August 12th, 2010
Games with good game design are those where all components of the game are grounded to a core philosophy or set of philosophies. The world of Mario is tied to jumping, the world of Metroid is tied to exploration, and in the case of the Wario Land series, Wario Land is tied to Wario’s wacky persona. Underpinning the philosophy of form meets function, Wario’s outwardly fat, greedy and cartoonishly sinister appearance are a reflection of his abilities and the interactions made possible within the game world. Let’s use Wario Land 4 as an example to briefly observe the way Wario’s character reflected by his interaction and abilities.
Wario’s array of moves are all tied to utilising his best asset, his visibly bulging weight and super strength. Just like the stylised visual appearance of the character, Wario’s strength and weight are exaggerated through his interaction. No ordinary obese man could crush through rock, create minor earthquakes, flatten small minibeasts or turn into a menacing snowball by building momentum off diagonal slopes, however, Wario can.
Aggression and Greed
Wario’s is presented as an aggressive character. In the game the player is persuaded to be aggressive, meeting the Wario persona, through the rewards of coinage which liberally flows from downed foes. The more aggression you show, such as by throwing one enemy at another, the more the player is rewarded. Unlike in prior Wario games, Wario has a health bar this time, so coins are no longer a currency for life. That is, they are no longer handicapped but instead free-flowing. As we can see, on element of Wario’s behaviour (aggression) acts as a means to highlight another (greed).
The folded levels of Wario Land 4 that require the player to reach an endpoint and then, pressed by a time limit, run back to the start of the level make fun of the stout fella’s inability to make haste under pressure. This, I’d argue, works to justify the cartoonish nature of the game through self-deprecation. Perhaps a more obvious example is the way Wario shape-shifts into various different forms. Each one seemingly poking fun of Wario as he is stung by a bee, turned into a zombie, set on fire or flattened into a pancake. Every transformation is met with an “oh no!” cry as though Wario wishes to avoid the humiliation.
As we can see, the way Wario can interact, and the way the player is taught to behave are all representations of Wario’s anti-hero persona. These interactive elements don’t just support the visual image of Wario, but are in fact pivotal in defining his character. It’s no wonder then that players of Wario Land 4 and the other Wario games, have such a vivid understanding of the character himself.