Wario Land: 25 years of Bizarro Nintendo
Wahahaha! Have a rotten day!!
Is there any character more representative of Nintendo's bizarre, experimental side than Wario? Along with some standalone titles, he's taken the lead in two seperate series - Wario Land and Wario Ware, both of which are largely categorised by being downright odd. Of course, Wario himself was introduced in the divisive Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, itself a very unusual game. But Wario Land is a departure.
First of all - and most obviously - you play as Wario. Wario is a different person to Mario. I know! His abilities are largely a deconstruction of the Mario transformation archetypes. While Wario does grow and shrink like his mirror image, the power-ups are largely hats; forgoing the supernatural and whimsical Fire Flower, our antihero simply dons a dragon-shaped titfer and spews cleansing fire from its nostrils. Instead of a sweet little raccoon tail enabling flight, Wario instead sports a jet-powered bonnet to propel him across the screen at high speed. It's a cute little bit of subversion, a prologue to the downright irreverence that later Wario games ooze triumphantly. Further to this, Wario one-ups (and I ain't talkin' 'bout green mushrooms) his brother with the way enemies simply bounce off his swole bod, letting him pick them up and throw them ala Super Mario Bros. 2. As a result the game can be quite easy to traverse, though there's more to it than clearing every course.
There's a focus here on the accrual of profit, though this aspect would be enormously expanded on in Wario Land 2. Collecting coins and gathering hidden treasures throughout the levels will result in a better, more prodigious reward for Wario at the game's end. The best ending requires so many coins that grinding may well ensue, but the finale is satisfying no matter the completion percentage you achieve. There are loads of opportunities to get mo' money, whether finding secret coin caches in the stages or gambling your hard-earned in the bonus game after each level.
The game's structure is very familiar, though it eschews the grand map of its immediate predecessor Super Mario Land 2 in favour of a series of linked destinations, though they do ultimately come together in a similar manner. Level design is typically excellent, the boss fights are memorable and different, the graphics and sound are superb. It's a top tier Game Boy game that gave birth to a wonderful set of sequels and spin-offs that showcase Nintendo at their esoteric best.