The unimaginatively titled Virtual Boy Wario Land might be thought of Wario’s first true standalone game. Wario Land launched first for the Game Boy in 1994, nevertheless it featured the subtitle “Super Mario Land 3” to not scare off anybody uncertain about controlling Super Mario Land 2’s antagonist. There aren’t any such qualifiers for Virtual Boy Wario Land, which launched about two years later. It was co-directed by Wario’s creator, Hiroji Kiyotake (who additionally claims credit score for the design of Samus), and it doesn’t function Mario within the title or the game itself. Virtual Boy Wario Land claims the title of being one of the best unique on Nintendo’s worst-selling standalone console. No Wario game is extra underplayed, and that’s a disgrace, as a result of it’s a worthy addition to the Wario platfomer canon, even when it lives on a platform no one desires.
Virtual Boy Wario Land takes benefit of the Virtual Boy platform, which eluded me most of my life. I bear in mind standing on my tiptoes in a Sears division retailer, straining to carry my head in opposition to the headset to catch a glimpse of the long run with Mario Tennis, all whereas attempting to determine why I wanted two D-pads – a query that eludes me to today.
Useless twin D-pads are the least of the system’s issues. You play by staring into a headset that should be positioned on a desk, which hurts your again. Eye pressure from taking part in is such a concern that the default settings of each game power you to take a break each 20 minutes. Sales have been so poor that Nintendo deserted the system inside months of its launch. Fewer than a million Virtual Boys have been offered. For context, Nintendo’s second worst-selling console is the Wii U, which offered about 13 million items.
Knowing all this, I’ve nonetheless at all times wished to play one. The Virtual Boy is my greatest Nintendo blind spot, which is ironic contemplating it is the Nintendo console more than likely to make me go blind. I’ve sometimes checked eBay over time to see how a lot the system prices; in 2021, my spouse took discover on our shared eBay account and inexplicably purchased me one earlier than I might clarify why I wished it, which was good as a result of I by no means might have provide you with a worthwhile argument. The used system got here with Mario Tennis, and I individually bought Virtual Boy Wario Land. While nothing might have saved the Virtual Boy, after subjecting myself to about three hours of Virtual Boy gameplay to finish Virtual Boy Wario Land, I consider that had the game been accessible at launch, the legacy dialog surrounding the console might have been barely extra constructive.
Virtual Boy Wario Land opens with Wario in a forest with layers of timber behind him telescoping into the gap. The 3D impact, current greater than 15 years earlier than the Nintendo 3DS would experiment with the know-how, is on full show. Even Wario himself is displayed in stereoscopic layers, his arms seemingly floating nearer to you as they lay by his sides. After a brief scene with inexplicable gophers and treasure, Wario falls deep underground, which is a sensible setup by the builders to make the weird Virtual Boy colour scheme work: With the vanity that your entire journey takes place in a collection of underground caves, the crimson and black visuals really feel proper. You play the game by staring into a claustrophobic, darkened headset as for those who’re peering into a cave, so to see Wario and his environment painted in deep black with crimson strains nearly feels correct, as if Wario is carrying night-vision goggles.
From there, it’s a correct Wario Land game, and I adore it for that. Playing it felt like discovering an unfamiliar album from a beloved band, or watching an outdated movie I didn’t know was made by my favourite director. I felt nostalgia for it regardless of taking part in it for the primary time. You acquire acquainted power-ups, like a dragon hat that breathes hearth, or a pair of horns that makes you extra highly effective. You decide up dangerous guys and throw them. You carry keys via the extent to unlock the exit door. You all of the sudden end up questioning, “Maybe money is the solution to life’s problems and I should pursue it at all costs, even if it means getting hurt and shrinking down to a balding, shorter version of myself.” The platforming feels nice, and the game options all of the mechanics I like concerning the Wario Land collection that make it stand other than Mario. You make the climb up the cave system with every stage, accumulating costly artifacts whereas having fun with enjoyable little touches like a gopher who is typically hanging out watching TV through the between-level scenes.
Despite enduring the uncomfortable technique of taking part in, the Virtual Boy actually does elevate Virtual Boy Wario Land as a platformer. In an early-game instance, gigantic swinging spike-balls transfer between the foreground and background. They’re straightforward to keep away from, nevertheless it’s a formidable technical showcase of the Virtual Boy’s stereoscopic tech. That awe maintains for the total game. Wario jumps between the foreground and background, which is a satisfying movement to execute, and enemies are capable of assault from all angles.
The bosses take full benefit of the 3D tech by throwing assaults at you from the background, and all of it culminates in an unexpectedly terrifying remaining boss that jogged my memory of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s most horrifying boss with the least horrifying title: Bongo Bongo. Wario’s remaining opponent is a gigantic demonic floating face with disembodied arms, and you should leap onto his nostril to defeat him. When he smashes the bottom under Wario, it sends Wario careening into the background, the place he lands on a bouncy platform that sends him proper again into the foreground. It’s the type of boss we might all collectively acknowledge as a memorable second that scarred our collective childhoods, if any of us had really performed it.
Virtual Boy Wario Land is simply the Mario-antagonist-turned-standalone-protagonist’s most underplayed game. It’s the right sequel to Wario Land many people have been by no means capable of experience, and that’s too dangerous. It’s a disgrace Nintendo by no means ported it to Nintendo 3DS the place it could have flourished as a formidable artifact and might be performed as supposed due to the hand-held’s stereoscopic capabilities. It additionally would have been playable with out backache, eye pressure, and a headache, all signs I skilled due to my handful of play periods.