Well folks, next time in one of my main posts, we will be looking at "WarioLand: Shake It!" for the Wii and determining whether that is a work of art, but in the meantime I thought we would take a looksie at the protagonist of the game…
Wario is an interesting character for a couple reasons, especially in terms of the style of his games, as well as the comparisons to his…cousin (!?!) Mario (also rumored that Wario might be Mario and Luigi's boss when they were active plumbers). Premiering in "Mario Land II: Legend of the 6 Coins" for the Gameboy as the villain of the game, his personality has been relatively consistent. In that game, he was an asshole that forcefully kicked Mario out of his home (which was for some reason a castle on his own private island), and then sealed the door using six magic coins, and then turned Mario's home into a lava and spike filled hell-hole. Like Mario, during their final battle (being the only game where Mario and Wario ever actually fought) he is able to use Mario's special abilities (the fire flower, and the P-Hat, which in this game allows Mario to glide). When he was defeated he then ran away, and has since then, neither character has ever appeared in the other's canon series of games (mayhaps Wario was exiled after this *dun dun*).
The next game in which he is seen is his very own "Wario Land" game. He is seen here washing up on a mysterious island (I am guessing after the events of "Mario Land II"), named Kitchen Island, which is actually a den of pirates run by Wario's future nemesis, Captain Syrup. Like he does to poor Mario, the game revolves around Wario kicking Captain Syrup out of her castle and then taking it and all her weath for himself. Most of Wario's subsequent games revolve around him maintaining his wealth/castle or adding to his already considerable wealth by looting other places/dungeons for untold riches.
Wario, as a protagonist in his own games, is very much the anti-hero; one gets the picture of a man compensating for his very obvious shortcomings through brawn and wealth. As Mario's antithesis, Wario wears the most garrish shades of yellow and purple, is much fatter, and originally had a lazy eye that made him look plain crazy. Instead of eating mushrooms (which in cooking are generally without much flavor and depend upon the food around them to give mushrooms flavor), he prefers to eat garlic, which like Popeye's spinach, seems to increase his already incredible strength though turning his breath awfully sour. He is also slothful (in Wario Land II, you can open up a whole other story line by just refusing to get out of bed at the beginning of the game), repugnant in behavior, and incredibly greedy to the detriment of others.
But what makes this dickhead so likeable as a character and a protagonist? As a character, I believe Wario, while his behavior and demeanor is so unlikeable, he is so because he is so earnest in jockeying for our approval and trying to "appear the badass," that we wind up rooting for him since he is, even more so than Luigi, haunted by Mario's shadow. Even Charles Martinet, the voice actor for Wario (as well as Mario and most of the Mushroom Kingdom), says he bases Wario's voice from a place of self-pity. He is a man so obsessed with his short-comings, especially when compared to Mario, that he does everything in his power to overcompensate for them in the hopes that we will like him more. He is seen often, usually at the beginning of his adventures, obsessively working out and lifting weights so that he becomes stronger, and he always tries to attain more material wealth to help maintain his illusion of "cool" (a word he often attributes to himself in his "Warioware" series). He is so eager to please that during the course of his games he is willing to literally punish himself to move the player forward, as most of his "powerups" revolve around him physically harming or altering himself (i.e. getting stung by a bee swells his head, getting flattened to fit under doorways, eating a ton of cake to the point of obesity, etc). It helps as well that, as far as antiheros go, Wario is really only capable of harming himself and the much more evil bad guys. Usually, as per a Greek Comedy, Wario gets his appropriate comeuppance at the end of the tale, as in the first "Wario Land" game, one of the endings is Wario being forced to live in a bird house.
As well, Wario exudes a certain amount of machismo with a dash of style that, yeah, I would say he is kind of a badass. For one, he attacks by literally all out charging into his enemies with his shoulder, and in his "Wario World" game for the Gamecube, he literally punches, grapples, and beats his enemies into submission. Unlike Mario, who can't even touch enemies without being hurt or "killed," Wario can literally bounce into his enemies without much repercussion. In fact, in a couple games Wario is actually invincible, with the only detriment being him losing some coins. No matter what hardship, he almost never loses his rictus grin, making it look more like his adventures are little more than fun diversions for him rather than the harrowing trials they should be. As well, he owns a ton of tricked out vehicles, from a large pink cadillac, to a motorcycle, to a bi-plane, to even his very own "subwarine" which has his likeness plastered on the front of the vehicle. Compensating for something? Probably, but still, wouldn't you hang out with your neighbor if he owned a submarine? As far as style, Wario games trade in the laxed and mirthful tones of the Mushroom Kingdom for usually a mix of more lively jazz, especially in his more recent games.
In the end, Wario is definitely one of the hidden gems of the Mushroom Kingdom, and very easily forgotten. Never in the limelight as Mario is with his large, AAA budget console games, Wario tries to make the most out of being the star of portable games, sports/party spin off games, and every so often his own standalone console games (which usually center around some gimmic, such as "Shake It!"). To Mario's role as the classic "Hero," Wario will always play the "Fool," but he owns this role to the best of his ability. And isn't that why we love him so much? He is destined to be the outcast of the Mushroom Kingdom (literally, he seems almost exiled as we never see him interact with another character from that series except to play the occasional game of golf or to show up at a party), and while he seems to always be living in the shadow of this fact, this surprising heart always helps be able to relate to him as a character, accept him for his faults, and always root for him as the scrappy underdog of the Mario-verse.
Well folks, like I said my post for "Wario Land: Shake It!" will be coming out soon! Till next time!