Originally Released: February 1999
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Game Boy Color
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992) didn’t just blow its predecessor out of the water in terms of graphical and gameplay improvements, it also introduced the gaming world to one of my favourite characters of all time Wario, Mario’s evil doppelgänger, for the first time. While it would be some time before Wario made the jump to a main Nintendo console, and before he was relegated to simple mini games and cameo appearances, Mario’s evil twin thrived on Nintendo’s handhelds. First, he usurped the Super Mario Land franchise with Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (ibid, 1994), which led to a slew of sequels on Nintendo’s handheld systems.
After besting Captain Syrup and her Black Sugar Pirates, Wario is rudely awakened one day to find his castle has been flooded and ransacked by Syrup and her goons; enraged, he sets off to recover his loot and get his revenge.
Wario Land II is a sidescrolling, 2D action/platformer; players control Wario as he journeys across a variety of worlds, collecting Yellow Coins and dispatching enemies with Wario’s patented Dash Attack and Ground Pound.
Wario controls almost exactly as he did in the last game; he can jump on most enemies to stun them so he can pick them up and throw them, or just barge them with his Dash Attack. However, the knockback from enemy attacks is a considerable frustration; not only do you lose vital Coins, you also bounce back quite a way, which can be extremely annoying and lead you to drop to lower levels.
What sets Wario Land II apart from its predecessor, and other Mario videogames, is Wario’s inability to die; when hurt by enemies or traps, Wario will lose some of the Coins he has gathered or be transformed into one of a number of different forms.
These transformations are essential to navigating the different worlds Wario travels to and uncovering Wario Land II’s numerous secrets; hidden in every world is a piece of treasure, which Wario must earn by matching panels. As with its predecessor, finding the doors to these treasure rooms is no easy feat and Wario must navigate through some tricky puzzles and traps in order to find every piece.
Once a world is completed, the player can also earn a Picture Piece to complete a map to the pirate’s treasure by completing a number-matching game. Wario Land utilised a map hub world similar to Super Mario Land 2 but Wario Land II is far more linear…or so it would seem. In actuality, there are many branching paths the player can take as they play; even inaction at the start of the game will lead Wario to different worlds and treasures. Once you finish the game, you gain access to the Treasure Map, which details all the different paths, allowing you the chance to recover the entirety of Wario’s missing loot and reach the true finale.
Graphics and Sound:
Wario Land II represents a time far removed from the basic, unremarkable presentation of Super Mario Land (ibid, 1989); characters and levels are brought to life through large, charming sprites that are a far cry from the first game’s monochrome offerings.
There are a lot of familiar sounds here that return from Wario Land, all of which add to the quirky, slightly off-kilter nature of Wario and his world. Nintendo walked a fine line between familiar and unique but executed this perfectly so that playing Wario Land II is unlike playing any other Mario title from that era and yet recognisable enough so that anyone who played its predecessor will feel right at home with familiar sights and sounds.
Enemies and Bosses:
Many of Wario Land’s generic enemies return here (such as the boomerang-wielding D.D and the Pirate Gooms) but there’s plenty of new and unique baddies to encounter; there’s a little mole cook who will fatten Wario up, pirate pecans who spit fish at you, zombies, and a fishing penguin who lures you in with fake Coins.
As for bosses, Wario Land II doesn’t disappoint and continues the tradition Super Mario Land 2 started with having big, oddball bosses; Wario will face off against the likes of a giant snake, a basketball-throwing rabbit, a giant dinosaur-like bird, and Captain Syrup herself. Though they can usually be defeated with a few well-placed bops to the head, each boss has a specific attack pattern and various phases; many will blast Wario out of the boss room entirely, forcing you to trek back around and start again or require a certain method to injure them (like dunking them through a basketball hoop or blasting lava at them).
Power-Ups and Bonuses:
In Wario Land, Wario controlled very similar to Mario; when hit, he reverted to a smaller form and he collected Power Up Pots to can new abilities. As mentioned above, though, Wario Land II ditches the traditional power-ups in favour of some truly weird transformations.
Certain enemy attacks will trigger a transformation in Wario that is necessary to reach other areas of each world and hidden secrets; Wario transforms into a burning ball of fire when set alight, becomes a zombie to drop to lower levels, or swells up to balloon-like proportions to reach higher levels, amongst other transformations.
Part of Wario Land II’s gameplay is figuring out which enemies trigger a transformation and how to use that transformation in each area. It’s only by utilising all the tools at Wario’s disposal that players will be able to conquer each world, all the different branching paths, and access the secret final chapter, which is a time attack challenge through Syrup Castle.
Collecting all the treasures in the game and completing the Picture Piece map doesn’t just allow you access to Syrup Castle, though; it also unlocks Flagman D-D, a remake of the Game & Watch mini game Flagman (Nintendo, 1980). This inclusion, and Wario Land II’s increased use of mini games compared to its predecessor, could be said to foreshadow Wario’s later preference towards mini games rather than fun little action platformers like this.
Wario Land II takes everything you knew from its predecessor and changes it just enough to deliver a unique gaming experience; appearing far more linear, the game hides many secrets and branching paths in a far more subtle way compared to Wario Land, meaning the no two players will have the same gameplay experience. Fittingly, Wario feels heavy and cumbersome; unlike Mario, he’s not build for precision platforming, which may be why Wario Land II substitutes such gameplay for simple puzzles, mazes, and alternative routes accessed by Wario’s transformations. Yet, at the same time, there seems to be a slight lack of polish to Wario Land II that can make some sections and bosses battles needlessly frustrating. However, the unique aspect of being immortal and changing forms to reach new areas, coupled with the chirpy tunes and big, quirky sprites make this a joy to play as no challenge presented by Wario Land II ever feels game-breaking or impossible.
What are your memories of Wario Land II, if any? Do you like Wario and, like me, wish he would return to a more prominent position? What was your favourite of the Super Mario titles on the original Game Boy? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.