WarioWare: Completeness

As per this blog’s charter, WarioWare, Inc. was deemed off the Stack as soon as I completed story mode, which happened before the last post. But there were a couple of days left of PAX after that, and of course the journey home, all of which involved waiting on line to one degree or another, and you know something? WarioWare is positively ideal for waiting on line. Particularly in Grid mode, where there’s so little at stake. So I’ve made some pretty good progress towards really completing the game.

So, here’s a brief description of the game’s optional goals. First of all, every microgame in Grid mode has a threshold, a number of iterations that you have to complete without running out of lives in order to get its spot on the grid marked with a red flower. Supposedly something happens when you get all the flowers. I’m still fairly distant from this goal, and it’s not clear to me that I’ll ever achieve it, unless I find myself in another situation involving lots of waiting in line. At the moment, I don’t even have all of the microgames available in the Grid — remember, they only show up there after you’ve randomly encountered them in Game mode, so there’s the whole last-pixel syndrome to contend with. Add to that the fact that Grid mode is the title’s tedious side, and this is a goal for the very patient.

Secondly, certain levels in Game mode unlock extra content when you pass indicated thresholds. It should be noted that these goals are impossible to reach the first time around. When you reach the threshold necessary to proceed with the story, you immediately get an epilogue to the current level and then get thrown back to the level menu. So in order to complete more microgames than it takes to continue the story, you have to come back to the level after completing it — which reinforces the idea that these are optional challenges, and not part of winning the game.

The content you unlock in this way consists mostly of additional games — mostly versions of the microgames that have been expanded into full minigames, which means they play continuously instead of being interrupted every few seconds. One of the unlockables is a full version of Doctor Mario, a game I recall mind-melding with in its coin-op incarnation back in my school days, an experience much like the play-by-brainstem necessary in WarioWare when it gets fast. It seems a little ironic to see it in this context, an inversion of the usual sort of unlockable mini-game, which is something less sophisticated than the main game.

It’s notable, however, that I’m definitely not playing the game in order to gain access to the unlockable content. This is clear because I delilberately threw access away. I actually bought this game used — something I don’t normally do, but this was at a rummage sale for charity, and it looked to be in near-mint condition, with its box and instruction manual and everything. The instruction manual contains a sheet of stickers, and specific spots marked in the manual for you to stick them, which tells you what audience they were targeting. The copy I got was pristine, with all of its stickers still on the sheet, which is a pretty good indication that the person who bought it wasn’t part of that target audience. Months later, when I actually got around to playing it, this helped me to forget that it was used, and I was briefly confused by how different my experience was from that described in the pristine manual: everything seemed to be already unlocked! Once I figured out what was up, I went into the options menu and reset the whole thing, erasing the previous owner’s progress.

This is because, to me, the point of unlocking stuff is simply to unlock it, not to have it unlocked. It’s not like I’m going to spend any significant amount of time playing the unlockable minigames. Their purpose is only to acknowledge by their presence what I have done, like an Achievement or Trophy on the newer consoles. These optional goals are, after all, the only way to win in a game that’s otherwise based on the sort of old-school arcade-game design where things just keep getting harder until you lose.

(Remember, this game is from 2003, so this sort of structure is retro. The game even acknowledges it by throwing in an entire level where the microgames are all simplified versions of Nintendo classics (such as Doctor Mario), some of which were otherwise never released outside Japan. The mere fact that it gives you lives is basically retro by now.)

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