Back in the black and green days of the original Nintendo Gameboy, a star rose to become a staple character in the Mario universe. This wasn’t like any other star though. He was fat, he was ugly, he didn’t smell too good, and above all, he was GREEDY. I am of course talking about Mario’s antithesis Wario. A character that started out as the main villain of Super Mario Land 2 back in 1992, Wario quickly gained a reputation as one of Mario’s most long lasting rivals, second only to Bowser. A year after the release of Super Mario Land 2, Wario returned, this time staring in a game of his own.
The game picks up after the events of Super Mario Land 2. Wario has been booted out of Mario’s castle and now seeks to get a castle of his own (bigger than Mario’s, of course). Unfortunately castles don’t come cheap, even in the world of video games. Luckily, the Brown Syrup Pirates have stolen a massive golden statue of Princess Peach and taken it to their base on Kitchen Island (which is shaped like a skull). Of course Mario is looking for the statue. Wario plans to beat Mario to the prize and ransom the statue off to pay for his castle. Beats the rinse-and-repeat plot of rescue the princess, if you ask me.
The first glimpse the game gives us of our “hero” happens during a small cut scene before the intro screen. There, we see Wario chasing down the pirates’ ship in a row boat and then shoulder bashing the ship so hard it flies up into the sky and lands upside down right in front of Wario. He then jumps up onto the capsized ship to give us a thumb’s up and a wink. It’s a good way to introduce this new character. Few gameboy games had cut scenes like this and it shows players that this is NOT Mario. This is WARIO and he doesn’t give a flying pirate ship about what he has to do to get that castle.
Another smart move on the creators’ part was to make Wario different from Mario in execution as well as concept. In most Mario games, the object is to get from start to finish as fast as possible. The game complemented this premise by having streamlined levels and letting Mario run quickly through the levels. In this game, Wario just jogs leisurely along and the levels are less streamlined and full of hazards. That’s fine, because in this game, the goal is to explore as much of the level as you can and get to the end with as many coins as you can before the time runs out.
Coins play a much bigger role in this game than in previous Mario games. Coins are scattered all over the levels and the coins you get are added to a massive tally at the end of the level. Holding up and pressing B lets you convert ten of your coins into super coins, which you can use to activate checkpoints and exits (You can also kill enemies with them, somehow…) The tally comes into play at the end of the game and you want to have as many coins as you can get between the first level and the last level, otherwise you won’t get the best ending. That’s right, I didn’t stutter, this game has multiple endings, but I’ll get to that.
At the end of each level you get a choice between two mini games. One has you choose between two buckets with strings tied to them. Pull the right one and your coin count is doubled, get the wrong one and Wario is smacked with a ten ton weight and loses half his coins. The second mini game has you throwing bombs at passing enemies, though I could never get the timing right. One interesting feature of the game is that the world changes as you progress, from changing tides to a swamp being drained of water. The game does have bosses but they’re not very difficult and either require the player to stomp on a soft spot or throw their own attacks back at them.
Like Mario, Wario can only take two hits from enemies. One hit makes Wario tiny, another hit kills him. That’s not to say Wario doesn’t have moves of his own. He may not be as quick as Mario but he is definitely stronger. Wario can do a shoulder bash to break blocks and kill enemies. You can also kill them or by picking them up and tossing them into other enemies. If you were feeling mean, you could throw those enemies into the path of a falling Pouncer or into lava. You can also jump onto enemies or bump into them to stun them and make it easier to hit them. Some enemies are holding knives or spears though, so watch it.
Wario also has his own collection of power ups. The Garlic Bottle changes tiny Wario back to normal. Grabbing another bottle or a Bull Pot gives you Bull Wario, which let’s Wario break blocks easier and stick to ceilings with his horns. It also gives him an earth-shaking butt slam. The Dragon pot gives you Dragon Wario, who can lay waste to enemies, blocks, and even some bosses with his short range flamethrower. Finally, there’s the Jet Pot which turns Wario into Jet Wario. In this form, Wario runs twice as fast and can glide for roughly 5 seconds. This doesn’t sound like much but it can turn some levels into a complete joke by letting you fly right past everything.
Along with coins, you are also tasked with collection the various treasures hidden all over the island. Some levels have massive skull shaped doors that require you to find the key and bring it to the door without losing it. Behind said door is a chest with a treasure inside. There are fifteen treasures for you to collect and you’ll need them all if you want the best ending.
So you smash, bash, and burn your way through the seven stages of the game and you’re onto the last one; Syrup’s castle, a huge ominous tower with a massive inhuman looking skull on top. As you progress up the tower, pieces of it break off in your rampage, revealing something underneath. Before you know it, you’ve made it to Captain Syrup, a gypsy looking pirate captain lounging on her bed shaped like a big clam. She’s not happy that’s you’ve been wrecking her stuff and so she’s going to wreck you back. She gets down from her bed and rubs the magic lamp she keeps nearby for just such an occasion. The genie that comes out is no Robin Williams. This Genie floats around with Syrup on his shoulder and lobs energy balls at you. To hurt him, you have to bash and throw the lamp until it lands upright, releasing a cloud that you can jump on and use as a platform to jump on the big guy’s head. Do this enough times and down he goes. Nothing too hard but it gave six year old me some trouble.
Syrup is steaming mad at this point but she’s no match for Wario without the Genie propping her up . She jumps ship, leaving a big ticking present behind. Wario jumps out of the tower Die Hard style as it explodes. As the dust settles, you see that Syrup’s tower was actually the golden statue of Peach all along. Wario is jumping up and down and looking so happy. He’s got the statue, he’s got the lamp, that castle is as good as his. BUT WAIT! Along comes Mario in a helicopter. He gives us a wave before taking the prize and flying off into the distance. Jerk.
All is not lost though, as Wario rubs the lamp and summons the Genie. Although, it seems wishes cost about the same as castles these days. In order for the Genie to grant Wario’s wish for a castle, you have to fork over all the coins you gathered up to this point. The treasures come into play as well, as each one is worth a certain amount of coins. Once everything has been added up, the tally starts counting down, occasionally rewarding you with a big bag of cash. The ending you get depends on the number of bags you give the Genie. Five bags gets you the castle while one gets you a bird house. If you have 99,999 total coins at the end, you are given a sixth you are rewarded with a planet with Wario’s face on it.
So that’s the game, but is it good?
Wario Land has enough similarities to the old formula of Mario games to keep it from alienating fans of the Mario franchise while still providing a fresh new experience for Mario fans of the time. Wario himself was an interesting character since you very rarely got to play as a villain in those days. My only gripes about the game stem from the bosses being too easy and some of the treasures being a bit hard to get. Despite those small problems was still good enough to hook me on games for life. I give this game an 8/10.