Platforms: 3DS (Reviewed)
It’s been almost ten years since the last WarioWare title made its way to a Nintendo console. The last release, WarioWare D.I.Y. showed that the old franchise had a few new tricks. It only had about 100 microgames, but included the ingenious ability to make your own. Yes, WarioWare was doing amateur game development before Mario Maker ever hit the scene.
Now, WarioWare is back with WarioWare Gold, and its list of over 300 microgames puts WarioWare D.I.Y. to shame. Yet somehow, it feels like this old dog has even fewer new tricks than before. WarioWare Gold is certainly fun, but it’s just a bit too familiar.
What is a WarioWare?
For those of you who missed the franchise’s first few installments, WarioWare is a minigame compilation with an emphasis on the “mini.” You are put through a gauntlet of what the franchise likes to call “microgames;” three second challenges that require you to figure out how to play them and win before the time runs out. You are given the smallest of hints before each game begins and are asked to complete a certain number without failing.
WarioWare built itself upon its bizarre identity of being a mish mash of practically everything you could think of. Some of these microgames ask you to pick a nose or win rock paper scissors. Others ask you to play three second chunks of older Nintendo classics. The charm of this franchise is the ability to see and play all manner of strange games.
Lots to see…
This is where the appeal of WarioWare Gold comes in. It has the largest library of microgames of any WarioWare title yet. Lots of games means lots of opportunity to play strange new things.
There are four styles of microgame in this compilation: mash, twist, touch, and blow. Mash games are played with the button and d-pad. Twist games are played with the 3DS’s motion controls. Touch games are played with the stylus and touch screen. Finally, blow games are controlled with the mic.
In the early stages of the main story mode, players take place in “leagues” that only feature one style of controls. As they move onward they unlock modes that mix and match controls styles, and eventually get to a point where the game won’t even tell you the control style you are using,
On top of this core gameplay, WarioWare Gold has another treat: full voice acting. It’s the first time we have heard Wario’s cartoonish friends speak outside of short voice clips. However, if you aren’t a fan of these voices, you can actually re-dub the game yourself using the 3DS’s built-in mic.
…for a short while
Four control styles, 300 mini-games, an enthralling story with lots of different modes, all of this should mean that WarioWare Gold will keep you busy for a long time right?
Well, kind of.
The problem is most of WarioWare Gold’s mini-games aren’t new. They are retreads of other games from WarioWare’s past. In fact, I’d estimate that fewer than 30 of these games are new, though I haven’t unlocked them all to check.
Why haven’t I unlocked them all? Because it’s a grind. WarioWare Gold’s main currency is, well, gold. You get it any time you beat a game mode. It’s this same gold that kind of saps the fun out of what would otherwise be a great game.
Money is the root of all evil
Any time you fail a microgame run, you can spend 100 gold to immediately restock your lives and continue from where you left off. This allows you to brute force your way through any of the game’s modes.
Let’s do some math. For beating a level in story mode you get 600 coins. Each run in Story mode grants you four lives, and averages about 15 games. You move on to the next game whether you succeed or fail. The only game you have to beat is the “boss” game at the end.
Since 100 coins refills your lives every time you die, every 100 coins is worth four lives. You get a free four lives just for starting a run. Spending 300 coins gives you 12 chances to fail, and coupled with the first four lives you get for free, you can literally fail every single microgame while spending gold to refill your lives and you’ll complete the story mode while still making a profit. There are literally no stakes.
So the story mode, which should be the most fun part of the game, is over in a few hours. What’s left to do? Grind out more gold to spend it in the prize shop. However, these random prizes are barely worth it, amounting to nothing more than character bios, small art pieces, and trinkets. You can upload some longer mini-games and challenges that remix the microgame runs in interesting ways, but these will also only hold your attention for a few minutes at best.
And what’s left?
So what do you do after you beat the story mode? Honestly, not much. The game has achievements which might keep you occupied if you are a completionist, and there’s always value in attempting to best your own high score. However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that that you’ve done this all before, at least if you are a WarioWare veteran. Even when playing “Sneaky Gamer”, one of my favorite returning modes form Game & Wario, I simply couldn’t muster up enough attention to warrant coming back. A mere two days after its release, WarioWare Gold is now collecting dust on my shelf.
Perhaps WarioWare Gold just wasn’t for me. I’m sure it would be a value to anyone who hasn’t played earlier WarioWare titles. Maybe you have to come at WarioWare Gold with fresh eyes, or maybe the fanchise’s quirky charm just isn’t enough to carry it for over a decade. To be honest, I just don’t think that WarioWare can sell itself on being a “best-of” compilation, but if Nintendo ever wants to make another WarioWare D.I.Y. perhaps for the Switch, I’ll be waiting.