WarioWare: Micro Minigames! - Stream of Insanity
Of all Nintendo’s franchises, I’d make the argument that Warioware is amongst the most - if not *the most* - bizarre franchises Nintendo puts out. It has an oddly modern, yet utterly irreverent vibe that sets it apart from its parent series. Wario himself kind of just existed in this odd void prior to 2003’s Warioware: Micro Minigames, in the same way I’d say Waluigi exists now. He was just an evil Mario, only really existing in a minor antagonistic role - even the excellent Wario Land games don’t do quite that much to set it apart from the Mario Land games. WarioWare is a complete shift for the character, turning him from a money-grubbing, food obsessed lunatic… well, to an equally money-grubbing, food obsessed lunatic, but now he’s got fashionable drip, ‘friends’, and an eye on the most profitable medium in the world - video games!
Previously, Wario had just existed in the same gameplay style as Mario - primarily 2D platformers, either in an antagonistic or protagonist role. And whilst he still starred in a few of these games - like Wario World for the GameCube or Wario Land 4 - 2003 marked a turning point for the character. WarioWare as a franchise is different to pretty much anything else Nintendo had produced up until this point. Instead of the platforming you’d expect from the majority of Nintendo games, WarioWare pioneers the concept of Microgames - essentially minigames that take less than ten seconds to play through and complete. At first, I remember, I wasn’t sold on the idea of it. I mean, Wario Land 3 was one of my favorite games at the time - why weren’t they making more games like that, and instead focussing on this uglier, weirder version of Wario? Oh this game is weird as all hell, that’s for sure - but in the end, I’d say that’s half the fun.
Mega Microgame’s gameplay is mainly portrayed through around a dozen or so modes themed around Wario and each of his compatriots - almost from the get-go, you’ll be thrown into a microgame. Mere seconds before you’re actually playing these microgames, you’ll get a message giving you a quick idea of what you’re expected to do - for example, you’ll get one saying ‘Block it!’, before transferring to the microgame itself, where you have to quickly have to move a soccer goalie to prevent a ball from getting in the goal. Bang, boom, it’s been three seconds, you’re done. But you’ve got no time to breathe, as immediately you’ll be thrown into a *different* microgame, and this is how the initial Warioware entry goes. Each ‘level’ can range from 10 to 25ish microgames in a row to complete, and these are all followed by a Boss Stage, a universally insane and more complex microgame to round out the level. Each level pulls from a certain selection of micro games, and these grow in complexity not only as you progress through the game, but in each level itself. As you complete microgames in each level, at certain points the game will inform you it is speeding up, increasing both the pace and difficulty of the microgames. Thankfully, the ephemeral nature of these microgames naturally leads them to being incredibly simple and easy to understand, with most of the confusion coming from the rapid pace they throw the bloody things at you. There were a handful, only a handful mind you, of microgames that just didn’t behave the way I expected them to - an example of which was the microgame where you have to keep a ball in the air by moving a Japanese businessman from left to right. Moving aside how stupidly funny the image of it is, the game doesn’t exactly convey which element you’re actually controlling, leading me to sending aforementioned buisnessman careening in the opposite direction. A few of the microgames have this issue, one of which led to me outright failing a level, but it’s not so widespread to really trip you up. And who knows! You’re probably a lot better at this game then I am.
Mega Microgames story is pretty sparse, no more than a framing device to get the ball rolling. Wario, upon discovering that video games make a goddamn ton of money, decides to make a game to get a piece of that fortune-in-waiting, roping in his ‘friends’ to do his dirty work of actually making the game. Whilst the game does ultimately end with Wario getting his game made, none of the stories that proceed each character’s minigame collection doesn’t really have anything to do with making video games. Look, I’m not really looking to heavily critique the story of bloody WarioWare of all things, I’m just not really sure how all this links up in the end. But anyway, as I said, each of the minigame sets are preceded by little adventures each character embark on for the duration of the set of microgames. These range from the banal and ordinary - like Jimmy T. just grooving in a disco, or 9-Volt playing a game, to the wacky adventures of Dr. Crygor… having the runs, thus leading to the flooding of his entire lab, finally to Mona speeding to work, and crashing as many police cars as she can in the process like the ACAB legend she is. It doesn’t amount to much in the end, but most of the cutscenes pulled a knowing chuckle or whatnot out of me - though more frequently it was the actual animations of the microgames collections that got me giggling.
And whilst from time to time the still artwork of Mega Microgames can feel a little undercooked (though that could just be Wario’s ugly mug talking), this game does a fantastic job of giving each character’s microgame its own general vibe and aesthetic. This can range from the toe-tapping beats of Jimmy T. 's disco theme, or the somewhat noir-city-pop fusion present in Spit and Drizzle’s set. But whilst these are all fun and good, they’ve got nothing on the microgames themselves. Good god, I genuinely believe that the team who made this game were on even a tiny bit of the devil’s grass, because this game’s general vibe and aesthetic can go from ‘Oh, that’s fun, just having a few seconds of Super Mario Bros. as a microgame’ to ‘eating a realistic image of an apple’ to ‘blowing up asteroids falling to the earth with lasers launched from a robot head that looks like it got pulled out of System Shock’. Seriously, there is no rhyme or reason to these minigames' visuals. You’ll go from gorgeous pixel art to straight rips of classic Nintendo art to some of the most abstract, odd, and occasionally disconcerting imagery you’ll ever see from a Nintendo game. This is especially entertaining in the ‘free for all’ stages that pull from pretty much all the microgames - the tonal whiplash is just really, really something. Simply put, I adore how Micro Minigames looks - it’s unlike anything else Nintendo was putting out at the time, with genuinely no rhyme or reason as to the micogame’s art direction. It’s amazing, and I guarantee half the fun you’ll have with this game, spitting out whatever miscellaneous whatever you’ve got in your mouth as you discover you have to make the realistic cat get its proper sleep. I sure did (potato chip).
In some ways, I’d describe Mega Microgames as having a bit more in common with a toy than a full-blown game; I say this in the sense that whilst what’s here is really, really good, there isn’t exactly a ton of it. The game’s ‘story’ can be completed in little more than an hour, and beyond that there's just remixes and some more fleshed out versions of microgames to play around with. You’ll be able to do each character’s story modes again, though without the normal limit you initially had to meet, though this leads to more quickly running into repeats of the same minigames you’re already doing. Additionally, it’s not like every character’s set of microgames is unique - there’s a lot of overlap between them, so you’ll be seeing a lot of repeats no matter which character you play as. I will say the game does come together well in the post-game ‘elevator’ endless modes, which will pull from a much, much larger selection of microgames, helping stop that repeating issue at least somewhat. I dunno, the game is really, really, *really* fun; but I’d say it doesn’t have a gigantic amount of staying power beyond playing around with the endless modes and maaaaybe unlocking some of the additional minigames. It’s not really a bad thing - I just see it as one of those games you play around with in short bursts whenever you feel like playing around with some of this uniquely branded wackiness - though it does kind of suffer from the fact that its successors, especially the incredible WarioWare Gold, kind of make this title redundant to an extent. But I have to remember this is the first game in the series - they probably didn’t even know the microgames format was even going to work, so I can’t blame them for having a smaller vision for this game then they otherwise would.
It was really, really delightful revisiting WarioWare: Mega Microgames. At least I know I haven’t aged out of the weird, dumbass sense of humor this game carries in spades; I think I’ve been laughing about Mona just crashing dozens of cop cars ever since I did her level. Anywho, Micro Minigames can feel a little basic at times - a short length and, depending on how long you play this title for, microgames can grow a little repetitive. But I digress - it’s a fantastic offering that really brought Wario’s character into his own, apart from just being an evil, dumber, greedier, fatter Mario, and seeing the little side-universe sprout up around him, as weird as it is, is fantastic… and we haven’t even met Ashley yet! In any case, Warioware: Mega Microgames is worth your time, be it for a trip to the past or to dip your toes into WarioWare’s wackiness - you won’t regret it, even if you have to look at Wario’s ugly mug for a while all the same!
Thank you so much for reading my review of WarioWare: Mega Microgames! Another milestone - 30 games! I genuinely can’t believe I made it this far, I half expected for me to be my good old lazy self and just give up after a handful. I’m just that kind of jackass. Anywho, there’ll be one more game this year, and we’ll be playing a Christmas themed game… which you’d actually be surprised how few GBA games revolve around Christmas. I mean, there isn’t even a Grinch game! As always, you can find me over @Lemmy7003 on Twitter, or you can email me on email@example.com if you have any questions or requests. Thanks for reading, I’ll see you in my last review of the year!