Well last post we discussed the protagonist of this hidden Wii gem, but now we are onto the meat and potatoes! The latest of Wario's zany adventures, "Wario Land: Shake It!" is almost as bare bones a platformer as they come. It really eschews most narrative in favor of providing a stylish, wacky adventure whose gameplay focuses on heavy platforming and some well designed boss battles.
Still the basic Wario game premise: Wario hears of a land (which resides in a magical globe/map) that has been taken over by the tyrannical pirate known as the Shake King (a super powerful wizard/viking man who provides a pretty challenging final boss battle if you aren't using a life bottle), and ventures in to save the land and its princess from this scoundrel. Of course, the real goal for Wario is to instead loot the land for all that it is worth and wrack up as much treasure as possible.
Now is this game faithful to the assessment I laid out about the eponymous protagonist in my previous post? I would say a little bit of yes and a little bit of no. For one, Wario is more mindless in his purpose in this game: his only goal is to retrieve a bottemless bag of coins from the main bad guy, and everything he does from the moment he hears of this bag serves to move him closer to this goal. At the end, he literally throws the beautiful princess of this realm out of the way to grab the sack of coins. In this game, Wario is the literal embodiment of greed; more of an extreme caricature rather than a person with real character.
On the other hand, he still does bear a good bit of machismo. This is one of the first games in the Mario-verse where I felt the boss battles were actual fights. The final battle alone is a huge brawl against the Shake King, where you literally have to toss the Shake King into walls and pound away at him relentlessly in order to damage him. It plays out more like a slug fest than a true Mario "jump on his head" boss fight.
But is this game art? (I am skipping to the end, I just wrote a whole bunch and accidentally deleted it…I am a little frustrated to say the least). Well the game is beautifully animated in an almost anime style, with bright and wonderful colors and a level design that is top knotch; like inWario Land IV, all the levels are branching maps with a race back to the beginning of the level at the end- almost like an inversion of the Mario platforming style. The game chooses a more slow and methodical pace that favors thoroughness over quickness (even in the races back to the starting line, there is treasure in every nook and cranny that must be grabbed!), as there is no way that Wario isn't going to get every penny that is "rightfully" his. Everything from the levels, characters, the music, and the epic boss battles are truly realized and a ton of fun to play through.
But does all of this make art? I am still reluctant to say yes. My problem in here lies with the protagonist in this game. Usually, Wario is a grotesque badass with a heart of gold; a pretty interesting and complex character who may be a Greedy Gus but still has the best of intentions in the end. In this game, though, he is more of a mindless greed zombie, looking for treasure, coins, and not much else. He literally salivates at the end when he receives the bottemless sack of coins, and shakes it wildly, spraying coins everywhere in an almost ejaculatory glee (and tell me the look on his face at the end is anything other than esctasy). It is amusing yes, but the character of Wario in this game, to me, is wholly unlikeable. He has no redeeming qualities for the audience to relate to, or even undredeeming qualities. He is just a cardboard cutout of the idea of "a greedy guy." This is fine for a game if that is what you are looking for, but a work of art is something that the audience can take something away from after viewing; something that resonates in their soul and has the ability to change, no matter how simple. I enjoyed this game, and I will be the first to admit that I think it is a beautifully constructed and put together game, but I will most likely forget about it except when I gloss over it while looking for something else to play.
Wario was more my greedy badass zombie that mindlessly let me rampage through levels, looting and pillaging while I laid savage beat downs, than the flawed hero that I painted a picture of in my last post (maybe you think I am giving Wario too much credit, but feel free to agree or disagree; the beauty of intellectual argument am I right?). Without something relateable for the audience to latch on to, there is just nothing for the audience to take away. Little Mac may just be a transparent body in "Super Punch Out!" but damned if we don't care if that scrappy underdog doesn't make it to the Title Bout. Wario could have been replaced with any character from the Mario-verse in this case, and the effect would have been relatively the same. So art? Sadly I have to say no.
Anywho folks, I wish you a great night and till next time!