I’ve always followed the Wario Land series of video games with a great passion. Whether they end up being good or less than good, every new release was met with great excitement from me. Sadly, Nintendo stopped making them some time back, and similarly, I don’t tend to revisit most Wario Land games after a first playthrough. And even if I do, it’s much less often than some other games.
I’ve been playing through all the Game Boy games available on Nintendo Switch Online, and recently made it to Wario Land 3. Strangely, it’s the only one of the trilogy that is currently on the service. But that’s fine. One Wario Land is still better than no Wario Lands, right?
That’s mostly true. Wario Land 3 is a fine game, at a base level! It follows Wario Land 2‘s basic structure by being a side-scrolling platformer that focuses mostly on environmental puzzles. Wario is invincible, and punishment for getting hit by an enemy is simply to get knocked back a bit. Certain enemies’ attacks will transform Wario into temporary alternate forms, which are sometimes obstacles in themselves, but are most often used to solve puzzles or navigate the game’s stages.
Where Wario Land 3 diverges is that it’s not a linear game. Each stage includes four treasures, each of which also functions as a goal/exit for that stage. On top of that, instead of being a sequence of stages that you play in a set order, WL3 is a stealth metroidvania, where Wario gains movement abilities that will help him find more of each stage’s treasures on return visits. A good number of those treasures, even when they aren’t ability upgrades, are items that will either unlock new stages or change unlocked stages in some way that allows you to explore alternate routes within them.
The first bump in the road is that when you find a treasure, you get booted out of the stage. It’s just like Super Mario 64 in this way. However, Wario Land 3’s stages are a little bit more expansive and each treasure is typically down a completely different path, so collecting all the treasures in a stage rarely feels too repetitive. So I don’t feel like that’s a huge problem. Sometimes you won’t know where to go next and will run around in a stage or two before realizing you can’t reach any of the undiscovered treasures, but that’s part of the chase, right? The game does show you where to go every time you’re able to access a new treasure, so any wasted time is the player’s fault for not paying attention, anyway. If you’re still stuck, you can go to the Temple to ask for a hint, at least up until the point that you unlock the final boss.
It’s worth mentioning that you have to find fewer than half of the game’s 100 treasures to get to the end. Pretty lenient, I’d say! (Although you’d definitely need a guide to know the exact critical path.)
What annoys me are the game’s optional collectibles: the music coins. On every stage, there are eight music coins to find. You won’t be able to get all eight on any stage until you have all of Wario’s abilities and are able to get to all four treasures on that stage. This alone is a little annoying, but would be totally forgivable if the coins you’ve found were retained when leaving a stage. However, that just isn’t the case, and you need to collect all eight in one run. So you need to explore all the routes on any given stage to get all those coins, at which point it does start to grate and feel like a big ol’ time sink. None of the puzzles you’ve solved or mini-games you’ve won are retained either, so you’re doing all of it all over again. Lame.
The good news is that collecting all of the music coins just unlocks a mini-game for you to play freely. It’s totally not worth the effort and is easily skippable. Which I say as someone who has 100%ed the game twice now. Sigh.
Another minor gripe is that some of Wario Land 3’s challenges are very repetitive in themselves. For example, in one stage you have to climb a tower that’s three screens high. At which point you transform into Fat Wario and fall down a hole to destroy some donut blocks. Then you scale the tower again as Fire Wario so that you can fall down that same hole again to destroy some fire blocks that were under the donut blocks. Then you scale the tower a third time and fall down the hole as Zombie Wario to get past a one-way floor that was under the fire blocks. Only then are you finally granted access to the treasure. Thankfully, scenarios like this are rare, but it’s still a big oof as far as level design goes.
All of this is to say that even though I’m mostly enjoying my current playthrough of Wario Land 3, it has a couple of significantly annoying features. Not so annoying that I need to leave a note to myself to never play the game again, but I do hope that Future Ryan remembers that the music coins are a bait.