wario Land.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call! This is appropriate, as there is Final Fantasy music on my playlist right now. Now let’s get some FF music on my 3DS. Please look forward to it!

Weeee