8.3
Score

Pros

  • A mix of new and old microgames in one place
  • Full voice acting
  • A bevy of unlockables to keep people coming back
  • No 3D graphics gimmick

Cons

  • The story feels perfunctory at times
  • Some microgame categories feel underdeveloped
  • Is Wario an anti-hero? Or a villain? It feels more unclear than ever.

Stuffed With Fun and Games

Though it’s been absent for nearly a decade, WarioWare Gold is evidence of why this franchise needs to continue. In what is likely the best entry in the series, it feels like the capabilities of the 3DS were a shot in the arm to the developers at Nintendo and Intelligent Systems. Everything from traditional buttons to the built in gyro sensor, to the microphone are used in inventive ways, in microgames both new and old. This is far from the Greatest Hits compilation some may have expected – unlocking all the microgames and finishing the story might take a day, but there’s so much else to explore and unlock, the game might stay in your rotation for a deceptively long time.

I’m reminded of Smash Bros in a way. Though WarioWare games are traditionally meant for parties and groups of friends, I can see people playing by themselves to farm gold coins to unlock more stuff. Unlockables are doled out by a capsule toy machine, and these goodies can range from a golf minigame, to a mode where you’re able to dub over a cutscene with your own voice. Some of the unlockables aren’t meant for some higher level of play, but they’re fun additions that make the game feel deeper than you’d expect. They’re cool bonuses.

Going back to the cutscenes for a moment, they’re presented with such straightforward confidence and production quality, that they feel as absurd as the rest of the game. The cast is fully voiced (including Charles Martinet as Wario), and the visuals have a wacky, fun anime quality. The story involves the ever-scheming Wario conning his friends into making video games for him to host in an upcoming tournament. Though everyone should know Wario is a notorious thief and liar who’s just going to keep all the prizes for himself, they help him anyway. 

Microgames can be as simple as picking the sushi someone wants.

Of course, there’s a hero, Lulu, who sets out to stop Wario’s misdeeds, but her role feels more like a formality than anything else. This ends up working out okay, since the focus is more on the microgames, but it would have been nice to see Lulu elevated to the heights of other memorable characters in this series, like 9-Volt and Ashley. Overall, the presentation feels very un-Nintendo, which makes it a perfect fit. I was reminded both of Sushi Striker from earlier this year, as well as cartoons you’d see on Adult Swim. It’s a style I hope they improve on in the inevitable Switch iteration.

Looking back on the WarioWare series, it’s amazing how far it’s come. I remember it being a big deal that WarioWare: Twisted had a special gyro sensor built into the Game Boy Advance cartridge, and now that functionality is just baked into the 3DS, and those microgames are just part of a larger whole. Gold feels like the ultimate representation of this series, and sets a template for where it could go in the future. Nintendo consoles have so many capabilities now, that sticking to one gimmick feels like a thing of the past. I imagine the next WarioWare will take the ideas Gold lays down and run full-tilt into ever more inventive gameplay moments.

Not the version of 1-1 that blew my mind, but this is special, too.

Since microgames are only meant to be 1-5 second experiences that test your skills and reflexes, there’s a tendency to underestimate this series and expect every game to be an easy pass. While it’s difficult to make some of these games hard (other than giving you less time to complete them), I still found myself occasionally tripped up by what I was expected to do. For example, there’s a special recreation of World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros that I whiffed on, because the way the game presented it blew my mind. Some people may find little to enjoy about making these games hard, and that’s not a wrong view at all; but for those who like the challenge, Gold knows how to turn it up.

As it is, Gold is a complete package. It’s a vision for where the series will go in the future. Simple, meaningful additions like full voice acting are fun and different, yet handled flawlessly. Plus, if you don’t like it, you can just go in and dub your own voices. When the 3DS is finally dead and buried, I think people will be surprised to find out how many of these games hold up. This title, especially. I just hope enough people get a chance to experience it now, before it becomes a collector’s item down the line. I feel like I’ve said it a dozen times, but this is yet another reason to dig out your 3DS. It’s fun. Don’t ignore things that are fun just because they’re on an older console.

-8.3/10

King Wario, at your service.

This review was conducted using a retail copy of the game that I purchased. It is only available on the 3DS.

If you’d like to get in touch with the author, you can contact him on Twitter, or by contacting him at .dcichocki@tiltingwindmillstudios.com.