Video Game Characters on Life Support: Wario
Note: This is Part 4 of a series detailing classic video game characters currently in the gutter but written with hopes that the character can thrive again. Part 1 (Mega Man) details the reasoning behind the series, and here also is Part 2 (Sonic the Hedgehog) and Part 3 (Spyro the Dragon) if you missed them.
Wario was introduced in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins for the Game Boy. In it, Wario is the antagonist who takes over Mario's castle, forcing Mario to find six scattered coins which he needs to open the gate to his own castle and defeat Wario.
Wario's design was to basically to make him an uglier, fatter, crazier Mario. Due to the similarities, his name is also very similar, basically the "M" in Mario turned upside down. In Japanese, this carries an additional pun: the word "warui" in Japan means "bad guy" or something similar, so "Wario" is basically saying "bad Mario". Attempts to use the same pun on "Waluigi" aren't as appreciated.
Generally, which type of Wario game do you prefer?
Glory Days (Wario Land)
In 1994, Wario's popularity propels him into his own title - Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, for the Game Boy. While Mario's name is on there to drive sales, Wario Land plays very little like a typical Mario game. Jumping on most enemies only stun them - Wario can then pick them up and throw them to defeat other enemies or destroy blocks. With powerups such as garlic replacing the known Super Mushroom, and additional ones like bull horns and a dragon hat, Wario can shoulder rush enemies to defeat them and the dragon hat lets him (well, the cap) breathe fire to defeat enemies.
The goal of the game is to collect as much money as possible. There's nothing for Wario to save in this game: the more money the player collects, the better Wario's house will be at the game's ending. That's it, that's all.
The game proved very successful, quickly bringing about multiple sequels. This includes 1998's Wario Land 2, which had releases for both Game Boy and Game Boy Color. This game modified the original Wario Land's gameplay significantly. Wario can no longer die; getting hit by most enemies simply stun him. However, many levels become psuedo puzzles which require Wario to use his abilities - or get hit by specific enemies to become a certain status i.e. on fire, bloated, etc. - to clear obstacles. The game also features branching paths and multiple ways to reach the ending, including one where the player refuses to wake Wario up at the beginning.
Wario Land 3, released in 2000 for the Game Boy Color, offers more of the same gameplay, though now Wario must find colored keys in levels and match them with corresponding chests to acquire items that either unlock new areas or give him upgraded abilities.
Just one year later, Wario Land 4 was released for Game Boy Advance. Wario can once again die, as he's given a life bar, and now Wario must find one or multiple keys in a level and - once he does - must escape the level in a given time limit. Otherwise, the gameplay remains the same where Wario must make use of status effects and his own abilities to progress through each level.
While all this was occurring, Wario found himself becoming more well known thanks to him appearing in other games in a cameo role, including multiple Nintendo 64 multiplayer games such as Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, and Mario Tennis which introduced Waluigi (who hasn't appeared in anything other than multiplayer spinoffs).
In 2003 Wario would make a proper console debut with the short but sweet Wario World, developed by the well-renowed developer Treasure.
WarioWare: The Game That Changed Wario Forever
In 2003, a rather quirky title came out for the Game Boy Advance. In it, players would have to clear a series of minigames (or "Microgames, given most were only seconds long") in order to unlock more content. Perhaps as a selling point, a redesigned Wario was included and made central to the plot (he creates a company to make these microgames because Wario likes profit).
Thus, WarioWare was born, with the initial release WarioWare Inc: Mega Microgames. A multiplayer variant was released within a year for the Nintendo Gamecube. The two proved popular enough to spawn an entire series of these games. In fact, there have been more games in the Wario Ware Series since its release (7, not including the Gamecube version of the original) than Wario Land-type games (just 3).
The WarioWare Years
With the success of the original WarioWare, more games in the series were on the way. However, each and every one of them utilized some kind of control or feature gimmick to try and make itself unique. These include:
- WarioWare Twisted (2004 in Japan): built into the cartridge was a gyro sensor and nearly every microgame in it required the player to twist or turn their GBA to play.
- WarioWare Touched (just a couple of months later in Japan, actually came out BEFORE Twisted in the US): the first WarioWare for the Nintendo DS, the game made heavy use of the system's bottom touch screen as nearly every game required using the touch screen to play.
- WarioWare: Smooth Moves (2006 in Japan): on the Wii, the game uses the Wii's motion controls to complete microgames.
- WarioWare: Snapped (2008 in Japan): a download only title for the camera-capable Nintendo DSi, most minigames for Snapped made use of the camera.
- WarioWare D.I.Y. (2009 in Japan): this game touts the ability to create your own microgames but these would be similar in nature to Touched but with less control (the player could only make games where tapping is possible, not swiping or button control).
All these WarioWares but none of them truly had the same feel or style as the original, all of them revolving around some control gimmick for better or worse. That's not to say these games were bad, most of them were actually quite superb but after awhile these attempts just felt old and, ironically, stale.
What of the Wario Land series, you ask? A puzzle/platformer hybrid in 2007 for the DS came out called Wario: Master of Disguise. In it, as the title suggests, Wario must make use of disguises to progress through levels, but the game wasn't particularly well received.
A year later, Wario Land: Shake It! came out for the Nintendo Wii. Shake It plays similarly to Wario Land 4 (in that Wario must find a treasure then escape the level quickly) but also contains motion controls for Wario to grab onto - and shake - various objects such as treasure bags or other items. This game was well received. Oddly, however, it remains the last Wario platformer to see release. This was eight years ago now.
The Quiet Fade
Since D.I.Y., the only Wario title of any kind to come out was in 2013's Game & Wario. The only Wario 'game' for the Wii U, its a combination of the old WarioWare styled minigames with the infinite, score keeping style of the old Game & Watch games. Reviews and opinion of this game is mixed, at best.
...and that it. There hasn't been a Wario platformer since 2008, and only one new WarioWare game since 2010.
The only other time one can see Wario in modern games is in Mario spinoff games, like Mario Tennis, or Mario Kart, and so on.
Oh, and there's also the Super Smash Bros. games. Wario debuted in the series with 2008's Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and returned for 2014's Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. Given that there's barely been any Wario games during this timeframe, its been these Smash Bros. games that have been behind Wario's "modern" characterization. To start, the default design for Wario is based on his WarioWare clothing, not his original gold & purple set (though it is available as an alt). Second of all, while Wario's faults could originally be summed up as "petty and greedy", Smash Bros. Wario includes the word "gross", as Wario in these games openly belches, flatulates and otherwise portrays himself as vile and disgusting.
Perhaps the people most disgusted by this Wario are long time fans of Wario, be they fans of Wario Land or WarioWare, as their character has been left to dry with nothing promising in the horizon.
How would you like to next see Wario?
How to Revive Wario
One of the core problems previous Wario games have had is a general lack of promotion and advertising. Nowadays, Nintendo does a better job promoting its properties over social media and its own networks. Fire Emblem: Awakening got to be a best seller despite the relative obscurity of the series to that point, surely any new Wario game will be given proper promotion (assuming its not something like Game & Wario which nobody was really asking for, honestly). So, with that in mind, here are some ways Nintendo can revive their flagship character's knockoff:
1) Develop a proper 3D Wario game
By which I mean 3D graphics, not a game using the 3DS's specific function. Thus far, only Wario World qualifies as such, and while its a good game its not lengthy and not that many people have even played it.
A game for the Wii U, 3DS or the supposedly upcoming "NX" that puts Wario in a fully explorable 3D world where the main goal would remain collecting as much money as possible would still be rather uncharted territory for the character.
2) Put Wario (and Waluigi) in more main Mario games
For some fans, trying to see if Wario can appear in other games as a playable character is a bit of a vicious cycle, especially since Wario IS a playable character in the 2004 Nintendo DS remake of Super Mario 64. For the multiplayer New Super Mario Bros. games, many hoped or expected Wario to be one of the additional playable characters, but instead the player gets to choose from a blue Toad, and a yellow Toad. This happened twice (the Wii and Wii U games, specifically, maybe three times if you count Nabbit getting the fourth spot in the Super Luigi DLC).
In any case, having Wario pop up in Mario games (and not just the sports and party games) would be a great idea. Imagine Wario actually being an antagonist again in a Mario game. What if Mario & Luigi, in their titular RPG series, either teamed up with or fought against Wario & Waluigi?
Nintendo made a big deal about Luigi's 30th anniversary year, even dubbing it "The Year of Luigi". Wario's 25th anniversary is coming up (2017 to be exact), wouldn't it be great if Wario got to be an alternate playable character in a Mario game (or, you know, he gets a full blown Wario Land or Wario World game for himself, that'd be cool too).
3) Cut back on Wario Ware, if you do make one, make it far less gimmicky
Its no secret that over the last 15 or so years the number of WarioWare releases far eclipses that of the number of Wario Land releases, each one implementing a new gimmick so that it would not be too similar to any previous entry. Subsequently, the original WarioWare remains one of the best games in its series.
I don't doubt the main reason there hasn't been a WarioWare for the 3DS is because the 3DS offer no new gimmick a new game could take advantage of (3D capability doesn't really affect control schemes). I would even wager at this point the next WarioWare would be made for mobile phones, touch screens such as ones found on smartphones would be new control territory for the series. Given Nintendo's newfound willingness to try their hand at the mobile market, I would expect the next WarioWare to be for that platform.
Whether or not a mobile WarioWare is a good idea, that would still be yet another gimmicky WarioWare and still no new Wario platformer. If Nintendo wishes to give Wario any sort of respect, they'll lay off Wario Ware for awhile and focus on making a platformer once more. Still, if they can't resist making WarioWare Mobile or what have you, I would hope that at least it'll play well.
4) Turn Wario from Gross to Gross (Profit)
As mentioned, thanks mostly to a combination of Super Smash Bros. and very little actual Wario games in the past few years, Wario's personality has gone from greedy to putrid. I would almost imagine - and not positively - that a new Wario game might focus on this modern view of Wario and instead of making greed or money the focus of his motivations that instead a new Wario game would be full of belches, farts, and similar juvenile antics. It'd be a more kid-friendly Conker's Bad Fur Day in terms of presentation, and I would think not too many Wario fans would prefer that. I'm repeating myself here, but a platformer - 3D or 2D - whose focus is mainly on coin collecting and puzzle solving rather than challenge per se is still quite rare, a niche Wario can easily fill but not if his focus remains "that nasty Mario character who farts a lot".
Nintendo itself is in the middle of a transition - with a change of leadership and new hardware on the way. It seems, for the time being, Wario will remain on the shelf until Nintendo is able to reorganize itself.
I fully expect the next new Wario game released to be a WarioWare release, likely for mobile or perhaps their next console or handheld. Unfortunately, it seems Nintendo is content on having their platforming games be led by Mario and sometimes Donkey Kong, with Wario on the outside.