WarioWare, as much as I love it, seems to be something of a perpetual anomaly among Nintendo’s hallmark franchises.
It’s had at least one iteration per console since the launch of the Game Boy Advance original in 2003, and yet each seems to be a flash in the pan, generally praised by players and critics alike before invariably fading into obscurity. (One notable exception, Mega Party Games! for the GameCube, remains in my local multiplayer rotation some fourteen years later. That friggin’ turtle game, man…!)
The arrival of a brand-new WarioWare title in 2018, then, incites joy and trepidation in equal measure—will it find the audience it deserves on the 3DS? I worry that it won’t, given the world’s fixation upon Nintendo’s other console. Even so, WarioWare Gold is another winning collection of absurd microgames, albeit one that feels curiously lean for a game cobbled together from the best parts of WarioWare‘s stinky legacy.
A Story Mode is front and center in WarioWare Gold, depicting Wario’s latest get-rich-quick scheme with the unwitting help of his neighbours in Diamond City. Within this mode are eighteen collections of microgames, separated by genre and input style (touch, tilt, or button) and framed around one or more of Wario’s “friends.” The animated cutscenes that bookend these collections are innocuous enough, though I certainly wouldn’t call them the game’s main draw. Some are fairly funny, most are inoffensive, and all are over about as quickly as they begin. In fact, after I had completed the entire Story Mode in about two hours, I worried that I had missed something. I hadn’t—it turns out that its 300 microgames speed by in the blink of an eye, particularly if, like me, you’ve seen many of them before in previous WarioWare titles.
In a move as unconventional as Wario himself, the real meat of Gold, Challenge Mode, remains obscured until after Story Mode is complete. Structure gives way to depth as its previously-segmented chunks of microgame goodness are stitched together in more compelling configurations. Here is where Gold shows its capacity for longevity, with a number of macro-level rulesets that add much-needed variety and difficulty to the microgames on offer. One ruleset starts the action at the highest possible speed, making it an excellent test of reflexes, while another allows only a single mistake before it’s game over. There’s even a recreation of the mode from previous WarioWare titles where fledgling gamer 9-Volt has to hide the fact that he’s playing games after bedtime from his terrifying specter of a mother. If it weren’t so easy to breeze through Story Mode, I’d almost argue that gating these challenges behind a few hours of gameplay works against highlighting Gold‘s best assets.
WarioWare Gold‘s biggest draw—being a collection of the series’ best microgames—is also something of a weakness. Part of WarioWare‘s appeal is the sheer unpredictability of its bizarre moment-to-moment gameplay. I didn’t feel the sense of wonderment I’m accustomed to feeling with a WarioWare title during my time with Gold. Losing the element of surprise doesn’t make Gold any less fun, but it does make it feel like more of a retread than other games in the series. Newcomers are likely to wring the most enjoyment out of Gold, as it serves as the ultimate showcase of the series’ singular premise and off-the-wall gimmicks.