Originally posted on Kombo.
For Part 1 of this feature, click here.
Battered, Beaten, Never Defeated
After enough fun (and spoiling others’ fun), Wario rolled up his sleeves and got back to work doing what he does best: gathering treasure. With all his success up to this point, he surely must have felt invincible… which lead to a most interesting evolution in gameplay.
Rewinding things a little to 1998, before Nintendo became notorious for the frequent release of various Mario-branded offshoots such as those named above, Wario embarked on a new quest. Or rather, a new quest came to him, as Wario Land II for the Game Boy hit store shelves, with obnoxiously-loud box art and minus the Super Mario Land subtitle. On a small, familiarly-shaped island, day breaks on the castle Wario earned at the end of his first adventure, finding the anti-hero sound asleep in his bed. As he slumbers, a group of thieves known sneak into the castle, snatch Wario’s treasure, and worst of all, leave the faucets running until the place is flooded. The thieves, known as the Black Sugar Gang (or alternately, the Black Sugar Pirates), lead by his old nemesis Captain Syrup make off with the goods while Wario has a wet awakening.
In the last first-party title released for Nintendo’s legendary handheld (and re-released for the Game Boy Color in 1999), Wario’s adventure bears a slightly new look (his shirt now being short-sleeved, revealing that Wario’s as much muscle as fat) and new innovation as the titular anti-hero is now indestructible: Enemies no longer hurt him, but instead change Wario’s status, be it for better or for worse. For example, being force-fed fruit by one foe could fatten Wario up even more than usual, allowing his y bulk to break through weak floors; conversely, that same bulk could also prohibit him from fitting through a small passage, which meant that Wario would sometimes have to be careful of what transformations he allowed to take place. Weight
Instead of losing lives in this new system, Wario would instead lose coins when hurt, which would impede his progress should he find himself unable to afford to play the minigames which offer treasures and maps. Like its predecessor, Wario Land II had a relative non-linearity to it, and the first completion of the game allows Wario to find secret exits and hidden treasures on a map, all of which would contribute to a 100% score, different cut-scene progression, and finding “The Really Final Chapter.” Upon its release, the game was highly praised for its inventiveness, its “fresh spin” on the platforming genre, and other attributes.
Wario’s adventures continued in 2000’s Wario Land 3 for the Game Boy Color, which brought more advanced graphics than Wario Land II. It followed closely in the footsteps of Wario Land II‘s gameplay, most notably in the “indestructible” gameplay mechanic. However, this sequel differed in allowing a more free-roaming map for exploration, showing changes in day and night that would affect the levels, and allowing Wario to acquire more abilities as the game progressed; whereas he would start the game with fewer abilities than in Wario Land II, his arsenal would surpass it by the end.
In Wario Land 3, Wario’s plane stalls and crash-lands as he’s flying over some woods, leading to some exploration and the discovery of a music box within a cave. The box sucks Wario in, and the former ruler of that realm explains how an evil being sealed away his powers in the four different worlds of the music box, each containing numerous stages. He offers in exchange for his services to return Wario to his own world, and if that weren’t incentive enough, he can keep any treasure he finds. And once again, Wario’s outing would gain praise from the critics, making the franchise something of a Nintendo staple of the time.
2001 saw the debut of Nintendo’s newest handheld, the Game Boy Advance. Packing 32-bits of power (but no backlight), the new portable far surpassed Nintendo’s previous pocket-sized game machines. Though it launched with a redefined version of Super Mario Bros. 2 known as Super Mario Advance, it wasn’t long before Wario found himself back in action, seeking out a mysterious pyramid deep in the jungle. To get there, the game introduced the Wario Car, a classic-styled purple automobile with a twisted Wario aesthetic which has become associated with the character ever since. In Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, it’s said that the Wario Car’s top speed is 280 miles, but had to be tuned down to compete in the races.
Wario’s quest in the pyramid once again has him seeking out more riches, and finds him engaged in battles throughout, occasionally aided bay character who resembles Mr. Game & Watch. After six areas with four levels apiece, he ultimately rescues a princess who had been locked away some thousands of years ago, before heading back home, treasure in tow.
The gameplay diverges from its two prequels by making Wario invincible no longer; while he can still be affected by enemy attacks to trigger transformations, he has to mind his hit points lest he finds himself knocked out of the stage. A new challenge is presented upon reaching the end of some stages, wherein a frog switch must be activated with a key, after which Wario must race back to the start of the stage, lest he starts to lose his hard-earned cash.
Wario Land 4, while not pushing the limits of Nintendo’s then-new handheld, was still lauded by critics for well thought-out design and replayability. It also spawned a licensed choose-your-own-adventure type book by Scholastic, and is said to share the same engine with the later Game Boy Advance releases, Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission. The game was even referenced in an episode of the Fox sitcom Grounded for Life.
After four straight years of adventuring, Wario took something of a break from adventuring, and most of the gaming scene in general. With only odd appearances made in such games as Mario Party 4 for Nintendo’s newly-released GameCube console, as well as a shot in the Game Boy Advance title Game & Watch Gallery 4, some wondered what was next for Mario’s shattered reflection. But in 2003, Wario would find himself redesigned and redefined and a newer, more distinct entity.
The middle of the year would see fans of his greediness hit with a double-dose of Wario wackiness. The first game came for the Game Boy Advance, and was like no other Wario title to have come before it. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! follows the round one as he again attempts to make more money. But rather than risking life and limb for it, he sees how well video games are selling, and figures if they can do it… why not? However, making games isn’t all fun and games; there’s hard work involved, and for that part of it, Wario recruits a number of friends (wait, he has friends?) from around Diamond City to make as many games as possible, each influenced by their designer’s own unique personality and tastes.
Of course, the longer a game is, the longer it takes to make, and the longer games take to make, the fewer of them are likely to be made. So in order to optimize production, WarioWare, Inc. opted to create the “Mega Microgames” of the title– five seconds long each. Instructions? That takes money; “figure it out yourself,” a mantra many gamers have upheld over the years becomes a chief game mechanic as players are given a very simple demand, usually consisting of a single verb, and they have to figure out what it means and perform the task before the five seconds is up. And perhaps in the interest of saving even more money, many of the sound effects for WarioWare come from Wario’s previous romp in Wario Land 4.
Wario may be overweight and not particularly model-handsome, but apparently he still has enough brains to do what it takes to make money: WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! won numerous awards and high scores, and continues to be popular with many iterations, including a GameCube port of the original title called WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Party Game$! in 2004.
As noted, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! saw the character very much redefined, and not just by genre. The new title also gave him new attire, wherein he dresses more like a biker, with goggles and a yellow helmet with his initial emblazoned upon it, a torn denim biker vest with a dark blue shirt underneath, some yellow fingerless gloves with yet more W’s adorning them, a pair of pink pants strenuously held up by a belt, and blue shoes instead of green– but still pointed, of course. “Biker Wario,” as some refer to him in this outfit, was no longer a palette-swapped mockery of Mario, but appeared as a character in his own right.
In addition to a new look, Wario also gained a new ensemble of friends from across Diamond City. Among them are the disco dancing Jimmy T, love interest Mona, grade-school Nintendo fanatic 9-volt, taxi-driving dog and cat pair Dribble and Spitz, the kindergarten ninja twins Kat and Ana (how does Wario have so many gradeschool friends?), the alien Orbulon, and the mad scientist Dr. Crygor.
Speaking of Dr. Crygor, what is a biker without a bike? WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! introduced yet another vehicle to Wario’s fleet, the Wario Bike, also referred to as the Wario Chopper, a special motorcycle created by the twisted scientist. In an interesting bit of continuity, Crygor is also the one who created the Wario Car seen in Wario Land 4, and this newest ride shares the same sense of power as its four-wheeled counterpart: 5,000cc, 4-stroke, and a 350HP engine, capable of going 217 miles per hour… but can only get 5 miles to the gallon, as it’s such a gas guzzler.
With all this behind him, Wario had finally, truly stepped out from Mario’s shadow.
It’s His World; You Just Play In It
Of course, that wouldn’t be the last players would see of classic Wario. While R&D1 took their creation in a whole new direction, popular developer Treasure (creators of titles such as Gunstar Heroes and Astro Boy: The Omega Factor) had the opportunity to create a more traditional Wario title for the Nintendo GameCube.
Known as Wario World, the game was Wario’s first starring role on a home console, rather than a handheld system, and saw Wario back in his original duds (save for the short sleeves introduced in Wario Land II) and back in his castle, adding a newly-stolen Black Jewel to his pile of riches. Unfortunately for him, that latest acquisition was alive, a sentient jewel that was capable of bringing the rest of Wario’s vast wealth to life, and splitting the castle into four worlds the greedy one would have to topple if he wanted his castle and treasure back the way it was.
The main fault found in the game by critics was for how brief it was, as each of the four worlds was divided into two levels, each with their own boss, a world boss battle, and the final boss battle with the Black Jewel. While a 3D platformer of sorts, Wario’s main focus was on battling enemies through relatively linear levels which allowed 3D movement, with the occasional trapdoor leading to additional, optional treasures. Wario gained some new moves to supplant his usual transformations and power-ups, now able to spin enemies or piledrive them explosively into the ground, and suck up any resulting treasure into his massive jaws, which he would need if faced with death. No money = game over.
And for those players who would go above and beyond, an extra treat was available in the form of 10 WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! demos, though said player would also need a Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable.
Unfortunately, Wario World also heralded a new character development for Wario, as he moved from simply greedy and egotistical into the realm of disgusting, as promo art for the game depicted him picking his nose and bizarre cross-sections of his anatomy. It would become the start of a trend which would only escalate over the years.
Touching is Good, Greed is Good, It’s All Good
Eight years after the Nintendo 64 launched with solo-Mario adventure Super Mario 64, Nintendo launched a new, equally-capable handheld known as the Nintendo DS. And with it came a revision of the game that helped launch the Nintendo 64, known now as Super Mario 64 DS.
More than a mere port of the nearly decade-old masterpiece, Super Mario 64 DS brought a lot more to the party. Enhanced graphics, minigames, a map screen, and multiplayer lead the new features, followed by 30 more Power Stars to acquire throughout the castle, which lead to new levels and bosses being included as well. All together, it might just be more than one heroic plumber can handle. And so with a little revisionist history, changes were made so that Mario wouldn’t have to tackle this adventure alone.
The story starts out much as it did in the original, with Princess Peach inviting Mario to the castle for some cake. Or “cake,” for all the paparazzo types out there. This time, however, Mario doesn’t arrive by himself, as brother Luigi and of course, rival Wario tag along. The three head for the castle, where Yoshi is sleeping on the roof, just as he was in the N64 original. However, this time Yoshi finds himself waking up down on the ground to the voice of the Lakitu cameraman, who informs him that Mario and the others haven’t been seen in some time, leaving it to the daring dino to rescue his friends, and together, find all the missing Power Stars, face Bowser, and free Princess Peach from her imprisonment.
Wario is the last of the overall-clad bunch to be found, and as it happens, he brings the most power to the party, although his movements are slower and his jumps weaker than the others. By gaining the new Power Flower power-up, which exhibits a different effect on each hero, Wario is able to become Metal Wario, an invincible powerhouse who is unaffected by the buoyant effects of watery areas. And in addition to intimidating the various Toads trapped in the walls of the castle whenever he speaks to them, he can make the Toad from Super Mario Bros. 2 blush with his enormous feats of strength, capable of lifting the Big Bob-omb on the opening course’s mountaintop and hurling him across the valley below.
In addition to a playable Wario, Yoshi is capable of donning each of the other character’s hats, which transforms him into that character, complete with abilities and attributes, which is key to the multiplayer battle mode. And as a minigame master, Wario also brings a number of his own unique minigames to the title, though fortunately, these last longer than five seconds.
Touched, Twisted, and Smooth
The following year, Wario made another solo effort, this time returning to the world of minigame marketing in WarioWare: Touched!. After stealing a pair of Game Boys (he didn’t get rich by writing checks, you know), Wario accidently drops them down a sewer where they’re found by an old fellow known as the Sewer Guru. The Guru had also found a strange system Wario had never seen before, and decides to take the odd system, which Wario discovered was touch-sensitive, and ripe for a brand new breed of microgame that focuses on things such as different stylus gestures and blowing into the mic.
So he rounds up some of the old crew, plus newcomers Ashley the witch and her pet devil, Red; 9-volt’s big teen buddy 18-volt, and Dr. Crygor’s karaoke robot, Mike. Wario also gains a new alter-ego in the form of Wario-Man, which he discovers upon eating some odd-looking green garlic that seems to have been sitting in his fridge for too long.
Another WarioWare game soon followed on the Game Boy Advance once again, this time known as WarioWare: Twisted. The story begins with Wario playing (and losing at) a game on his Game Boy Advance, causing him to emulate many a frustrated gamer and throw the device at the wall. Despite the renowned durability of Nintendo systems, his Advance shatters, much to his horror. So he takes it to good ol’ Dr. Crygor, who tosses the hostilely handled handheld into his latest invention, which fixes it… only now, the device has no buttons, and has to be turned to make characters move.
Mona and 9-volt soon come in and delight at the new creation, leading Wario back to the one thing he always loves to think about: Making money. This leads to creating a batch of motion-detecting minigames with his friends, as well as the return of Wario-Man.
The included gyro sensor inside the game cartridge allows the game itself to detect movement, and is calibrated when the system is turned on and after minigames, allowing it to be used in all models of Game Boy Advance as well as the DS. It can also be used with the GameCube’s Game Boy Player, though doing so would require holding the console and turning it various ways. Needless to say, it’s not really advised.
Shortly after the launch of Nintendo’s Wii in 2006 and a nearly two-year hiatus, Wario kicked off 2007 with a return to the Microgames biz with WarioWare: Smooth Moves. The latest of the WarioWare franchise would seem to have a slightly less coherent story from its past installments, though that likely would be of no concern to some players. It begins with Wario gorging on snack cakes that are soon stolen by a creature known as a Splunk, who runs off with them to the nearby Temple of Form, leaving Wario to give chase. Once inside, Wario discovers a Wii Remote-shaped artifact known as the Form Baton, which prompts a boulder to follow after Wario in Indiana Jones-style once taken.
Smooth Moves‘ minigames act like the many others, only now focused on the way the Wii Remote is held and moved. The games are once again represented by Wario’s cast of friends, who each are faced with different problems and different ways of holding the Wii Remote. New members are added in the forms of Young Cricket and Master Mantis, Jimmy T’s opposite number Jimmy P, Dr. Crygor’s daughter Penny, and the birdlike Pyoro.
As with Wario’s past efforts, WarioWare: Touched!, Twisted, and Smooth Moves were all received favorably, which leads one to wonder just what went wrong after…
Blast From the Past
Before we get to Wario’s next starring role, however, November of 2006 saw Wario return to his roots in a most unexpected way as Yoshi’s Island DS, the sequel to the 1995 Super NES title of similar nomenclature, hit shelves. Developed by Artoon, it played in very much the same way as its predecessor, only now with two screens. This was a positive to some, though others have felt the games were a little too similar.
But the biggest difference came in the stories, and how that translated into the gameplay. The original Yoshi’s Island saw players take control of various colored Yoshis as they tried to reunite a lost Baby Mario with his kidnapped brother and the stork meant to deliver them. During this quest, the Yoshi is nigh indestructible, but when hit, Baby Mario would be flung loose from his back, kept safe and afloat temporarily by a bubble of “star power” that keeps the evil Magikoopa Kamek and his Toadies from successfully stealing the child until Yoshi can retrieve the tike.
In Yoshi’s Island DS, it is revealed that Mario, as well as fellow babies Peach, Donkey Kong, Luigi, and even Bowser and of course, Wario (or else we wouldn’t be bothering here) are each one of seven Star Children who possess, as Kamek puts it, “an extraordinary amount of power” that he and his lackeys want to claim.
Incidentally, that’s six Star Children. Who’s the seventh? We won’t spoil the surprise, but here’s a hint: It’s not poor, ignored Waluigi.
Kamek’s forces kidnap many of the babies, which leads to a rescue mission by the Yoshis once again. This time, each baby they carry on their back (swappable at Stork Stations) grants a different special ability, and in keeping with Wario’s greedy nature, his is the giant magnet he carries with him, allowing him to collect coins from a distance, as well as metal platforms within reach. But carrying Wario isn’t without its own cost, as he’s one of the heavier babies, making it more difficult for Yoshi to get around.
Turns out, however, that Wario’s baby tantrums were so annoying that Kamek’s Toadies wound up ditching the kid. The Yoshis found him, but instead of sticking around, Wario decided to follow a group of Bandits carrying coins with the hopes of gaining more riches. It wouldn’t be the last of Baby Wario’s appearance, however, as he finds his way to Baby Bowser’s castle, leading to the two arguing over the castle’s treasure.
Master of Disaster
The year was 2007, three years since Wario had been playable in action in Super Mario 64 DS, four years since his last solo effort in Wario World, and six years since his last Wario Land title appeared at the dawn of the Game Boy Advance. As such, it came as little surprise that when Wario: Master of Disguise was announced, fans were ready and eagerly anticipating Wario’s true return to form, this time on the Nintendo DS. A portable 2D Wario adventure, just how it began, and just how it should be to many.
Developed by a third-party known as Suzak, also known for their work on the Game Boy Advance F-Zero titles, Master of Disguise finds Wario sitting at home, watching TV and finding a show about a thief named Count Cannoli, who uses his magic wand Goodstyle to become the Silver Zephyr and create powerful costumes that grant him great abilities. Believing himself more worthy of the wand’s power, Wario does the only logical thing: He creates a teleporting helmet called the Telmet that beams him right into the show, where he lands on the unsuspecting Count and swipes Goodstyle. A wave of the wand later, and Wario performs his latest transformation, now becoming The Purple Wind (“Silent, but deadly!”).
As with a number of other titles Nintendo has brought to the DS, the majority of the controls are activated by the touch screen only, with the exception of moving Wario around (including crouching and jumping), which can be accomplished by the control pad, or using the similarly laid out A, B, X, and Y buttons. With the aid of the stylus, players draw various shapes around Wario on the touchscreen to trigger transformations which enable him different abilities. His default costume is the Purple Wind/Thief costume, with seven others available: the spaceman Cosmic Wario, paint-slinging Arty Wario, Crygor-esque Genius Wario, electrifying Sparky Wario, seafaring Captain Wario, devilish flying Wicked Wario, and the return (albeit slightly different) of the fire-breathing Dragon Wario, each able to be powered up by special gems. With these powers at his beck and call, Wario takes off through ten stages and many enemies, including other thieves after the same loot he wants.
To acquire treasures, minigames are involved, featuring the crude toilet humor that began to creep in after the turn of the century. Some of these minigames include cockroach-squashing (people didn’t like it in Final Fight Streetwise, no telling why this should be any different) and depositing piles of poo into the proper receptacle.
The game was not especially well-received by fans nor by critics, with the highest GameRankings score coming from GameSpy with a 4 out of 5; by comparison, even Nintendo’s own in-house magazine of the time, Nintendo Power, gave the game a 6.5 out of 10. Complaints range from the content being trite and repetitive to poor detection when drawing symbols for Wario’s transformations, to the suits themselves just not being all that useful, and tedious to switch between after awhile. Generally, Wario: Master of Disguise isn’t considered an awful game, but not really worth the money, either, falling below the standard of quality Wario has been known to stand for.
Warning: The following may contain spoilers if you have not played through Super Smash Bros. Brawl, particularly The Subspace Emissary. Read any further, and you have no one but yourself to blame.
In 2001, the greatest gathering of Nintendo characters throughout history landed on the GameCube in the form of Super Smash Bros. Melee, featuring dozens of appearances by Nintendo characters in varying forms, some as playable characters, some as collectable trophies. Wario, unfortunately, had to settle for the latter, though his old rival Mario could don the yellow and purple attire as one of many options. And such would become Wario’s role in the world of Smash Bros. until E3 in 2006.
When Nintendo revealed their newest console, the newly-rechristened Wii, they soon after showed a trailer for the next installment in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, Brawl. Many new characters were shown to be added to the roster: Pit, Meta Knight, Zero Suit Samus… and Wario, who rode into the fray in his WarioWare biker duds, and promptly crashed into a large rock. With all eyes on him, Wario just bore his trademark grin before his stomach gurgled and started to swell, and all those years of garlic eating finally took their effect.
The game’s creator, Masahiro Sakurai, soon kept fans updated day by day with what was going to be in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, be it new, old, and on occasion, mundane. Wario’s special moves were revealed, which included a large chomp he would use to chew on his opponents and a corkscrew spinning jump. His more noteworthy moves included the now-notorious “Wario Waft,” which would charge up more gas the longer he went without using it, and even pulling his motorcycle out of thin air to ride over his enemies… before it fell apart, and fighters started throwing the pieces at each other.
A new factor introduced to the game was the Final Smash, a finishing move which varied for each character that managed to deliver the shattering blow to a floating orb that would occasionally appear. For Wario, this would signal a change into Wario-Man, and would see his moves supercharged for a short amount of time. A video would reveal that Wario’s movements were not unlike that of Smash alumni Mr. Game & Watch, which were sort of jerky and minimal-framed, as a sort of tribute to the quirkiness of Wario’s titles. And, one of the latest facts revealed about Wario is that he would be the only character with two distinct costumes (not counting characters whose abilities change as well, such as Zelda/Shiek or Zero Suit Samus): Not only did Wario have his biker duds, but he could also appear in his more classic attire, with several colored variations of its own. Mario still had Wario-colored clothes, but now Wario had Mario-colored clothes as well. And despite the different appearance, Wario would still play just the same.
Getting into the act, Luigi also had an alternate costume which resembled that of his rival, Waluigi. And Waluigi himself? Sadly, he didn’t make the cut, leaving Wario to fend for himself against any Mario Bros. attacks, though he does appear as an assist trophy, able to be used by anyone. When Waluigi is summoned, he proceeds to stomp an enemy for an insane amount of damage before wailing on them with his tennis racket.
Wario held a stage of his very own as well in WarioWare Inc., a colorful set of platforms in an elevator that would take you to different floors with different microgames and rules for the Brawlers to adhere to within the short time given, with those who do not being penalized. In addition, various songs from the WarioWare games were included, plus at least one Assist Trophy in the two kindergarten ninjas, Kat and Ana, who would criss-cross the stage, slashing at foes.
Wario also played a significant part in the game’s new Adventure Mode, titled The Subspace Emissary. This more plot-laden (for a Smash game, anyway) segment takes place in a different world, however; these aren’t quite the same Wario, Mario, Link, and so forth we’ve all come to know, but rather denizens of a world of living trophies, such as the ones you collect throughout the game. And once a character is defeated, they return to trophy form, a sort of living death, though they can still be revived with a touch of their base.
As the story begins, the world comes under attack from a mysterious new force, and after Mario is taken out of the battle and Kirby rescues one of the two Princesses captured (Zelda or Peach), Wario shows up to blast the other one with some sort of gun that instantly turns her into a statue, before grabbing her and making his escape. He shows up later, still collecting trophies of other fallen heroes, before having them all stolen by King Dedede and eventually being defeated by Pokemon Trainer and Lucas. Soon after, he is sucked into Subspace by one of the many bombs the Subspace Emissary has planted around the world, and is revived by Luigi, Dedede, and Ness before joining them to take down their now-common foe.
Riding Off Into the Future
Wario has traveled a long road on his way to fame and fortune, with plenty of trampling the little guys on the way. Doppleganger, bully, thief, adventurer, brawler, racer, party-goer, entrepreneur… Wario has done it all, and yet he still has more ahead of him. As of this writing, Mario Kart Wii has just arrived, where he seems to have set up his own gold mining operation through which the drivers will race, himself included. And beyond that? Who’s to say for sure?
Perhaps one day, Wario will get another shot in a major Mario series title or an RPG, where he can show what he’s made of. Maybe he can even let his purported brother Waluigi in on the action, too. Super Wario Bros.? Wario & Waluigi: Superstar Saga? Paper Wario? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not.
One thing is for sure, though, and that’s wherever Wario turns up, he’s bound to bring some degree of wacky fun with him.
Special thanks to the Gamehiker Image Gallery for many of the images.
To see Part 3 of this feature, click here.