Warioware Review (GBA)

There was a time when the world saw the entire nation of Japan as a land filled with crazy people that do incredibly silly things for entertainment. We’ve all seen clips of Takeshi’s Castle and other incredibly odd Japanese television shows, and we’ve probably all come to that conclusion as well. When a game like WarioWare comes around, those viewpoints are very quickly cemented and set in stone.

Developer: Nintendo R&D1

Publisher: Nintendo

Released on: GBA, 3DS, Wii U

Original Release Date: May 23rd, 2003

There was a time when the world saw the entire nation of Japan as a land filled with crazy people that do incredibly silly things for entertainment. We’ve all seen clips of Takeshi’s Castle and other incredibly odd Japanese television shows, and we’ve probably all come to that conclusion as well. When a game like WarioWare comes around, those viewpoints are very quickly cemented and set in stone.

You see, WarioWare is pretty damn weird, and I’m not necessarily referring to the game’s content. Years before the release of the Wii and Nintendo’s desire to make simple games to appeal to the masses here was a game that required little more than one button and a directional Pad. Considering how limited the Game Boy Advance’s control scheme was anyway, WarioWare’s simplicity was a real surprise in the early 2000’s.

And what you did with those buttons was even more of a shock. To tell you too much of WarioWare’s gameplay would spoil a huge part of what makes it so great. The premise sets the scene perfectly: In a bid to come up with his next get-rich-quick scheme, one-time villain Wario decides to get into the world of video game development, but of course, he is far too lazy to do the work, so invites his many friends to chip in with their own ideas – This game is what came of this unorthodox partnership, a series of so-called “microgames”: incredibly simple minigames that take just a few seconds to finish, and are thrown at you in waves that gradually get faster and harder. You’re given a hint at the start of each microgame that consists of just a few words, and it’s completely down to you to figure out what you need to do and do it before your time runs out, losing you a life in the process.

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And these tasks are just insane. At the end of the day, these microgames usually boil down to pressing a button at the exact right time, mashing a button, or using various combinations of the D-pad and A button, but the in-game madness that surrounds this simplicity is so engaging in its surrealness. You’ll go from tapping the A button to insert some fingers into a pair of nostrils, to engaging in a Thumb War or hammering a nail without hurting your finger – With over 200 microgames to discover, you’ll regularly see something new. And weird.

These microgames are split into groups headed up by each of Wario’s friends, bookended by strange cutscenes that tell some sort of odd story for each of these weird and wacky characters, and it’s these short interludes that only serve to endear these characters, and of course WarioWare itself, even more. The real highlight, though, is 9-Volt’s series of games, all inspired by Nintendo products from their long history, with microgames featuring The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., and even a few based on Nintendo’s pre-video game history, delving into their toy output, such as the Ultra Hand.

You’ll never see all the games in a group the first time through either, as you’ll have to replay each character’s group a number of times in order to discover them all. And what if you have a microgame you really like? Well, any completed game can be replayed again and again, literally, as you can practice and even try for your highest score to get a medal. There are also other microgames and other silly mini-games that can be unlocked and discovered, so even though the microgames themselves are short, there’s a surprising amount of playtime that can be wrung out of WarioWare.

The Game Boy Advance has an incredible library of games, and here’s one of the very best. It is so well-suited to pick-up-and-play gaming, and due to its intuitiveness being a massive part of its game design, can be played and enjoyed by practically anyone. While each one of the WarioWare games is brilliant in their own way, this first instalment enjoys the privilege of being the purest, and probably one of the best ones as a result.