Despite holding a long time devotion to Nintendo’s handheld gaming machines, I’ve never played a WarioWare game. Those games always seemed to disappear from stores really fast, and most of them are for systems that essentially predate digital storefronts. If you didn’t buy them at release, it was hard to find them later on. I guess Nintendo considers them niche and don’t ship a lot of copies. I like the Wario Land games a lot, so I’ve always wanted to try the other big series to carry Wario’s name. Thus, I jumped on the newly released WarioWare Gold for 3DS.
WarioWare Gold, like the rest of the series, is a collection of hundreds of minigames that are designed to be densely simplistic and only last a few seconds. Nintendo has dubbed these microgames, since they’re so short. In almost all modes of WarioWare Gold, the microgames are played as a random, rapid-fire sequence. As the player progresses through the sequence, the microgames speed up and also get harder and more intricate.
Really, WarioWare is a test of mental reflexes. Since the microgames only last a few seconds each, the trick to success is generally being able to quickly recognize and mentally orient oneself to each game as it pops up. Even though they’re simple games, you have to think fast to be able to complete them before the timer runs out.
For the most part, the microgames aren’t terribly hard themselves, but they do get more elaborate on the higher difficulty levels. So for instance, there is one microgame that features two breakdancing cats. The first cat displays a sequence of buttons on screen that the player must remember and input to get the second cat to copy the other’s dance moves. At high difficulty levels, more buttons are added to the sequence and the game speeds up. The microgames come in 3 flavors: mash, which utilize the d-pad and a-button, twist, which use the gyroscope in the 3DS and require rotation, and touch, which use the stylus. Less commonly there are also games that require the player to blow into the microphone. The game does a good job of using the myriad capabilities of the 3DS in ways that are gimmicky, but a fun kind of gimmicky that works considering the frivolous nature of WarioWare.
The story of WarioWare Gold is about as flippant and unserious as you might expect from a game about 5 second challenges. Wario is home one evening and realizes he’s too broke to order pizza for dinner. He brainstorms ideas to earn quick cash and settles on the biggest scam of them all: video games. Deciding to hold an esports competition, he enlists the help of his surprisingly large social circle to program games for the event. The result is a tournament featuring hundreds of simple micogrames, because Wario is definitely a quantity over quality kind of guy.
The story mode contains 18 chapters (called leagues to keep with the tournament theme) that each feature one of Wario’s friends. The chapter starts with a short video that tells a vignette about the character and then features a sequence of a few dozen microgames themed around the character’s particular interest and personality. Completing the sequence unlocks a second video that concludes the vignette. What’s surprising is how much thought and creativity is put into each of the game’s many characters. These characters have been featured in past WarioWare games where I assumed they were given more introduction, but even having no prior knowledge of this cast, I still found them pretty interesting and likeable.
The personality and goofball humor of this game is really what makes it stand out. The microgame concept is a lot of fun, but Nintendo manages to really elevate the formula by putting so much effort into the presentation. It would have been easy for them to treat the microgames as simple, throwaway experiences that don’t require much attention to detail. But each microgame has little touches to the art and overall presentation that are good at leaving a distinct impression on the player. There’s also a lot of playful humor baked into the games themselves, as a fair few of the games are rather absurd in nature and then other games have hidden jokes and goofs.
I completed the story mode in a little over an hour. It’s doesn’t really take long to beat the game. After the story mode is finished, a number of challenge modes open up. Most of these function kind of like an arcade trial where your goal is to keep going until you finally fail, each time trying to beat the high score you set before. On top of these challenge modes, there are “missions” that add objectives to playing the other modes (e.g., get a high score of X in mode Y), and the coins you earn from completing the missions and story mode can be used to unlock a variety of collectible knick knacks and virtual toys. There’s a ton of replay value here, and I will probably be returning to this game on and off for months to come to try to unlock everything. However, I wish the story mode had been a little bit longer, if for no other reason than I enjoyed the characters and their misadventures and would like to see more of them.
All-in-all, I really wish I hadn’t slept on the WarioWare series for so long. Hopefully, WarioWare Gold does well enough that a Switch entry won’t be a long ways away.