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Games time forgot: Virtual Boy Wario Land

2:04 PM on 09.30.2008 // Anthony Burch

Wario Land: Shake It! came out last week and though I haven't played it, from our review it sounds like something that would make me long for the days of the Virtual Boy.

And I don't often say that.

Last week, Aaron Linde reminded me that despite all the hindsight hatred of the Virtual Boy, ignoring how awful Mario Clash was and how gimmicky the system was as a whole, we still got one truly great game out of it: the awkwardly named Virtual Boy Wario Land.

Though it lacks the sexy, hand-drawn graphics of Shake It, and is only available for a system nobody cares about anymore, it's still probably the best Wario Land game ever.

Hit the jump for more.

Story:

Wario is awoken from a nap by a bunch of masked monsters, who run past him into a waterfall. Presumably lacking anything better to do, Wario follows the monsters and finds a vast treasure the monsters have amassed. 

Being Wario, he tries to grab the treasure for himself and gets trapped in an underground maze. Dazed and irritated, Wario has to escape the cave and get back the treasure that's so rightfully his (not because he earned it, necessarily, but because he sort of laid eyes on it and that's good enough to constitute ownership in Wario's book).

Gameplay:

Virtual Boy Wario Land includes the same general mechanics you'll find in any other Wario Land game, but exudes much more focus and grace in its game design. Where some Wario Land games get bogged down in obscure puzzles and problem solving, while others focused too much on action, Virtual Boy Wario Land finds a perfect medium between the two: there are plenty of head-scratching, hat-changin' puzzles to be found throughout the game, but there's also an awful lot of really action-packed, satisfying platforming.

Being a Virtual Boy game, Virtual Boy Wario Land also takes a few opportunities to show off the VB's three-dimensional videos. In addition to large, swinging, spiked balls that Wario must avoid as they move back and forth through the foreground and background, Wario is often required to jump into the background plane to progress. These little 3D touches don't really make any difference to the actual gameplay, of course -- the depth-swinging balls could just as easily be Thwomps, and platforming on the background plane, while fun and visually interesting, doesn't really affect the actual gameplay. It's still cool, though. 

The basic level structure isn't anything special, save for how well the levels are designed. Wario has to find a key to unlock the elevator at the end of each level

Hat-wise, Virtual Boy Wario Land is as good an entry in the series as any. 

It also occurs to me that there are almost no franchises, in this or any other medium, that allow for declarative sentences starting with the phrase "hat-wise."

Hat-wise, the game's solid. You got your fire-breathing dragon hat, your bull hat that increases the power of Wario's default charge, and the flying hat. Wario has always traditionally been a more violent kind of dude than Mario, and his abilities in Virtual Boy Wario Land reflect this: there's less goofy, "hey get squished by this thing so you can pass through this crack in the wall" puzzling and more "beat the crap out of this dude and use his body to solve a puzzle".

I also remember it being pretty challenging, if only from a platforming point of view: I can't nail down any specifics, but if it's as moderately difficult as I remember it being, it's probably much more of a challenge than Shake It! appears to be.

Why you're probably not playing it:

Well, maybe the fact that

IT'S

ON

THE

VIRTUAL

BOY.

Regardless of how fun Wario Land is, the Virtual Boy had a depressingly small launch library of otherwise horrendous titles like Mario Clash and Waterworld, and the whole idea of the system was goddamned silly to begin with. With such a poisonous history, it's easy to dismiss everything even peripherally related to the Virtual Boy as trash. It's simply a lot easier to look back and only think of one word where the Virtual Boy is concerned (that one word being, "shit"), rather than consider that Wario Land was actually a damn fine game in its own right.

That, and many people have simply never played it, either due to youth or financial prudence. I only managed to get my hands on the game because a relative at the time worked for Blockbuster, and, back when they had demo consoles in the store, they often had to be taken to an employee's home for the night. Whenever my relative brought it home, I got to play Wario Land for a good few hours until I either got bored or they had to go back to work. I never actually ended up finishing the game, come to think of it.

Judging by the sheer number of YouTube results for Virtual Boy Wario Land, there must be an awful lot of NOT Virtual Boy emulators and NOT roms where one could conceivably NOT play this game. In honesty, I almost feel silly for using my "NOT" joke here -- though Virtual Boys go for reasonably cheap on eBay, none of that money is going to Nintendo and most noncollectors wouldn't want to spend 100 bucks just to play Virtual Boy Wario Land anyway. I'm also more or less certain this game will never come out on the Virtual Console, either. It's worth trying out, especially if you liked Shake It! but wanted more of a challenge.




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