Thursday 31 December 2015

Virtual Boy Wario Land (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1995

Virtual Boy Wario Land is a platformer and the follow-up to Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (1994, Game Boy).

As Wario you must search the caves of the Aldegara Waterfall to uncover its hidden treasures. There's ten levels (and four bosses) and the objective in each is to find the key that unlocks the exit. You can collect coins, hearts (100 grants you an extra life), as well as power-ups such as Eagle Wario (can fly) and Sea Dragon Wario (breathes fire). Most enemies can be killed by dashing into them but if you take damage as regular Wario you lose a life. The levels have a timer (20 minutes each) but the action is slower paced and more methodical than a Mario platformer. There's a real sense of wonderment to the levels and you can't wait to get started so you can explore everything it has to offer. This includes trying to find the many hidden areas, some of which can only be accessed if you have a power-up, making replayability high. The levels are varied and see you swimming underwater, climbing up waterfalls, wandering around mysterious forests, sinking in the desert sand and navigating creepy castles; it's all been done a million times but here every section is incredibly tight and well designed. Some neat 3D effects are included such as spike balls that swing in and out of the screen and giant sea creatures that leap from their cave. The bosses are innovative with unique attack patterns that use both the foreground and background; they can be challenging though so some trial and error is involved. Your progress is saved directly to the cartridge (a rarity on the VB) so you can pick up where you left off at a later date. There's a couple of awesome cut-scenes that tie the story together and show off the system's parallax scrolling capabilities and 3D effects. There's also some great variations of the main theme that sound fantastic whether they're upbeat, moody or atmospheric.
Virtual Boy Wario Land is the standout game on the console and one you'll want to play again and again. You can tell that the developers put their heart and soul into crafting each level with real care and the end result is a fun and lengthy adventure that puts the system's strengths on full display.
Random trivia: The game was originally titled Wario Cruise and this name featured on the back of the Virtual Boy system box at launch.

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