Wario Land II — Wario’s genesis

“Wathever you are, be a rich one.”

Abraham Lincoln?

Wario was conceived as the direct opposite of Mario, the hero recognized by all. Mario’s altruism and good nature are contrasted by Wario’s selfish values and greedy goals. The most interesting characteristic about Wario is how unlikeable he is. Gross, rude, self-centered, Wario is “unappealing” by nature. All he wants is money, and that’s about it.

As simple as this character may be, he’s far more lenient than Mario, as far as game development goes. A “Wario” game can be anything, if the end goal is a boatload of cash. Wheter he does good or bad, it doesn’t matter. If Wario can profit, Wario will do it. Although the original Wario Land and its Virtual Boy sequel were very unique and satisfied the need for gold-collecting, Wario Land II was the first game in the series to actually dive deep on the character’s philosophy.

Wario Land II isn’t like other platformers. Featuring a protagonist such as Wario, it couldn’t be like other platformers. In WL2, our protagonist does not take damage, therefore, he cannot die. There’s no bottomless pits, no lives, no checkpoints. Your goal is not to survive and reach the end. It’s much simpler than that. You just… have to get there, that’s all. Easy, right? Yeah…

Wario Land II
Wario Land II

Wario can’t take damage, but he can be hit. And, just like an immortal cartoon character such as Bugs Bunny, he’s squashed flat when pressed against an anvil. While Mario transforms when he gets a power-up, and in turn, gains new abilities, Wario “transforms” when he’s hit. Instead of getting new powers, Wario’s transformations are there to hinder you. Getting thrown out of the mountain, having to climb all the way back. Getting trapped inside a bubble, and you can only get out when hitting the ceiling or reaching the surface of the water. If you’re flamed by an enemy, Wario will panic and run around with his clothes on fire until he’s turned to dust (he’s still alive, however). Occasionally, you can use these “forms” to solve puzzles. Being flat lets you go through tight spots and float in the air. A bubble can go through water currents, and while you’re frozen, Wario slides through any enemy in his path.

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However, you’d be a fool to think of these “transformations” as tools. Wario makes the best out of the situation, but 90% of the time turning into a zombie means you can’t jump until you meet some sort of light. And that light may be two minutes away from you in the way you came from. Wario Land II isn’t a test of skill, but a test of patience.

Wario Land II

Instead of actually penalizing you for making mistakes, the game is simply taunting you. It’s making fun of you, trying to annoy you and chances are, it’ll do just that. In fact, the whole plot follows that same principle: Wario starts the game rich, until Syrup’s gang steal everything from his castle. In theory, you’re not getting anything out of this ordeal, just your stuff back. It’s a chore, not an adventure.

Wario Land II

Each stage features hardcore salt-inducing moments that aren’t even hard, they’re just simply annoying. You’re not even getting money out of it, because this is the first Wario game where you have to use your savings to beat it! Wario Land II is everything Wario is: gross, rude, self-centered, unappealing – unlikeable. And that’s the beauty of it.

Wario Land II

It puts Wario in a situation where he has to face everything he is, as sort of a “divine punishment” for his selfish nature. That’s the perfect introduction to “Wario” as a character. Getting through this mess of a game only leads you to anger, but are you seriously letting the game win? It’s laughing at you, are you gonna let that go? Of course not. After every stage, there’s a new stage. And then another stage, and another stage, and another stage. And after all the levels, you can play again, do a different route and reach another stage. Wario Land II features a massive campaign with multiple endings and entirely new levels for each route you pick. But all of these levels have the same design philosophy: you’re stuck with Wario, and Wario is stuck with himself.

Wario is the antithesis of Mario, as such, his game is an antithesis of what most would consider a “good” game. There’s hardly any fun, but you can’t help but keep playing. It’s a chore, but a chore you have to finish. Ultimately, Wario Land II will give you one of the most unique and interesting experiences in gaming as a whole. It sells itself on the concept that Wario can be anything, and despite being such an old game, it also raises a very cool question: what makes a game actually good? This game is, in my opinion, the true beginning of what made Wario one of the most unique Nintendo characters of all time. And Wario Land II is one of the most unique Nintendo games of all time.