Virtual Boy Wario Land is a painful, nostalgic experience

The unimaginatively entitled Virtual Young Boy Wario Land might be thought about Wario’s very first real standalone video game. Wario Land launched initially for the Video game Kid in 1994, however it included the subtitle “Super Mario Land 3” to not frighten anybody not sure about managing Super Mario Land 2’s villain. There are no such qualifiers for Virtual Young Boy Wario Land, which launched about 2 years later on. It was co-directed by Wario’s developer, Hiroji Kiyotake (who likewise declares credit for the style of Samus), and it doesn’t include Mario in the title or the video game itself. Virtual Young Boy Wario Land declares the title of being the very best unique on Nintendo’s worst-selling standalone console. No Wario video game is more underplayed, which’s an embarassment, due to the fact that it’s a deserving addition to the Wario platfomer canon, even if it resides on a platform no one desires.

Virtual Young Boy Wario Land makes the most of the Virtual Kid platform, which avoided me the majority of my life. I keep in mind basing on my tiptoes in a Sears outlet store, straining to hold my head versus the headset to see the future with Mario Tennis, all while attempting to find out why I required 2 D-pads – a concern that avoids me to this day.

Ineffective double D-pads are the least of the system’s issues. You play by looking into a headset that needs to be put on a table, which harms your back. Eye stress from playing is such an issue that the default settings of every video game force you to take a break every 20 minutes. Sales were so bad that Nintendo deserted the system within months of its release. Less than a million Virtual Kids were offered. For context, Nintendo’s 2nd worst-selling console is the Wii U, which offered about 13 million systems.

Understanding all this, I have still constantly wished to play one. The Virtual Kid is my greatest Nintendo blind area, which is paradoxical considering it is the Nintendo console more than likely to make me go blind. I’ve periodically inspected eBay for many years to see just how much the system costs; in 2021, my partner took notification on our shared eBay account and inexplicably purchased me one prior to I might discuss why I desired it, which was excellent due to the fact that I never ever might have shown up with a beneficial argument. The pre-owned system came with Mario Tennis, and I independently acquired Virtual Young Boy Wario Land. While absolutely nothing might have conserved the Virtual Kid, after subjecting myself to about 3 hours of Virtual Kid gameplay to finish Virtual Young Boy Wario Land, I think that had actually the video game been offered at launch, the tradition discussion surrounding the console might have been a little more favorable.

Virtual Young Boy Wario Land opens with Wario in a forest with layers of trees behind him telescoping into the range. The 3D result, present more than 15 years prior to the Nintendo 3DS would experiment with the innovation, is on complete display screen. Even Wario himself is shown in stereoscopic layers, his hands apparently drifting closer to you as they lay by his sides. After a brief scene with mysterious gophers and treasure, Wario falls deep underground, which is a clever setup by the designers to make the unusual Virtual Kid color design work: With the conceit that the whole experience occurs in a series of underground caverns, the red and black visuals feel right. You play the game by staring into a claustrophobic, darkened headset as if you’re peering into a cave, so to see Wario and his surroundings painted in deep black with red lines almost feels accurate, as if Wario is wearing night-vision goggles.

From there, it’s a proper Wario Land game, and I love it for that. Playing it felt like discovering an unfamiliar album from a beloved band, or watching an old film I didn’t know was made by my favorite director. I felt nostalgia for it despite playing it for the first time. You collect familiar power-ups, like a dragon hat that breathes fire, or a pair of horns that makes you more powerful. You pick up bad guys and throw them. You carry keys through the level to unlock the exit door. You suddenly find yourself wondering, “Maybe money is the solution to life’s problems and I should pursue it at all costs, even if it means getting hurt and shrinking down to a balding, shorter version of myself.” The platforming feels great, and the game features all the mechanics I love about the Wario Land series that make it stand apart from Mario. You make the climb up the cave system with each level, collecting expensive artifacts while enjoying fun little touches like a gopher who is sometimes hanging out watching TV during the between-level scenes.

Despite enduring the uncomfortable process of playing, the Virtual Kid really does elevate Virtual Boy Wario Land as a platformer. In an early-video game example, gigantic swinging spike-balls move between the foreground and background. They’re easy to avoid, but it’s an impressive technical showcase of the Virtual Boy’s stereoscopic tech. That awe maintains for the full video game. Wario jumps between the foreground and background, which is a satisfying motion to execute, and enemies are able to attack from all angles.

The bosses take full advantage of the 3D tech by throwing attacks at you from the background, and it all culminates in an unexpectedly terrifying final boss that reminded me of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s most horrifying boss with the least horrifying name: Bongo Bongo. Wario’s final opponent is a gigantic demonic floating face with disembodied hands, and you must leap onto his nose to defeat him. When he smashes the ground below Wario, it sends Wario careening into the background, where he lands on a bouncy platform that sends him right back into the foreground. It’s the kind of boss we would all collectively acknowledge as a memorable moment that scarred our collective childhoods, if any of us had actually played it.

Virtual Boy Wario Land is easily the Mario-antagonist-turned-standalone-protagonist’s most underplayed video game. It’s the proper sequel to Wario Land many of us were never able to experience, and that’s too bad. It’s a shame Nintendo never ported it to Nintendo 3DS where it may have flourished as a remarkable artifact and might be played as designated thanks to the portable’s stereoscopic abilities. It likewise would have been playable without backache, eye stress, and a headache, all signs I experienced thanks to my handful of play sessions.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.