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Review – Wario Land 3 (GBC) (2000)

The next part of my reverse adventure through the Wario Land Franchise, is Wario Land 3.  I decided I had enough to say about this game that it kind of deserved it’s own post all it’s own.  I’ve finished the game, though I did not (yet) collect all of the 100 treasures.  I have no idea what Wario Land 2 is like, maybe that game is similar in nature to this one, though I will say, this gives me a bit of new perspective on Wario Land 4 which I’ll touch on a bit as well.

An Exercise in Insanity

There really feels like there is some sort of weird META concept going on here with Wario being kind of crazy and greedy more than evil.  As the saying goes, Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  And this game is all about doing the same things, over and over and over.

The basic concept here, there are 25 levels, each with 4 treasures of different colors in each stage.  The catch here is, you can’t collect more than one treasure in one run.  It’s impossible, collecting a treasure ends the level.  It’s also impossible because you usually can’t even reach any more than one new treasure each trip.  Each treasure you collect, will alter a level in some way that either opens a new level, or allows access to a new area in an old level.  

So essentially, you get to play each level at least 4 times.  Granted, there will be different sections depending on how much you have unlocked, but the starting areas are always the same, and they are sometimes extremely tedious, which I’ll get to next.  It’s a neat idea in concept, I actually kind of like this aspect of it.

The real annoyance I have is that this “repetition” aspect plays out in the level design itself.  The game has no lives, Wario literally cannot die.  There isn’t even a timer.  You could drop Wario into a pit or monsters and lava and leave the game just running and it would go forever with no consequences.  A private hell for a digital character, if you want to be a weird psycho.

That said, there are in some ways “lives” in that the game makes liberal use of transformative traps that often pull your character back tot he start of whatever exercise you’re working your way through.  Sometimes back to the start of the level.  It’s effectively, the same as “dying” in a normal game.  This isn’t even a real problem, it’s kind of a unique take on the idea of dying.  

The problem is that almost everything is essentially a “1 hit KO” when it comes to these.  There is no “Small Wario” or even a “jiggle the controller and escape”.  You get hit, you light on fire, or turn into yarn, or become a sludge zombie, and you end up back at the start of the level when you become normal.  Since you don’t “die”, the game seems to have taken this as a signal that, “you can just fake die ALL the time.”  There are a LOT of places that feel intentionally designed to be “cheap shots”, that feel like the designers justified this as “well, you didn’t die”.  In any other situation where you are draining lives, it would become infuriatingly impossible to pass some of these areas without running out of lives.  

This just leads to the already built in repetition of the treasure gimmick feeling much much worse.  Because doing each level 4 times, becomes essentially doing many levels, 20 or 30 times.  Because some zombie popped up on top of you and now you’ve fallen through the floor all the way down, or you got caught on fire and now you’ve fallen off the screen back to the start area.  

Too Ambitious

I had an issue with the configurations on my Retroid so the select button wasn’t working, which made for an interesting time with a few features that I thought were missing but ended up not being missing.  Part of the crux of that issue was it felt like the game was just, limited by the capabilities of the Game Boy.  This game is a Game Boy Color game, and I always forget that the GBC and the GB were just, a D-pad and 2 buttons.  No L or R, no 4 button control pad.  Just 2 buttons.

I stand by the idea of this game being too ambitious.  Wario Land 4 almost goes to show that, not because of improved graphics, but just the improved controls and how much more solid the controls feel.  Going into Wario Land 1 after this, I can appreciate how much cleaner this game is that WL1, but it’s not nearly as clean as the Game Boy Advanced Wario land 4 in it’s polish.  It definitely feels like it’s just, really pushing things right up to the edge.

The levels are pretty small, but feel large, the puzzles are clever for the most part, aside from the artificial difficulty of constant cheap shots.  It’s also fairly long, or at least it feels that way, but even if I could play through things perfectly, it still feels pretty long.  The repeat visits to the evolving levels on it’s own is a neat and interesting gimmick as well.  Though once again, too ambitious.  The game really could use some more obvious sort of visual indicator on which levels need to be revisited next and which still have what color treasures in them.

The Golf Game

Call it PTSD, but I completely forgot about the bull shit golf mini game until I went to dig out screen shots for this post.

Holy Shit this game is bad. It’s a pretty standard 2D Golf game, you press a trigger to start, trigger to pick power, push a trigger to select accuracy. And it’s REQUIRED. A lot of times the mini games, which I generally dislike, are optional. Which is great. I played like one mini game entirely through Wario Land 4. I can just skip it.

This is not an option in Wario Land 3. Several of the puzzles amount to, “Find the golf game and beat it to open a door.” And the game itself is not fun at all. The levels are random, how much power affects things feels random. The PAR needed always feels like 1-2 shots too low to be even remotely fair.

And it costs coins to play. The screen shot shows 10 coins but the more you play it, the more it costs. By the end of the game it costs 50 coins. You could easily run out of coins and then have to go farm them just to proceed. And coins serve ZERO other purpose in this game besides playing this shitty Golf mini game.

There is even a more complex version of this you can unlock by getting all the treasures, which does NOTHING for the story of gameplay. It’s optional. But it’s clear that some dev made this golf game as a pet project and just REALLY wanted it out there to be played.

Wario Land 4

It’s really interesting to me how much Wario Land 4, feels like an evolution of a lot of what was shown here in Wario Land 3.  It’s also almost, a serious dumbing down of those concepts, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s good or bad.  The main thing is the evolution of Wario himself.  At the start of Wario Land 3, your abilities are pretty limited, and match more to previous games.  Throughout WL3 you gain a lot of new skills, and a lot are skills you just sort of have in Wario Land 4.  It’s not 100%, but it’s still kind of interesting that there is a bit of continuity there.

Though somewhere between WL3 and WL4, Wario lost his invincibility skill.  So I guess there were some sort of drawbacks in there.  The level design in Wario Land 4 also feels like it’s sort of mimicking the revisiting gimmick of Wario Land 3, but instead of revisiting, you just, have to pay attention and catch everything in one trip.  This actually makes WL4 feel incredibly short next to WL3.

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