There may a time and a place for Wario to recite poetry, but I don’t ever wanna hear it

Wario Land 3 (2000)

I never thought it would come to this, but I’m about to have a disagreement, a spat, a set-to, with my main man Wario. I’d always regarded Wario as the ideal role model, especially for young children. Sure, you could try to be like Mario all upstanding and “wholesome”, whatever that even means. But how far will that get you? At some point in your life you’ll recognise that playing by the rules will get you nowhere fast.

It’s the cute hoors who get ahead, as we call them in Ireland. People who know where the scams and strokes are. It’s a little bit like how we all get more right-wing as we grow older; liberalism and taxation on the rich is all well and good to campaign for when you’re a student, but if you manage to fulfil your aspirations and get yourself on the other side, then you’ll be singing a rather different tune.

Wario understood this universal truth very well, because he’s a clever clogs and plenty greedy to go with it. So why is his not an example to follow this time? Well, in his quest to be a rebel in Wario Land 3 he’s broken one too many rules for me, including the one big sacrosanct rule that even God oughtn’t break: he did not keep it simple. He’s only gone and overcomplicated everything.

You take the best of Wario Land, games 2 and 4, and you knew where you stood: get to the end, sometimes invulnerable, sometimes not, but things were straightforward. For whatever reason, Wario Land 3 tried what has now become an oversaturated genre, the Metroidvania, and I’m not sure it works.

You sometimes have to wonder, why can’t these things be left alone? Especially when it’s mechanically simple and works well. Think this internet-of-things biz, for example. Ooh, let’s get everything online you guys, it’ll be a tech household. Oh, sure, doesn’t sound dystopian at all. Until I was locked out of our app-controlled central heating and I was at risk of freezing to death (well, maybe). It wasn’t broke, but it took a painful call with my non tech-savvy maw to fix it. Until the next internet interruption, that is.

The same is happening with vehicles. Start it via API? No, that doesn’t impress me, please stop. It just makes you a hostage to fortune, another electric chip that can fail at the worst possible time. And you can’t just swap this stuff out like a faulty brake pad or a spark plug you know, this’ll be a big investment to fix the ECU. It’s nerds who fix cars now, not dodgy mechanics.

I’m telling you, we’re going too fast. Bring it back to the simplest mechanics, the stuff you know works well. At first, Wario Land 3 looks nice and familiar, and it’s still got some top-notch GBC music, a Wario Land tradition by this point. But then you’re trying to ground-pound or throw enemies who disappointingly are not part of Captain Syrup’s cadre, while backtracking through a level for the fifth time, and it just doesn’t work for you.

This is a game that wants you to pay attention, and that just ain’t Wario to me. He’s asking me to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. You know, it’s human nature to want to sift through all the complex steps and just thrust right into it. Why spend five minutes reading the instruction manual or documentation, for example, when you can spend an hour trying to brute force things without all the faff? That’s what a man does.

And when it’s shots of tequila, why bother with the lemon and salt and all that palaver when you can just get it down you? For date night, why go through the hassle of booking a nice restaurant, flowers and all the rest of it, when you can just get an Indian in and have a drunken fumble with your woman instead?

Fumble indeed. That’s what you’ll be doing early on, because Wario’s even lost a large proportion of his moveset for this game, Samus style. I suppose I can’t be too hard on him for this, after all he does start the game suffering a sudden engine failure and plane crash. That’d give anyone a bit of a turn-up in their dungarees.

When Wario decides to spend the rest of his afternoon wandering away from the wreckage and loafing about, and he finds the music box that Wario Land 3 takes place in, you wonder if this isn’t some hallucination, prior to purgatory, or wherever Wario will end up after he finally loses his invincibility and the Reaper gets him.

When you do progress a bit further into the game and begin to unlock new moves and powerups, you’d better have your notepad out because the game will tell you once and once only which areas are now unlocked for Wario’s perusal. I suppose that’s more than what Super Metroid and co give you, but it may necessitate the use of a walkthrough, which you wouldn’t have expected from your little Game Boy Color platformer.

And I’m sorry, Wario, but this is where I’m going to have to disagree with the direction you’ve taken. Respectfully, of course – people should know that I usually hold Wario in the highest regard, up there with probably Maradona, or the Pope for those religious types. But I’m just looking for another weird little platformer where Wario can clean house and find lots of hidden areas, maybe go on fire and turn into a zombie a few times. I ain’t looking for a cryptic crossword, you know.

Still, there is an in-game helper that’ll tell you what level to go to next which is quite helpful, but he’ll only help you towards the credits screen and 50% completion. You’ll need some real stomach to get to 100%, though I think it could cause you a deal of aggravation as well, as you’ll have to deal with quite a few dreadfully annoying bosses where one little mistake means you have to go back and try again.

But worse than that, going for full completion also means you have a bloody golf minigame in most of the levels to gamble your way through. I don’t know about you, but if I had to play a round of golf to save my life, or I suppose, to earn a day’s wages that day, I think I would just bend the putter over my knee and let God take me.

Throw yourself into the first level though, and you’ll find that each of the levels are somewhat split into four different segments, where you will track down colour-coded keys and find the chests they belong to, which signifies the end of the level. That means a lot of backtracking and seeing the same levels again, and you can times that by two because there’s even a day and night feature built into the game. 

Look, if we’re honest then the way it all works is quite brilliant for a Game Boy Color game. This is definitely one of those late GBC games that pushed the system right the way to its limits, like Pokémon Crystal and the Zelda Oracle games. But you know, I mustn’t forget to mention another Metroidvania style game that arrived on the Game Boy Color way after 8-bit graphics were out: Shantae. Wario versus Shantae… whose hips would you rather watch?

27 December 2022

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