's sole adventure on the failed Nintendo Virtual Boy
, Virtual Boy Wario Land
(also known as Wario Cruise
and Wario's Treasure Hunt
during production), was released in December 1995, but it was too little, too late to help save the dying system. The game is one of the Virtual Boy
's greatest games, but its limited distribution and poor user base has left it exiled to the past. The plot finds Wario
trying to escape from the underground world of the Amazon Basin
after a treasure
hunting expedition went horribly wrong. Fourteen levels beneath the Earth's surface Wario
is in the for the fight of his life as he faces off against minor enemies and three bosses while snagging coins and treasures.
The game plays much like Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land as Wario retains his dash/body slam and jumping abilities, plus now he's picked up a run in addition to his normal walk that can be activated by holding down the L or R button during play. A new falling body slam also makes its only appearance in the various Wario Land games, but it's not overly useful in the grand scheme of things. The transformative hats have also returned and collecting one allows Wario to take on the powers of a bull (for stomping), eagle (for flying), or a dragon (for breathing fire), and collecting all three types of hats in a single level grants Wario the King Dragon Hat which makes use of all three special abilities of the three standard hats. The game's claim to fame was the inclusion of a "back" side to levels. Wario has the ability to move to the back end of the screen (which contains another piece of the level) and then back to the foreground by jumping on special springboards. For example, the foreground might feature a bottomless pit, but the background contains a safe path. Wario could cross to the background and progress safely. If you've played the Super NES title Super Castlevania IV then you're familiar with this technique to some extent. The object of each level is to first collect the key and then proceed to the elevator so that Wario can move closer to the surface. Greed is good in Wario's adventures, so to that end collecting coins and diamonds is the secondary goal, plus there's a secret hidden treasure in each level that's just ripe for the taking. Collecting the stray hearts that are littered around levels add up to earn extra lives. When the lives run out it's Game Over time and Wario loses the last secret treasure he picked up.
Just like all Virtual Boy games, VBWL is completely in red and black. The sounds are impressive for what the VB can accomplish, but they're nothing spectacular or memorable. Wario himself is a well-detailed sprite and looks more "alive" than in any of his other side-scrolling appearances from this generation of games (when he stands still you can see him breathing!), and as always he simply oozes personality. The game pak contains a battery for saving game progress and up to three save slots can be kept at once. The game even saves automatically between levels. This game is an extreme rarity today, but luckily it can usually be found on eBay for around $10 as most owners don't realize what a collector's item they have. Buy as many as you can - greed is good!