The best thing about Nintendo's Virtual Console service is that it enables classic games that have never been seen for years to finally get the spotlight again in front of a new generation of gamers. Wario Land 2 is a prime example of this.
Despite being a fantastic, genre-changing platformer and one of Nintendo's finest side-scrollers, it was last released more than 13 years ago and hasn't been available since. Now finally back for the first time in a well over a decade, we're delighted to see that Wario Land 2 is still every bit the entertaining, content-packed platformer it was in 1999.
The game takes place shortly after the events of the first Wario Land, with the titular anti-hero sleeping in the castle he earned at the end of that game. As he catches some much-needed zeds, members of the nasty Black Sugar Gang break into the castle and start robbing his loot. To stop him giving chase, they then turn on a huge tap and flood the castle (much like the signature move of the Wet Bandits from Home Alone, '90s movie fans).
Wario Think You're Doing?
When he wakes up, Wario is, quite understandably, a bit miffed to find his treasure gone, his castle flooded, a big snake in his cellar and his pet chicken Hen scared off. It's up to the chunky greedmonger to restore everything to its rightful place, save Hen, recover all his possessions and dish out a hefty bum-boot to the Black Sugar Gang and its leader, Captain Syrup. Easy.
One thing that's clear when you start playing is that Wario is angry. This isn't your standard, Mario-type platformer where you have to use skill to avoid enemy attacks. It isn't even like Wario Land, in which Wario had a lot of power, but was still in danger of being attacked by enemies. No, Wario Land 2 has a unique selling point - it's a platform game in which the hero is completely and utterly invincible.
No matter what, it's impossible to kill Wario: enemy attacks simply knock him back and make him lose a few coins. It's a brave idea, one that's only been tried once or twice since - Kirby's Epic Yarn is a memorable example. You might think it'd make the game feel too easy, but it doesn't. It works, and it works brilliantly.
Don't get us wrong, it's great playing Mario games and trying to rescue Peach against what seem like overwhelming odds comprised of the very nastiest denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, but sometimes it's fun to be the bad guy and Wario Land 2's invulnerability only adds to the sense that you're controlling a truly mean customer. Rather than playing as underdog Mario you feel like you're playing as an end-of-level boss.
Not only are you invulnerable, you're also actively encouraged to subject yourself to enemy attacks at times. In a Kirby-like twist, Wario forgoes power-ups in favour of transformations. Not by absorbing powers, mind, but through his wounds.
Suffer a strike and Wario will turn into Hot Wario, running around with his backside ablaze until he turns into a huge fireball and can break certain types of block. Get crushed by a heavy stone (much like the Whomps in a Mario game) and he becomes Flat Wario, able to fit through small holes or glide through the air. Get stung by a bee and his face bloats up, enabling him to float up to reach higher, otherwise inaccessible locations.