The Double-A Team: Cheating your way to the top in Wario Land
Have a rotten day.
Is there a game you can play with your eyes closed? Besides a brief time when I fell asleep playing Mario Kart DS but woke up still in first place, my 'eyes closed' game of choice is Wario Land, also known as Super Mario Land 3, on the Nintendo Gameboy. Not that, obviously, I ever do play it with my eyes closed, but I'm fairly confident I could if need be (or for a bet). Back in the mid-1990s, it was one of the first games I ever completed and it blew my mind at the time. Sure, I loved Super Mario Land, but this was different - Wario was mean! It made a change to play as the bad guy rather than as the unlikely hero trying to rescue a princess or as a blue hedgehog saving trapped animals. Who wants to do all that when you can profit instead? That was one of the driving forces behind why I loved Wario Land.
The concept was a simple one. You play Wario, Mario's arch-rival, and you're homeless, having been kicked out of Mario's castle at the end of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. All you want and need is a new home to call your own. To get this, you need to collect as many coins and as much treasure as possible. Because Wario is a bitter sort, a humble two bedroom terrace isn't good enough for him. No, he wants a mansion or castle that's far superior to anything Mario could possess. Keeping up with the Mario Brothers? Capitalism gone crazy? Yup, all of those. Greed is very, very good here.
In 2D form, Wario was a fair bit chunkier than Mario. Maybe it was a reflection on how baddies generally are a bit more brash and cumbersome looking than the good guys? Who knows. All I know is it meant the game looked great on the Gameboy's small screen with Wario and his enemies all looking suitably chunky and well animated. Even now, it looks delightful in its dot matrix-y way.
Wario could jump on enemies like Mario, but his greatest strength lay in his choice of headwear. See, if Wario wore a humble construction style helmet, he could shoulder charge his foes and knock them aside. Alternatively, gain a helmet with horns on top and he was even faster and stronger. The more interesting hats were the jet helmet and the dragon helmet. The former allowed Wario to fly through the air (proving useful in speedruns) while the dragon helmet enabled him to shoot flames at enemies, both on land and underwater. My favourite was the jet helmet. I liked the speed it provided me with and the freedom that came from flight. Ultimately though, each hat had its own advantages.
This was most notable when it came to tracking down treasures or making sure you got every coin possible. Sometimes, you'd be better off having a 'weaker' hat to get ahead. It's a fairly easy game to complete, perhaps that's why my muscle memory remains for it. I can tell you exactly where every secret resides, describe in intimate detail levels that require you to move at speed, lest a cascade of lava catches up to you, and I have a cheat code memorised off by heart, allowing you to switch to any hat you want as needed. After all, there's no honour amongst thieves so why shouldn't you cheat liberally?