In 2023, Mario has had one of his best years yet, with Super Mario Bros. Wonder instilling new life into the traditional platforming genre. Almost simultaneously, the recent remake of Super Mario RPG is a welcome release as a charming and focused adventure that doesn't require 100 hours of playtime. Mario has had many rivals over the years, from Bowser to Sonic the Hedgehog, but the one rival who often begs for attention and validation is the enigmatic anti-Mario himself: Wario.
Wario was first introduced into the Game Boy's Super Mario Land series, before starring in his own Wario Land series of games. My first introduction was Wario Land 3 on Game Boy Color, and one of the most interesting gimmicks of the character was the fact that he simply did not die, and yet even the absence of death did not take away from the challenge and progression. As interesting as Wario was as a platforming anti-hero, the genre's landscape was simply overcrowded. More often than not, gamers would rather pick up and play a highly polished and critically acclaimed Mario adventure, with the quirkiness of Wario's platforming shenanigans being more of an acquired taste.
Mario's dear brother, Luigi, too spent a long time finding his calling and identity before finally discovering his niche as a ghostbuster of sorts. So too did Wario need to find a calling of his own, which took full form when WarioWare Smooth Moves took full opportunistic advantage of Nintendo Wii's effective Wiimote motion controls to create the ultimate party game experience. For someone who is seen as the "bad guy", Wario sure did an amazing job of bringing people together in the living room, perhaps in a way more compelling than Mario Kart even. WarioWare got people to step out of their comfort zones and enjoy being silly in front of their friends. We may have two amazing Mario titles in 2023, but let's not allow the latest release of his rival, WarioWare: Move It!, to get lost in the shuffle. With the holidays fast approaching, this might be the ideal game to get people to come together and have fun being silly.
As a collection of microgames, WarioWare still manages to stand out from the pack. The label is crucial here: these are absolutely not mini-games. You see, microgames don't necessarily have rules and design; instead like past entries in this franchise, the microgames in WarioWare: Move It! demand instantaneous reactions and adjustments to situations. These are often in the form of gestured responses to various scenarios, and more often than not, these are immediately apparent.
It needs to be said that the gyro controls of Joy-Con have got to be the most underutilized feature of the Nintendo Switch. I think the reason might be quite simple: most people use their console in handheld mode. WarioWare: Move It! would simply be incompatible with the Switch Lite, and so, the release is a welcome addition to the library as it is one of the few titles to fully utilize the Joy-Con motion controls. And it's a real shame when you think about it; the Joy-Con function beautifully as a successor to the WiiMote, and yet the titles that make full use of them are few and far between.
As a collection of microgames, WarioWare still manages to stand out from the pack.
I'll be honest, it was also a real adjustment for me to stand in front of the Switch and pose with Joy-Con in hand (I've completely misplaced my Joy-Con straps, I'm certain most of us have)! And another thing: WarioWare: Move It! demands that you make time for it. The story mode is filled with humour and charm, but being silly alone isn't really a growing experience in the slightest. Instead, the game also demands you make time for other people, invite them to your home and not a Zoom conference call, maybe chip in on pizza and drinks, but the important thing is coming together and having a laugh.
Wario may be the anti-hero, maybe the lone wolf of the Super Mario Bros. cast as he chases fortune and luck. But in the process of chasing the proverbial wild goose, he somehow got people to come together and step out of their comfort zone. Vulnerability is all about sharing a side of yourself you normally lock away, and sometimes vulnerability doesn't demand words, but perhaps actions, even if those actions involve making silly poses.
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