Wario: How he stole our coins & our hearts. Exploring evil doppelgangers.


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[This past weekend, our mischievous and blubbery pal Wario celebrated his 25th birthday! Join Khalid on a retrospective and analysis of the coin-hoarding buffoon and how he succeeds as a great parody of an iconic figure. Want to see your work featured by Destructoid? Put something together that catches our eye! - Wes]

Wario - he is fat; he is lazy; he is greedy; he is a cheater; and yet despite all of this I can't help but love him. Wario is, in my humble opinion, the most perfect "evil twin" in the history of video games.

It may seem hard to believe but October 21st 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of Wario. Wario debuted in Japan back in 1992's Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, a game produced not by the father of Mario, Shigeru Miyamoto, but instead by his mentor and creator of the Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi. Wario himself was created by Hiroji Kiyotake who also designed Samus and directed the recently recreated Metroid II: Return of Samus.

In Six Golden Coins Wario is played fairly straight as a big brutish clone of Mario, even utilizing Mario's own power-ups against him, but in powered up forms.

Most of the time "evil" clones are just the same character recolored, maybe even "evilized" with the same abilities but "cooler" with dark colors, flames, and tribal tattoos and made bigger or more powerful. This is what I call "Akuma syndrome." In Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo Capcom added a secret boss, Akuma. Akuma took the design of Ryu, the poster boy for Street Fighter, and simply gave him a new head and darkened his color palettes. Under specific circumstances Akuma flies into the ring and immediately defeats the game's main boss in one hit showing to everyone just how cool and badass he is.

The primordial form of Wario followed the standard trope mechanically. Like most doppelgängers he simply took the original character's abilities and amplified them. Ryu has a fireball so Akuma gets an air fireball and a multi-hitting ground fireball. The concept is followed similarly in many other characters. Sonic's main characteristic is that he can move quickly, so Sega created Shadow the Hedgehog and gave him the power to nearly instantly move from one place to another. There are dozens of characters following this design concept, from Axel Gear and Sparkster, to Evil Lara and Lara Croft, to Bad Rayman and, well, Rayman obviously. It's far harder to find the really fleshed-out evil doppelgängers. Where Wario starts to shine is after that, when he starts to become his own character.

In the confusingly-named Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, Wario became playable for the first time, and rather than continue to give Wario bigger and beefier versions of Mario's powers they subverted that idea as well as several other parts of the Mario game formula.

Everyone that has played a video game knows that touching an enemy in Mario hurts him. In Wario Land, unless the enemy had some sort of spike or other hazard they simply bumped right off of Wario's bulky body without harm. In addition, Wario's shoulder slam allowed him to ram right into many foes and knock 'em away.

Mario is mostly known for his mobility, more specifically his jump ability. Instead of the upwards direction and distance, they gave Wario a downwards attack. Wario was using his hefty weight to butt slam a full two years before Mario 64.

Even the way Wario interacted with coins was different from Mario with them being able to be used not for extra lives, but as weapons or currency in a store.

In Wario's personality Nintendo swapped, distorted, or parodied personality parts of Mario's. Coins, money, and treasure became Wario's goal. In Mario we as a player want coins; they are a driving force that helps direct a player along the correct path or reward them when they find secrets. It was a bonus to us. They really didn't matter much to Mario himself.

Now Wario, Wario doesn't care about saving a princess. If the princess was in another castle it didn't matter to him. Actually, the princess not being there makes things run smoother since he just wanted the castle anyway and now he doesn't need to eject her from the premises. Wario isn't truly evil though, he just only cares about what makes his life better. If he accidentally helps someone on the way, that's fine by him.

All of this is all well and good, but it's still a little boring. Nintendo hasn't done anything that makes Wario ultimately feel all that different.

Wario Land 2 was when Nintendo decided to dive in and take a real chance; it's when they flipped the core concept of a Mario game on its head. Wario Land 2 and 3 are the outlier to the series, a design concept I wish they'd revisit. The point of the game wasn't to avoid getting hit, it wasn't to speed a long as fast as you can. No, actually, the premise of the game often REQUIRED you get hit. It became less speed running and more puzzle solving. Other than the final boss it was actually impossible to get a game over. The game reversed everything you knew about Mario. A bit ironic they chose to have a character whose intelligence is often in question be the star of a puzzle game.

Wario Land 2 was a smash hit so of course there came a sequel, the much more logically-named Wario Land 3 in 2000. By this point Wario was a staple of the Nintendo world having appeared in two of his own games and several crossovers. It was time that Wario got something that he'd been missing from the start: a brother. Enter the pointy, lanky, Dick Dastardly knock-off named Waluigi.

I know I'm going to get a lot of hate for this, but I'm not that big a fan of Waluigi. There is an elegance to Wario that isn't seen in Waluigi. Many things in Wario work that don't work with his taller brother.

The most obvious is the W. It's simple with Wario, you take one letter and turn it upside down and you get the evil version of the same character. A W and M are very clearly linguistically and artistically related. You turn an L upside down, as we see on Waluigi's head, and it becomes meaningless as part of his name. In Japanese "warui" means "bad." The simplicity of Wario's name change works internationally across two different languages. The Waluigi pun still works in Japan due to the similarity of the R and L sounds in Japanese, unfortunately that same change means nothing to an English speaker. All we get is an extra syllable and an awkward-to-say name. Artistically the upside down L doesn't have any connection to Walugi's name the way that the W does to Wario. The whole thing falls apart.

Nothing in Waluigi's abilities or personality does much of holding mirroring up to Luigi to distort him beyond simply his looks. Being greedy and a cheat are expected traits of a bad guy, ones that Wario had already laid out a precedent for.

Looks though are an important part of any evil doppleganger, and that is one area that Waluigi shines just as brightly, or darkly I suppose, as his tubby brother.

Like Wario, Waluigi takes the visuals of Luigi and exaggerates them. Waluigi takes a color scheme of purple, which when viewed on a color wheel it is the same distance away from Luigi's green as Wario's yellow is to Mario's red

There are many little touches like the color wheel that the Wario brothers have twisted over the plumbers two. You may not have noticed is that Wario and Waluigi's mustaches are just sharpened versions of their heroic counterparts. Wario has six downward spikes in his mustache matching the six curves on Mario's lip fur and Waluigi has one point on each side to match Luigi's single curved mustache. Mario and Luigi's shoes are rounded and tall so Wario and Waluigi's shoes are concave and pointed. The Mario brothers have a big blue iris on their eyes while the Wario brothers have no iris at all - instead they have blue rings around their eyes.

This sort of attention to detail is a big part of the charm of the Wario brothers. Unlike many other evil versions of characters they aren't direct clones or even just malformed versions of the hero, there is still clear intent behind every choice in how they were made.

In 2003 the first of the Warioware games was released. The series had Wario's costuming take a severe shift away from his normal garb and removed most of the connections to Mario visually. Yet, when you delve deeper you can't help but feel like Wario is still aping Mario's gig for his own gain. Like Mario with Nintendo, Wario became the leader, face, and in some respects the mascot of a video game company.

Where do we go from here? While Wario has a relationship with Captain Syrup there is still no Wapeach type character in the Mario universe. Of course some of us might try and claim Daisy is already Peach's evil twin,in reality there isn't anyone in that role, and that's a shame. A while back our pal Jonathan Holmes had his own ideas for a Wapeach design, one he shared on twitter to get feedback on.

Like the Mario Brothers' mustaches and height, Daisy and Peach are similar with many slight differences. The hair, eyelashes, brooches, crowns, and most obviously their hair all varied. I see what Holmes did as the personality traits of Peach to draw on best are probably her vanity and stances as royalty. A narcissistic personality with little care for those she rules over would be a good representation of Peach's selfless stewardship to the people of the Mushroom Kingdom. I wonder how Nintendo would handle such a subject in their games without compromising the soul of the "Wa" family's artistic designs.

Despite being everywhere doppelgängers are pretty hard to make well. Even some of the best evil counterparts in a game are still fairly basic with few differences from their original source. Dark Link and SA-X are highlights of their respective games while containing little to no personality. The fact Nintendo has managed to do it so well with Wario is amazing and proof of what makes the Mario franchise strong: its characters and world are so carefully crafted.

During Wario's career he has worn many hats - a game designer, a biker, a treasure hunter, and a hat that spits fire for some reason. Yet no matter what he does, no matter how mean he is, somehow Wario manages to charm his way into our hearts while picking our pockets.

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Khalid Eternal Nigh
Khalid Eternal Nigh   gamer profile

Every time I think I know what I'm doing with my life, I forget. more + disclosures



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