Nintendo loves to experiment with the Wario Land series. The second game diverted from the first in that it was more of a puzzler than a platformer, as Wario was invincible, and the third game continues that trend by offering yet another twist: an almost Metroid-like exploration system.
This time, Wario finds a mysterious music box in the forest after crash landing his plane, and is magically transported inside of it. A strange figure in the box tells him that to get back out, he'll need to find five magical music boxes.
Most of the gameplay mechanics are still the same as they were in Wario Land II. Wario is still invincible, has his iconic ramming and butt stomp moves, and will transform into special forms if hit by certain enemies or attacks, allowing him to reach new areas. The game around it is a bit different, however.
Perhaps most importantly, once you start the game, you're no longer on a straight road to the finish with no way back. Instead, you have a world map on which you can select any level you've opened up right off the bat, to revisit any time you want. Each level in this instalment has not one or two, but a whopping four different exits, each of which comes in the shape of differently coloured treasure chests. Every level also has four keys matching the colours of the chests, so the objective is simple - find a key, and find the matching chest!
But this is where the Metroid-like twist comes in - not every chest and/or key is accessible right away. Each one has a treasure inside, and while a bunch of them do nothing, others can do one of several things, such as give you new abilities (including some from the previous game, which are not available right away this time around), change specific levels to open up new paths or even unlock a special mini-game.
This means that you'll frequently be revisiting completed levels to explore new paths with new abilities in order to find a new treasure, and unlock something else in yet another level. It also means that the game is pretty open-ended, as you can either just get all the required treasures (provided you know which chests have them) and finish quick, or stick around and collect them all.
On top of that, one of the chests in each level is guarded by a boss, meaning there are quite a few bad guys to fight as well. As in Wario Land II, these boss fights usually require you to not get hit - getting hit once will knock you out of the arena and force you to restart the fight from the beginning.
With 25 levels in the game, that means there's a grand total of 100 treasures to find. But the game is even bigger in scope than that - it also includes a day and night system, with the game switching from one to the other every time you open a treasure chest. This has a major effect on some levels (generally outside ones), changing the level's enemies and making the stages themselves either easier or harder. There are also 8 special big coins to find in every stage, which will open up a special level in the unlockable mini-game, should you find every single one of them.
Just like Wario Land II was one of the last original Game Boy games, Wario Land 3 was one of the last Game Boy Color games - and it shows, with impressive graphics and nicely detailed levels and sprites. Some consider the soundtrack to be a bit worse than the one found in its predecessor, but there are still plenty of catchy songs in the mix.
Like Wario Land II before it, Wario Land 3 is essentially more of a puzzle game than an action game. The concept has been refined even more, with a ton of stages and different paths, making it easily the biggest Wario Land in terms of scope. If you enjoyed the previous adventure then this generously expanded outing is likely to please you even more.