What to make of Wario in 2018? From one perspective, he's been all but absent for a while, shuffled into Mario Kart and Mario Tennis, but with no new instalments of the WarioWare series since Game & Wario in 2013. Look at it a bit differently though - tilt your head and squint - and he's everywhere. WarioWare is everywhere! The idea of nutty quick-fire games that you prod, shake and swipe through has spread from being a niche thing - I remember hearing about the first WarioWare game back on the GBA and genuinely not knowing what to make of it - to being the kind of stuff that keeps App stores running smoothly.
So, what to make of WarioWare Gold? It's sort of a compilation, drawing its microgames from all previous entries in the series, which means you touch, swipe, mash buttons, tilt the 3DS and blow into its microphone to get things done. But it also throws in a bunch of entirely new microgames to slot in alongside the old stuff. And the art's been redone, I think, or at least it's never looked quite as sharp-edged and bright as this. And there's a new campaign! With a new art style yet again, and fully-voiced characters, which could, conceivably, be the only thing that's been missing from your life until now.
In truth, it's been long enough that Gold feels surprisingly fresh anyway. The new games fit so neatly in alongside the old ones that I would struggle to tell them apart. The ninja who slots himself between falling arrows - that's old, right? The lady dealing with snot, the robot punching away a giant bulb of garlic in low orbit. But the hunt through the 3D dungeon maze? That's new? The one about threading your thin dancers in around fat dancers? That's new? The retro-game collections that now draw from Mario Sunshine, from Animal Crossing? Those feel new? Beyond the obvious additions, there is no saying, really, where compilation ends and fresh imagination takes over, and that's as it should be. WarioWare is so breathless in its five-second challenges, so eager to wing them at you before you have time to duck, that I've never really felt I had the measure of any one game in its totality. I never felt that I saw everything that WarioWare had to offer.
Gold certainly has a lot to offer - for starters there's a campaign split into three tiers of five events each, split across button-mashing, tilting, and jabbing the touchscreen. Complete those and you get three extra Ultra League events, which mix things up even more, all of this with familiar characters returning to tell a suitably zany story. It's surprisingly tricky to go from mashing buttons one moment to tapping the touchscreen the next. I feel a genuinel thrill of panic.
After that, though, there's still more. There are missions, a theft from smartphone games, which reward you for completing certain objectives across the microgames themselves: score a certain amount in a certain tier, for example, or unlock all the games available from a certain character. Missions and story mode wins shower you with coins that you can spend on a capsule machine, too, unlocking records, mini-games, movies, bits of Nintendo lore and all sorts of other things. I am still rooting through it, each spin of the capsule machine a joy. There's amiibo stuff, multiplayer stuff for two players over local wireless, and you can even re-record the game's mini-movies with your own voiceovers. Maybe that's all that's been missing from your life.
All of this is great, for sure. But listen, the really special stuff lies tucked away on a screen called Challenges.
Cripes, challenges are the absolute best: stacked collections of microgames that rework the rules in weird ways. One of them sees you changing the speed of the microgames you play through by tilting the 3DS forward or backwards. Another sees Wario himself trying to distract you as you play, dangling things in front of the screen or covering it with ink. My very favourite so far is an utterly exhausting affair in which, the second a game finishes on one screen, another starts on the other. Back and forth, back and forth until my head is spinning.
And that's what to make of Wario in 2018, I think. I picked up my 3DS yesterday in a truly horrible mood - annoyed about this and that, worried about a dozen tiny little things. And yet after the first two minutes of playing, all of that was cast aside. WarioWare is a glitter-trumpet of manic good cheer, and someone's lifted it to your ear and is now playing Le Marseillais backwards down it. Give in. Give in to Wario. And bring an amiibo or two along because I think they do something quite cool on this outing.
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