Back Issues [Mario Month]: Super Mario Adventures

So, for no better reason than “Mar.10” resembling Mario’s name, March 10th is widely regarded as being “Mario Day”, a day to celebrate Nintendo’s portly plumber, an overalls-wearing mascot who literally changed the videogame industry forever and shaped the home console market of the nineties. To commemorate Mario Day this year, I have been celebrating everyone’s favourite Koopa-flattening plumber every Thursday of this month in a little event I call “Mario Month”.

Story Title: “Super Mario Bros. Adventures” and “Mario vs. Wario”
Published: 25 October 2016
Originally Published: 1 January 1992 to 31 January 1993
Writer: Kentaro Takekuma
Artist: Charlie Nozawa

The Background:
By the early 1990s, Nintendo’s mushroom-stomping mascot was well-established as an icon not just in the videogame industry but in mainstream pop culture as well; with over sixty videogames to his name, and with Super Mario All-Stars (Nintendo EAD, 1993) proving a blockbuster release for Nintendo (and a pivotal title in the on-going “Console Wars” of the time), merchandising and licensing opportunities naturally began to increase as Nintendo sought to capitalise on the portly plumber’s popularity. In July/August of 1988, Nintendo of America began publishing a monthly review and strategy magazine, Nintendo Power (1988 to 2012), which soon included comic book and manga adaptations of its most popular videogame titles and, naturally, Super Mario was one such character who found his adventures chronicled in the magazine.

The Review:
Super Mario Adventures starts with a cute little musical introduction to the titular plumber duo, who operate as the Mushroom Kingdom’s “plumbers extraordinaire” and claim that “there’s no pipe [they] can’t repair!” The plumber brothers have been called to an emergency situation at Princess Toadstool’s castle: the pipes are a leaking, broken mess and need to be fixed for the Princess’s big party that night. Although Luigi (affectionately called “Weege” by Mario) is suffering from hunger pains, Mario enthusiastically takes to the job and encourages him to get stuck in and fix up the castle’s pipes.

Bowser attacks the kingdom, turning many to stone, and the Mario Bros. race to assist the princess.

However, his eagerness is cut short when a series of larger green pipes suddenly start sprouting up through the ground and a hoard of Koopas, Goombas, and other nasties pop out and attack the castle. Although Mario fights off the invaders, his efforts are brought to a halt when Bowser, the King of the Koopas himself, arrives in his Koopa Copter and alongside his Koopalings to lay claim to the entire kingdom through his superior forces and his proposal to marry the princess to make his takeover official. When the princess adamantly refuses his offer, Bowser uses his magic wand to turn her loyal Toads (and, amusingly, their distraught cries) to stone. Although Mario is also caught in the blast, leaving Luigi hysterical, the princess refuses to bow to Bowser’s demands and leads a group of Toads into battle against him. The Toads take the petrified Mario to the Minister of Massage, an aged oriental Toad who cures him of his ailment and, determined to get his revenge against Bowser and rescue the princess, Mario boldly charges after the two and he and Luigi end up being dropped right onto Dinosaur Island.

While Mario and Luigi make a new friend, Princess Toadstool manages to escape her cell.

There, they meet Yoshi, a friendly green dinosaur who helps them out when they’re attacked by a giant Wiggler and then speeds them off to Yoshi Village and they’re introduced to Friendly Floyd, a travelling salesman who randomly lives in the otherwise Yoshi-centric population. Floyd tells them that Bowser has been kidnapping Yoshis and punishing anyone who gets in his way and then scams them out of ten Coins by selling them a book to help them communicate with Yoshi that turns out to be basically useless. Mario’s anger at Floyd is quickly shifted back onto his main objective, though, when the princess’s Guard stumbles, bruised and hurt, into town and informs them that the princess was captured by an army of Bowser’s minions, the Lakitu. Back at Bowser’s Tower, Bowser reveals an additional motivation to his plot is to provide his rambunctious kids with a mother, and demands his chef make a cake that is one hundred times bigger than the humongous dessert he’s already made and orders the Koopalings to make sure that the princess doesn’t escape. However, when they go to check on her, the princess easily fools them by hiding up in the rafters and then escapes from her cell, locking them inside instead.

Luigi and the princess swap places, free Mario, and bring Bowser’s Tower crashing down.

While Mario and Luigi struggle to reach Bowser’s Tower thanks to the surrounding waters being full of piranhas, the princess proves capable enough to fight and threaten her way out of the tower by use of a “cape-achute”. Although the princess manages to get to safety and meet up with Luigi, Mario ends up crashing into the castle when he saves his brother from a Bullet Bill and winds up being chained up in his own cell. Bowser has his Mechakoopa’s deliver Luigi a threatening ultimatum to deliver him the princess or lose his brother forever and, rather than send the princess back into the jaws of danger, Luigi opts to have Floyd make him up into a decoy. While the princess resolves to go save the two, Luigi is able to successfully fool Bowser with his performance and delay Mario’s execution by ordering pizza for the Koopalings. The princess, who is dressed in Luigi’s clothing, bursts in holding a bomb and demands that Mario be set free; the Koopalings’ confusion soon turns to anger as Luigi swipes the keys from Roy Koopa and, thanks to a distraction from Yoshi, is able to free Mario just in time for the two of them to help fight off the Thwomps and Chucks who threaten to crush the princess, Yoshi, and Floyd to death. Unfortunately in the commotion, the fuse on the princess’ bomb catches fire and the tower collapses in a massive explosion!

Bowser recaptures the princess but Dr. Mario helps cure the Boos of their shyness.

Although blasted to safety and pleased with their victory, the group realises that they’re still stuck on Dinosaur Island so one of the princess’s Toads offers to fly back to the Mushroom Kingdom for help. When help arrives, though, it turns out to be a bunch of Bowser’s minions in disguise and Bowser himself shows up to capture the princess once again. After fighting off Koopa’s forces, Mario and Luigi are astounded to see Yoshi sprout wings from over-eating; however, in their haste to chase after the Koopa King, they end up getting lost and crash-landing before a spooky chalet in a fog-strewn forest. Luigi suggests that they rest in the house, not realising that it’s another of Bowser’s devious traps, and, despite Mario’s better judgement, the two are lured inside by the irrespirable smell of Provolone. Trapped inside and separated from Yoshi, the duo are attacked by Boos; although the little spirits blush uncontrollably when looked at, they charge at the plumbers when their backs are turned, eager to take a bite out of their behinds! Eventually, Mario and Luigi find themselves trapped between a gaggle of Boos and the mighty Big Boo but are finally able to escape by luring the Big Boo into a faux therapy session where Mario gets to the roots of the ghost’s debilitating fear of humans.

Mario, Luigi, and an army of Yoshis interrupt the wedding ceremony and defeat Bowser.

Having scammed their way out of the chalet, Mario and Luigi hop back onto Yoshi and race off to Marvy Mansion to keep the princess from marrying Bowser. Everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom is present for the wedding thanks to Bowser’s forces making up the majority of the guests and Magikoopa hypnotising the rest into compliance. With security type, and the hypnotised Yoshi’s willingly allowing themselves to be encased in eggs, Mario and Luigi sneak into the fortress using a pipe and end up being attacked by a Thwomp in a lava pit! While Bowser admires himself and his super sexy white suit, the princess throws a massive tantrum and continues to refuse to go through with the wedding, so Bowser has Magikoopa hypnotise the princess into falling in love with him. Thankfully, Mario crashes the party before the princess can say “I do” but, thanks to Magikoopa’s influence, ends up being beaten and tied up when the princess refuses to leave her beloved’s side. The ceremony is interrupted again, however, when Luigi and Yoshi free all other Yoshis from their eggs and the cuddly little dinosaurs quickly trample all over Bowser’s forces, including Magikoopa. After keeping Bowser from escaping in his little ‘copter, Mario fights his nemesis atop the gigantic wedding cake and merges victorious when the cake collapses, apparently taking Bowser with it, and thus saving the princess and the Mushroom Kingdom for another day.

Wario lures Mario into an ambush as payback for his childhood trauma.

The fun doesn’t end there, though, as the collected edition includes an additional tale that is basically an adaptation of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992). Unlike in the videogame, rather than Wario usurping Mario’s castle and forcing him to collect the titular six Golden Coins to retake his home, “Mario vs. Wario” shows Wario as the king of his own castle and inviting Mario to a reunion after twenty years of having not seen each other. In this story, Mario and Wario were childhood friends but their memories of those days differ wildly; while Mario recalls the two having fun playing in the garden, “[experimenting] with Coins”, and playing cowboys, Wario remembers Mario as a bully and a liar who got to get all the best vegetables while Wario got bitten by piranhas, how Mario got the Coins while Wario got flattened by a Thwomp, and (worst of all) how Wario was always forced to be the cattle rustler who was beaten by Mario’s sheriff. Mario has very quick run-ins with the bosses from the videogame, the majority of whom he has no idea are actually looking to cause him harm and whom he defeats (or kills, in one case) simply by being helpful or friendly. When he reaches Wario’s home, though, he is attacked by a big, mean incarnation of his old friend but Mario quickly takes the wind out of Wario’s sails, quite literally, by deflating his balloon-like form. Mario then makes amends with Wario but Wario’s grievances with his rival are rekindled when Mario busts out a cowboy hat and water pistol and casts himself as the sheriff once again!

The Summary:
Super Mario Adventures is a colourful, endlessly fun little adaptation of the Super Mario videogames, most prominently Super Mario World. Perfectly capturing the look and feel of the videogames, the manga-like presentation of the story is immediately appealing and the artwork is consistently vivid and amusing all the way through. Add to that the moments of humour, sight and physical gags, and little details like characters playing a Super Mario substitute (with either with Mario or Bowser as the hero) or Luigi and Princess Toadstool swapping outfits really add to the quirky nature of the story.

Mario and Luigi quickly transform from energetic plumbers into princess-saving heroes.

Mario is characterised as an energetic, brave do-gooder with a playful nature and a quick temper at times, especially when he’s scammed by Friendly Floyd. He is committed to helping the princess by any means necessary, whether it’s by fixing her pipes (oi-oi!) or rescuing her from Bowser and is constantly keeping his brother focused on the tasks at hand. While he’s not a complete coward or a stick-in-the-mud, Luigi has a running gag throughout the story where he’s constantly distracted by his hunger. At first, he seems to lack the courage to act without his brother by his side and would rather eat or slink away than work or fight Bowser’s minions but, when Mario is captured, he voluntarily switches places with the princess and uses his wiles to free his brother and he’s directly responsible for helping to stop the wedding and provide much-needed back-up when he helps free the Yoshis.

Yoshi proves a valuable ally though the princess’s fiery nature means she’s no pushover.

While Yoshi is merely just a cute, cuddly sidekick, his motivations are called into question when he’s introduced as the duo (especially Luigi) are initially worried that he must be intending to eat them, he proves essential to their quest thanks to his insatiable appetite and ability to sprout new abilities as he gobbles up Goombas and such. As for Princess Toadstool, she’s an absolute bad-ass in this story! Right away, she adamantly refuses to submit to Bowser and only ends up being captured in the first place because she chooses to bring the fight to the Koopa King rather than let him run roughshod over her kingdom. Indeed, while the duo try valiantly to rescue her from Bowser’s Tower, she actually escapes without their help and only ends up being recaptured because of them. In the end, her demeanour and rage are so fervent that Bowser is forced to resort to hypnotising her to force her to go through with the ceremony, which is something I’ve personally never seen him stoop to in any of the videogames or adaptations.

Bowser is little more than a blowhard with largely ineffectual minions.

As for Bowser, well…he’s a very loud, bombastic figure here and certainly commands a great deal of dangerous forces but he’s not actually very effectual as a villain. He’s more concerned with winning the princess over, the cut of his suit, and the size of the wedding cake than spitting fireballs at Mario and their final confrontation is pretty humiliating for the Koopa King. Indeed, Bowser spends more of his time delegating down to his Koopalings, who are young and easily distracted and fooled by the antics of Mario, Luigi, and the princess. Magikoopa is, without a doubt, Bowser’s most useful minion as, without the maniacal wizard, he would never have been able to subjugate the Yoshis and the rest of the kingdom and, when Magikoopa is taken out of the equation, it’s surely no coincidence that Bowser is buried beneath a pile of sweet frosting soon after.

Mario and Wario have wildly different memories of their childhood days.

And then there’s Wario, easily my favourite character in the entire franchise, who is reduced to a bitter, snivelling child thanks to a lifetime of resenting Mario. It’s interesting that “Mario vs. Wario” paints Mario in such a negative light; here, he’s extremely naïve and insensitive to the feelings and concerns of others and is focused only on having a good time playing with his friend without considering Wario’s perspective. Indeed, the ending seems to suggest that Wario’s version of their childhood is more accurate since Mario not only calls him a “wimp” for getting upset but goes right back to type by chasing after him as the “sheriff”. It’s a fun enough little epilogue to the main story but all-too-brief for an adaptation of Super Mario Land 2 and, while it provides an interesting twist on the Mario/Wario rivalry from the time, it ends up veering a bit too far away from Wario’s more popular portrayal as a greedy, disgusting, self-obsessed mirror of Nintendo’s portly mascot.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Have you ever read Super Mario Adventures? What did you think to it? Were you a fan of the manga’s quirky art style and humour? How do you think it worked as an adaptation of Super Mario World and the franchise’s gameplay mechanics? Did you read and collect Nintendo Power? If so, what were some of your favourite sections and inclusions in the magazine? Did you enjoy Mario’s other comic book adaptations as well and would you like to see another produced some time? Feel free to leave your thoughts on Super Mario Adventures, and Mario in general, down below and thanks for being a part of Mario Month.

Game Corner: Wario Land 3 (Nintendo 3DS)

Released: 2 May 2012
Originally Released: 21 March 2000
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Game Boy Color

The Background:
After his debut in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (ibid, 1992) Mario’s dastardly doppelgänger, Wario, quickly usurped Nintendo’s portly plumber as the face of Mario’s handheld sub-series. After the critical and commercial success of Wario Land II (ibid, 1998), Wario’s adventures continued on the Game Boy Color, a long-awaited colour upgrade to Nintendo’s popular handheld console. Wario Land 3 continued the tradition of expanding upon its predecessors, featuring far more emphasis on backtracking, exploration, and experimentation and would be the last in the series to release before Nintendo released the technically-superior Game Boy Advance console. Still, Wario Land 3 was a much-lauded success upon release and was eventually brought to the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console some twelve years after its debut, which is the version I’ll be looking at today.

The Plot:
After Wario’s plane crash lands in a dense forest, he stumbles upon a mysterious cave and is sucked into a magical music box . An enigmatic hidden figure beseeches Wario to find five other music boxes to free him from his imprisonment and, excited at the prospect of finding more rare treasure, Wario dutifully sets out to satiate his lust for riches.

Like its predecessors, Wario Land 3 is a sidescrolling action/platformer in which players take control of Wario, Mario’s mischievous and greedy lookalike. As in Wario Land II, Wario is functionally immortal; though he takes significant knockback from enemy attacks, he cannot ever be killed and faces no consequences for being attacked except being knocked from a platform or into another hazard. As a result, the player never needs to worry about replenishing Wario’s health or lives or being penalised for being attacked as long as they are patient enough to climb back up to where they were when they were knocked back.

Wario needs to re-learn some of his patented and basic abilities from the last games.

Wario begins the game noticeably less capable than in previous titles; he can still jump (shocking, I know!) and can barge into enemies with a shoulder charge but he can no longer pick up enemies and throw them…at least, not from the start. Instead, Wario must find power-ups in coloured treasure chests hidden throughout the game’s many levels to reacquire many of his usual skills, such as the butt stomp and the ability to pick up and throw enemies. Wario can, however, still roll into a ball when pressing down on a slope or coming off a zip-line to pass through narrow passageways.

Loot treasure from chests and use key items to expand the world map.

The main objective of the game is to visit each of the twenty-five levels found at each compass point on the overworld; each one contains four coloured keys and four chests of the same colour which house treasures, power-ups, and key items. Wario must collect each one to open up new areas of the overworld and progress further; this means that each level must be revisited multiple times with Wario’s new abilities and new areas opened up with the treasures and each compass point will only be fully accessible once all treasures have been collected.

Wario’s mysterious guide will help keep him on track when levels change and open up.

This makes the game much bigger and more confusing than even its predecessor, which featured branching story paths depending on the choices you made during gameplay; here, you constantly have to backtrack to old levels in order to open up new ones and, sometimes, key items will affect multiple levels at once. Thankfully, Wario can return to the mysterious figure in the Temple at any point for a hint on which level to go to, though it’s up to the player to figure out what’s changed in that level or which of Wario’s new abilities needs to be used to progress. The game’s overworld is split between the four compass points (North, South, East, and West) and Wario can quickly travel to each one by pressing the “Select” button on the overworld. From here you can also check on which treasures you have acquired, reactivate key items to remind yourself of where to go, and, eventually, trigger the game’s day and night cycle (which, otherwise, automatically switches to one or the other every time you finish a level, with the time of day also affecting the levels in certain ways).

You’ll need all the Coins you can find to beat the annoying golfing mini games.

Within each level, you can also find a number of Coins, including eight large Musical Coins; unlike previous games, though, the amount of Coins you have doesn’t affect the game’s ending and Wario’s capacity is capped at 999 Coins. Instead, Wario uses Coins to play a number of hidden golf mini games found in each level, which is necessary to open previously blocked paths and find more keys and chests. The golf mini games help to break up the gameplay a bit but is needlessly frustrating when you first play it since you’re not really given any direction on what to do. Basically, by moving the screen to the right, you can see where Wario’s shot will land on the field; you need to press A and then quickly press it again when the slider reaches a power level high enough to avoid getting stuck in water, lava, or the rough grass and then quickly press it again when it hits the blue area of the slider to take your shot. You get four shots at hitting the Para-Goom and, if you fail to sink it in the goal, you’ll have to pay some more Coins to try again. When I first played this, I was frustrated by the finicky controls and vague directions but, once you play it a couple of times, it’s not so hard to get the timing down and the 3DS’s save state feature really helps speed the process up.

Wario’s “Reactions” will allow him to find more treasure and reach new areas.

As in the previous game, Wario can still change forms when hit with certain attacks; these will briefly alter Wario in strange and amusing ways to help him break through previously impassable blocks, reach higher areas, or pass through small spaces and figuring out how to use these different transformations (or “Reactions”, as the game calls them) is key to finding all the keys, chests, and Musical Coins. When in a level, you can also save your progress at any time, see which keys you currently hold, which chests you’ve opened, how many Musical Coins you’ve collected, and even return to the overworld map all with an appreciated ease.

Wario Land 3 is made more difficult by all the backtracking and winding paths.

Compared to the last two Wario Land games, Wario Land 3 is much more difficult and time consuming; thanks to the abundance of backtracking and vague hints, it can be very difficult to know where you need to go and what you need to do. Thus, you are encouraged to experiment; if you see something blocking your path, try using all of Wario’s abilities as some will affect the obstacle or possibly even destroy it. When exploring a level for the first time, try to take note of your surroundings and out of reach areas as you may need to return later with different abilities to access these parts of the level, and be sure to visit the Temple if you ever forget the levels your key items have affected or opened up. For the most part, though, I found Wario Land 3 best played in short bursts of about an hour or so tackling each level in turn as they opened up or changed rather than trying to slog through it in extended sittings, which may have contributed to my more annoying experiences with the game as it never seemed to end.

Graphics and Sound:
Wario Land 3 was easily the best looking entry in the series at that point; thanks to being made exclusively for the Game Boy Color, the game is full of bright, vibrant colours that really pop out at you. While Wario is actually a little more subdued in his colouration, appearing almost monochrome, this actually helps him to stand out against the colourful backgrounds and, as you’d expect, he’s full of life and character, falling asleep if left idle for too long and scratching his butt when left halfway up a ladder.

Levels are more varied, detailed, and colourful than ever and change as you progress.

There is a lot of level variety on offer in Wario Land 3; each compass point of the map is home to at least six different levels and, rather than each compass point having a fixed theme, every level looks different and has different gimmicks contained within. You’ll explore standard platforming levels such as forests, deserts, volcanoes, and ice levels but also explore ruins, swamps, towns, castles, and caves. Each one has at least two different colour palettes thanks to the day/night cycle and, though they start off relatively small and restrictive, each one is quite large, with many different layers and areas to explore as you gain new abilities and affect the overworld.

Story has more emphasis and is told through little cutscenes that even include some dialogue.

Wario Land 3 has a bit more emphasis on story this time around, with short cutscenes playing whenever Wario acquires a new item to show how it has affected the overworld map. When you find new power-ups, a short tutorial will play showing you how to use Wario’s new ability (which can be revisited at any time from the pause menu) and there are a few instances of dialogue, primarily from the hidden figure, to relay the game’s simple plot. As you’d expect from a Mario/Wario title, the soundtrack is suitably chirpy and catchy, though I can’t say that it really made much of a lasting impression on me.

Enemies and Bosses:
Since the game’s plot does not involve the Black Sugar Gang this time around, you’re faced with a whole slew of all-new enemies, many of which behave very similar to those from the last two games. Accordingly, you’ll come across spear-wielding Spearhead’s who will prick you with their sharp weapons, Para-Gooms who descend from the air and shield themselves with spiked umbrellas, puffer fish-like Haridamas which sprout spikes when they get close, and annoying birds that fly across the screen and stun you but can make for a boost to higher areas if you can time your jump correctly.

Wario Land 3 moves away from pirates and doubles down on wacky, annoying enemies.

You’ll also come up against a bunch of enemies that will change Wario’s form with their attacks or abilities; Appleby and Doughnuteers throw delicious apples and doughnuts your way, Fire Robota’s spout flames, Hammer-bots relentlessly try to squash you with their giant hammers, floating jellyfish try to sting you, and Zombies constantly spring out when it’s most inconvenient to hurl their heads at you. For the most part, these enemies are placed in or near areas where you’ll need the accompanying Reaction to progress further but, equally as often, they’re simply placed to be annoying so if you don’t need a specific transformation be sure to avoid them.

Timing is key to getting past the bosses and to avoid being expelled from the boss arenas.

Wario has a tough battle ahead of him this time around as he must battle eleven different bosses in his quest for the five magical boxes; because of the nature of the game, though, it’s entirely possible to battle these bosses out of order depending on what abilities you have and key items you’ve found, which can mix up subsequent playthroughs of the game. With the exception of the final boss, each of Wario Land 3’s bosses requires three hits to defeat and, like in the last game, each one will expel you from the boss arena if you get hit or mess up, changes up their attack patterns as the fight progresses, and requires quite a bit of skill on your part to defeat. The Doll Boy, for example, sits atop a totem pole tossing hammers at you; you must avoid these and destroy his totem pole to bring him down to ground level then frantically avoid his hammer swings to jump on his head and finish him off with a shoulder barge. Similarly, Wormwould pops out of the ground to spit rocks at you that will send you tumbling off the platform if they hit you so you need to use your ground pound on his head before he gets the chance.

Often, the direct approach is insufficient to defeat Wario Land 3‘s bosses.

Each boss is unique and requires different strategies to get around their attacks; Wolfenboss has to be knocked out of the air by ricocheting a Kuri at the right angle, for example, while Mudee is fought while you’re clinging to a net and requires you to time a ground pound onto its body while avoiding its spiked tail. Anonster, meanwhile, can only be brought down to ground level by throwing its own web balls up at it, which can be tricky because it’s hard to judge the angle of your throw.

Pesce and Shoot were two of the game’s more frustrating and and time-consuming bosses.

Some bosses are more unique and frustrating than others, though: Jamano plunges the arena into darkness, forcing you to quickly navigate around the small area hitting four skulls to bring the exorcising light and Wario needs to avoid Helio’s infectious stings and ground pound a pump to inflate and explode the boss. Easily the two most frustrating bosses, for me, though were Pesce and Shoot; Pesce, a weird rat/piranha hybrid, can only be defeated by poisoning it with mouldy cheese but it’s really tricky to time the dropping of the cheese so the damn thing actually eats it. Shoot is similar to Dunk from Wario Land II in that you must beat him at a ball-based game, in this case football. You need to avoid being squashed by Shoot but it’s not made clear exactly how you’re supposed to smash him into the goal; the easiest way I found was to lure him near to the goal (but not too near) and then barge him when he’s bouncing in the air as I could never get him into the goal when the goalie was stunned by a ground pound.

Wario’s final challenge is a gigantic, demonic clown that is actually capable of killing him.

After finding all five musical boxes, Wario returns to the hidden figure, who reveals himself to be a demonic clown entity and the game’s final boss. This is the only time in the game that you can get a game over as Wario will instantly be defeated if the clown grabs a hold of him. You need to jump over, or duck under, his hands and stun his fists with a ground pound and then jump and throw the fist into the clown’s face four times to win. Honestly, the most difficult part of this boss was getting the timing of my attacks and jumps right as his fists swing at you pretty fast and it’s easy to lose your grip on the stunned hand if you’re not fast enough.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As mentioned before, Wario can acquire upgrades for his abilities and relearn classic skills from various treasure boxes. This includes an upgrade to his shoulder attack and ground pound to break through tougher blocks, being able to charge up an enemy before throwing it to throw it higher and further, the ability to swim (and then swim through currents), smashing objects from below, and performing a high jump by pressing up and jump at the same time.

Many of Wario’s Reactions return from Wario Land II and function in the same way.

Wario also assumes a number of different forms upon being hit with certain attacks or encountering certain hazards. Many of these return from Wario Land II, such as Fat Wario (who destroy enemies by touching them and can smash through special blocks), Fire Wario (who, after running around with his butt on fire for a while, eventfully becomes engulfed in flames to break through special blocks), Flat Wario (who is small enough to squeeze through tiny gaps but extremely difficult to control, with the game forcing you to desperately try and float him through gaps in vertical areas), Zombie Wario (who passes through thin platforms when jumping on them), and Puffy Wario (who relentlessly float upwards until he hits a ceiling or block).

A lot of Wario’s new Reactions are more of a hindrance than a benefit.

You can also become Ice Skatin’ Wario when frozen (more of a hindrance than a help), Snowball and Ball o’ String Wario to become an unstoppable ball and break through special blocks, Bouncy Wario (helpful to reach high areas but difficult to control), Bubble Wario (which can let you pass through directional currents to reach goodies but is often just an annoying hazard), Invisible Wario to get past Seeing-eye Doors, and Vampire Wario. This last one is pretty cool as you become a Dracula-type figure and can turn into a vampire bat by pressing B and fly up to new areas but, since this latter mechanic is the only useful thing about this Reaction, I’m not sure why Wario doesn’t just become a bat by default.

Additional Features:
There are one hundred treasures to find in Wario Land 3; you’ll need all of Wario’s abilities and certain key items to find them all as some are not only hidden in previous levels but also in hidden levels on the overworld map. Thankfully, you don’t need to find them all to complete the game and you don’t get a different ending for having them all but collecting all one hundred does unlock a time attack mode. There are also, as mentioned, eight large Musical Coins to be found in each level; collecting all of these opens up a fourth golf mini game if you just can’t get enough of that particular gem. Of course, if you’re playing the 3DS version of the game, you can also make liberate, unapologetic use of the save state system to make the game a little easier on yourself.

The Summary:
Wario Land 3 really surprised me; I kind of expected the series to get a bit simpler as it progressed but, if anything, the Land sub-series just got bigger and more ambitious as it went on. This is easily the biggest of this sub-series both in terms of graphics and its scope which is great for a classic handheld title and I can’t fault the game for being packed full of content but…man, is this a long, convoluted game. Wario Land 3 really kicked my ass as I went into it expecting quick, easy, pick-up-and-play gameplay and was, instead, forced to constantly backtrack and explore all over the game’s vast overworld and numerous levels. This was great for expanding the depth and range of the sub-series and makes for an addictive and engaging handheld experience; I tried to limit my play time to short bursts of a few hours or so but often found myself getting sucked into the game as I tried to track down one more treasure chest or unlock one more level for my next session.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you ever played Wario Land 3 before? How did you find it compared to the other Wario Land videogames? Were you a fan of how big the game was and its emphasis on backtracking and exploration or did you find it maybe to be a bit too ambitious for its own good? What are your thoughts on Wario as a character and his wacky sub-series? Would you like to see more of him and his unique gameplay mechanics or do you think he’s better suited as a side character relegated to mini games? Whatever thoughts you have on Wario and Wario Land 3, feel free to drop a comment below.

10 FTW: Dark Doppelgängers


If there’s one thing any hero can count on it’s that, at some point in their illustrious career, they’re going to have to face off against themselves. Sometimes, like with the classic Demon in a Bottle (Michelinie, et al, 1979) this is a metaphorical battle against their own inner demons and foibles but. More often than not, it’s a literal battle against an evil version of the themselves. Sometimes they’re from another world or a parallel dimension, perhaps they’ve used stolen technology or been cloned from the hero; other times, they are of the same race or seek to replicate the hero’s powers and usurp them. Whatever the case, I’ve always enjoyed a good doppelgänger, generally because they’re just like the hero but dark and edgy or more violent and, being as I grew up in the nineties, I like that kind of stuff. An evil version of a hero can help to elevate the hero by allowing them to overcome their failings and, sometimes, will even edge out of villain territory and become either a full-fledged hero in their own right or a line-towing anti-hero. In either case, today I’m going to run through ten of my favourite dark doppelgängers; evil versions of heroes who are just cool through and through.

10 Dark Link / Shadow Link

First appearing in Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo EAD, 1987) this shadowy version of the heroic Link gets the number ten spot purely because he isn’t really much more than a glorified henchmen for main series villain, Ganon. In true Peter Pan (Barrie, 1902) fashion, Dark Link often takes the form of a pitch-black shadow or a dark, distorted reflection and is able to perfectly mirror all of Link’s attacks and abilities. In recent years, he’s appeared more as a phantom and been given more definition but he’s generally relegated to being a sub-boss for a game’s dungeon and never the true threat to the land of Hyrule.

9 Wario

Debuting in Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Nintendo R&D1, 1992), this bloated, disgusting, twisted version of Mario is everything Nintendo’s cute and cuddly mascot isn’t: he’s rude, crude, mad, bad, and dangerous. Where Mario jumps on blocks and Koopa heads to save a delightful Princess, Wario barges through walls and tosses his enemies at each other to steal, loot, or recover treasure. Wario even has his own version of Luigi, Waluigi (who exists more for the sake of existing, I would argue) but, while he crashed onto the scene in a big way by taking over Mario’s castle, Wario has softened over the years. He’s transitioned from an anti-hero and begrudging ally to simply a master of ceremonies as Nintendo moved him away from being the star of his own series of unique games and more towards party games and mini games.

8 Black Adam

Created by Otto Binder and C. C. Beck, Teth-Adam was originally gifted the magical powers of the wizard Shazam and chosen to be his champion, Mighty Adam. After being bewitched and corrupted, however, Adam was stripped of his powers and withered away to dust but, centuries later, was reborn when his ancestor, Theo Adam kills Billy Batson’s parents to lay claim to Adam’s power. Black Adam possesses all of the same powers as Captain Marvel/Shazam but is also gifted with a pronounced mean streak and tactical genius; he briefly reformed for a time, even joining the Justice Society of America and building a family of his own, but his quick temper and deep-seated contempt for humanity generally always drives him into a murderous rampage that few heroes can hope to oppose.

7 Alec Trevelyan / Janus

Appearing in what is still probably the best James Bond film ever made, GoldenEye (Campbell, 1995), Alec Trevelyan (masterfully portrayed by Sean Bean) was one of MI6’s top 00 agents. However, wanting revenge against the British government for the death of his family and comrades during World War Two, Trevelyan faked his death and formed a criminal organisation named after his new alias, Janus. Trevelyan makes the list because he’s everything James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) was but twisted towards villainy; he and Bond were close friends and partners and his “death” weighed heavily on Bond’s conscious for nine years, making his betrayal even more sickening. In facing Trevelyan, Bond not only faces his biggest regret and mistake but also himself and what he could easily become if the fates were different.

6 Slash

First appearing in ‘Slash, the Evil Turtle from Dimension X’ (Wolf, et al, 1990), Slash was originally an evil violent mirror of the heroic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who often appeared in Turtles videogames and merchandise as a sub-boss for the Turtles to fight. For me, his most iconic look is when he’s sporting a black bandana, some spiked apparel, razor-sharp, jagged blades, and a heavy, armour-plated, spiked shell. Slash’s look and characterisation have changed significantly over the years as he’s gone from a somewhat-eloquent villain, to a rampaging monster, to an ally of the Turtles depending on which version you’re reading or watching.

5 The Master

Originally (and, perhaps, most famously) portrayed by Roger Delgado, the Master was a renegade Time Lord who rebelled against his overbearing masters to freely wander through time and space. While this closely mirrors the story of his childhood friend, the Doctor (Various), the Master was the Doctor’s exact opposite: evil where the Doctor was good, malicious where the Doctor was kind, and wanted nothing more than to extend his lifespan, conquer other races, and destroy (or break) his oldest rival. Though sporting a deadly laser screwdriver and able to hypnotise others, the Master gets the number five spot simply because he’s been overplayed to death in recent years. Time and time again we’ve witnessed the Master at the end of his regeneration cycle, or destroyed forever, only for yet another incarnation to appear and wreck more havoc. He’s even redeemed himself and turned good before, and yet still returns to his wicked ways to plague the Doctor even when his threat should long have ended.

4 Metal Sonic

Speeding onto the scene in Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993), Metal Sonic stands head-and-shoulders above all over robot copies of Sonic the Hedgehog simply by virtue of his simplistic, bad-ass design. A fan favourite for years, Metal Sonic has made numerous appearances in multiple Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team/Various, 1991 to present) videogames, comic books, and other media. Sporting a sleek, aerodynamic design, chrome plating, and a massive jet engine on his back, Metal Sonic did something no one had done at the time of his debut and not only matched Sonic’s speed, but outmatched it on more than one occasion. While Sonic CD is far from my favourite Sonic title, it’s hard to downplay the iconic race against Metal Sonic in Stardust Speedway or his impact on the franchise.

3 Reverse-Flash

Versions of the Reverse-Flash have plagued DC Comics’ speedsters over the years, most notably Edward Clariss (The Rival), Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash), and Hunter Zolomon (Professor Zoom). Sporting a yellow variant of the classic Flash suit and shooting off sparks of red lightning, the Reverse-Flash is generally characterised as using his powers to torture the Flash out of a twisted desire to make him a better hero. Reverse-Flash’s threat is increased by his tendency to travel through time, evading death and plaguing different generations of the Flash; Professor Zoom was even able to manipulate the Speed Force to jump through time and appear to be faster than the Flash. Reverse-Flash has also been the cause of numerous agonies in the lives of multiple Flashes; he’s killed or threatened those closest to him (including Barry Allen’s mother) and delights in bringing the Flash to the brink of his moral code.

2 Judge Death

Hailing from an alternate dimension where life itself is a crime (as crimes are only committed by the living), Judge Death is the dark counterpart to no-nonsense lawman Judge Dredd. First appearing in 1980 and created by John Wagner and Brian Bolland, Judge Death assumes the appearance of the Grim Reaper and uses his demonic powers to kill with a touch. Rocking a metal design (recently evoked by the Batman-Who-Laughs, another contender for this list), Judge Death takes Dredd’s uncompromising enforcement of the law and ramps it up to eleven. Alongside his fellow Dark Judges, he once slaughtered over sixty million citizens of Mega City One and, despite his corporeal form being destroyed or trapped, has returned time and time again to bring judgement upon the living.

1 Venom

Perhaps the most popular (or, at least, mainstream) of all dark doppelgängers is the alien symbiote who, when bonded to Eddie Brock (or others), is known as Venom. Created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane, Venom began life as a black alien costume that absorbed Spider-Man’s powers and abilities and sought to permanently bond with him. When Spidey rejected it, it turned to Brock and, through their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, Venom was born. Sporting a super simple design (pitch-black with a white spider logo, emotionless white eyes, deadly fangs and claws, and a long, drooling tongue), Venom plagued Spidey for years. Immune to Spidey’s Spider-Sense and sporting all his powers, but double the strength and viciousness, Venom has evolved from a sadistic villain, to an anti-hero, to all-out hero over the years but, thanks to their equally violent offspring, has been the source of much death and woe to Spider-Man since day one.


What dark doppelgänger is your favourite? Were there any I missed off this list, or do you, perhaps, feel the evil copy is a played out trope? Drop a line in the comments and pop back for more lists and articles.

Game Corner: Wario Land II (Nintendo 3DS)


Released: 2012
Originally Released: February 1999
Original Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Also Available For: Game Boy Color

The Background:
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.

The Plot:
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 uses brute force to get his way.

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.

Rather than dying, Wario is transformed, allowing access to new areas.

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.

There’s a lot of loot to find in Wario Land II.

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.

Wario Land II hides many hidden paths behind a linear veil.

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.

Everything looks and sounds pitch-perfect here.

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.

Wario Land II has some weird-ass bosses on offer.

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.

Each transformation has its own benefits.

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.

Wario Land II includes a few bonus games.

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.

Additional Features:
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.


The Summary:
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.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

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.