Released back in 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, the original WarioWare captured the hearts of Nintendo fans everywhere with its quick-fire gameplay and absurd, off-the-wall humor. Starring Wario—Mario’s greedy doppelganger of sorts—and his band of misfits in yet another money-grubbing scheme, WarioWare Inc.: Mega Microgame$ immediately distanced itself from other mini-game collections (such as Mario Party) in hosting over 200 “microgames,” of which stack onto one another in five-second bursts. Ridiculous in both concept and execution, yet bursting with inspiration: the addiction of WarioWare still remains one of the most innovative, original handheld experiences to date
StoryWario was spending his day in his mountaintop Diamond City home idly picking his nose and watching TV when a sudden news report informs him of a best-selling video game. Sensing another opportunity for cash, he speeds off on his motorcycle to purchase a laptop so he can make a popular game of his own! Then he discovers programming video games is really, really hard. Just as he’s about to give up, an idea hops to mind: he’ll just establish his own company and hire a bunch of schmucks-er, his friends, to make games for him! His new employees include Jimmy T., an afro-sporting disco dancer; Mona, an ice-cream serving girl; 9-Volt, an elementary Nintendo nerd; Dribble and Spitz, a pair of anthromorphic taxi cabbies (a dog and a cat, respectively); Kat and Ana, a pair of kindergartener ninja twins; Dr. Crygor, a cyborg scientist, and Orbulon, an alien dude. The products of their sweat and tears are now yours, the player, to discover.
GameplayThe aforementioned “microgames” were what rendered WarioWare so original: as opposed to the minute-long sessions of Mario Party’s mini-games, WarioWare layers a bunch of five-second concepts—whether they be jumping over wheeled potatoes, picking noses, or controlling a burlesque Mario in some sort of weird Street Fighter knock-off—onto each other, gradually increasing the pressure as the games increase in both speed and inanity. It becomes readily evident that WarioWare is a game that awards success via reaction time and quick thinking, and given the right sense of humor from the player, an addiction will quickly be born.
It cannot be stressed enough how perfectly WarioWare takes advantage of this newfound addiction, such as how Wario and his friends divide the microgames into themed packs. For example, Mona represents strangeness (Pick noses! Twirl spaghetti! Now chicken pinch!), 9-Volt presents a loving library of retro Nintendo-themed games (Balloon Fight, Donkey Kong, and the Famicom keyboard? Oh my), and Kat & Ana focus on nature (“Raaarrrggghh!!!”). Every pack is just as fresh and creative as the last and players will want to keep diving back to not just achieve a high score, but to unlock every last microgame for individual play.
Aesthetics and HumorThrough the magic of 2D sprite animation, WarioWare’s visuals successfully capture zany Japanese humor. Anyone who’s not well-versed in said Japanese humor will be in for some culture shock, as the microgames’ aesthetics change on a dime, such as a retro anime-styled woman sniffing up a loogie, extreme forms of minimalistic artwork, and fun takes on obvious photo-captures. The character of Wario was no stranger to weirdness beforehand, but this game takes it to another level entirely.
However, with humor being an acquired taste as it is, it may be the breaking point for certain folks who don’t find WarioWare’s brand of insanity to be their cup of tea. This is not in any way a knock against the game’s actual graphics and animation (although a couple of character cutscenes haven’t aged too well), but if a particular player finds themselves scarred by the sight of potato facials and all that, there’s nothing that can be done.
SoundBut just what is the secret ingredient to WarioWare’s humor? It all lies in the game’s use of sound, as while WarioWare does not boast an incredible soundtrack of any sort, but it doesn’t need to. What it really excels in is masterfully applying sound effects in every facet of the game. Take Jimmy T.’s basketball microgame, which consists of a shadowy man preparing himself to take a shot at the basket. Its minimalist visuals are malleable to any sort of sound direction, and so we take witness of jazzy saxophone music in the background as the basketball player’s hops are accompanied by spring noises. Every microgame is full of hysterical touches like this to the point where I’m always shaking my head in amusement.
Of course, simply dismissing the overall soundtrack would be a mistake. While it mostly serves as a backdrop to all the zaniness going on, there are some brilliant pieces here and there. Players will probably take note of the beautiful, super serious Japanese vocal song that plays throughout Kat and Ana’s section, even when you’re snapping a photo of a flying squirrel.
Replay ValueThe real magic of WarioWare lies in its flexibility of playtime. Need to cram a quick three-minute session before class starts? Don’t worry, you’ve got your fix. Got nothing to do for an hour? Your high score in Orbulon’s I.Q. section is waiting to be felled. It’s a prime example of a pick-up-and-play video game, suited for just about any idle moment to snag your attention for however long you need it. With how every individual micro-game can be accessed for high score play and an array of full-length mini-games to unlock (including a strangely familiar puzzle parody involving doctors and viruses), the fun never ends with Wario and company.
- One of the funniest games ever made
- Innovative and original in every fabric of its being
- Addictive gameplay
- Unlockable features and mini-games are a blast
- Hilarious use of sound effects and music
- Infinite, flexible replayability
- Might be too weird for some
- Occasional dated visuals
SummaryIs WarioWare crazy? Beyond a doubt. Too crazy? Maybe, but WarioWare has no patience for those unwilling to get some fingers dirty digging for gold. Regardless of your personal taste in humor, its relentlessly wild direction is still one of the most creative, joyous products in Nintendo's handheld history. Whether you're in the market for used GBA cartridges, scrolling through the Wii U Virtual Console catalog, or were one of the lucky 3DS Ambassadors, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ is the perfect choice for a pick-me-up.
Reflection: This is definitely the odd duck of my Gaming Grunts reviews. Their subject matter were all quite recent, yet here we have a game that's well over a decade old. Thing is, the site actually encouraged us to discuss retro games ("they're proving popular with collectors," I was told), and so I figured why not write about a game I'd been revisiting at the time? One I still happened to love, at that.
Regardless, I was really happy with how it came out. The first three WarioWare games are nothing less than classics, and I can't wait to fully discuss them later this year.