Updated: Mar 9, 2020
In all the gaming I've done in my time on this planet, I don't have a whole lot of memories of actually picking up a game. I remember my dad taking me to Circuit City to spend my allowance on either Killer Instinct or Primal Rage. Unfortunately, I chose the latter. I also remember my mom taking me to Toys R Us to pick out a game for my birthday, and I went with Kid Icarus. Other than those two, the only vivid memory I had was going to the local Funcoland (kids today know it as GameStop) to spend my lawn-mowing earnings on a new game.
We didn't have a whole lot to go by when picking out a new game. Sure, there were magazines like GamePro and Electronics Gaming Monthly, but for a good majority of us, our only window into the quality of any game was, quite simply, looking at the box art. Like walking into a Blockbuster Video with no idea what to rent, game choice was oftentimes limited to "oh this looks cool!" and hedging our bets that the game will live up to the expectations set by the cover art.
So back to Funcoland. I had some cash and was looking for a game to play. I wasn't sure what to pick up, but I knew I wanted a Game Boy title. The clerk said they just got a new game in, and it's supposed to be pretty good. That's when he showed me Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. Having played the first to death, I was pleasantly shocked to see a new one came out (one of the benefits of a pre-internet world). I snatched the game up, and was immediately fascinated with the game's antagonist: Wario.
There was just something fascinating about this Mario imposter that I was drawn to. Maybe it was his crude behavior, but still, I found him fascinating. I read and re-read the Mario vs. Wario comic that came with my Nintendo Power subscription, and a few years later, had him as my driver-of-choice in Mario Kart 64. Since then, Wario's been on my radar, but nothing too crazy. I never got the GBA or DS games, and mostly just played as him in Nintendo's sports games.
Springing forward ten years (September 22, 2008 to be exact), I found myself picking up yet another game at the local GameStop (adults today knew it as Funcoland), and came home with a copy of Wario Land: Shake It!. And after just a few minutes into the game, I felt like a kid again when I first played Six Golden Coins.
Wario Land: Shake it is a 2D sidescrolling platformer, with an emphasis on gathering up as much treasure as possible. After all, Wario is a greedy little bugger. He is chosen, like all heroes, to save the land, but only gets involved when he finds out there's a magic, bottomless money sack involved. The game was developed by Good-Feel, who is also responsible for Kirby's Epic Yarn and Yoshi's Crafted World.
So in the game, you're doing typical Wario stuff: bopping bad guys, gathering coins, fighting bosses. The game utilizes the Wii Remote, and earns its namesake. you can grab enemies and money bags, and by shaking the Wiimote, Wario shakes money out of both. Yeah it can be gimmicky, but it's still fun.
Once you get to the end of a level, you rescue a caged creature known as a Merfle. Once that's done, a countdown starts and you must immediately race back to the beginning of the level before time runs out. It's a great spin on the typical formula, and adds a layer of urgency instead of just getting the two-finger "victory" sign and ending the stage.
The first thing that drew me in was the amazing animation style. It's all hand-drawn, and moves so ridiculously smooth that one would mistake it for a cartoon. I admit I'm a sucker for quality animation, going back to rotoscoped games like Flashback, moving through some of WayForward's offerings, and such. I know I shouldn't say it for fear of retaliation, but I always felt that Don Bluth Studios' animation is leaps and bounds better than Disney's. Yeah, I know.
Gameplay itself is amazing. Controls are tight and intuitive, and you get a lot of satisfaction from all the destruction Wario causes. The music is jazzy and catchy, and who doesn't love Charles Martinet's classic "WAHHHHH"s? In fact, I'm sure you just read that in Wario's voice.
The game follows Good-Feel's formula of game design that appeals to gamers of all skill levels. You can rush through the levels with no problems, but if you want to get all the objectives in the stage, you'll need some serious platforming skills. I defy anyone who considers themselves a "hardcore" gamer to say that a game like this or Yoshi's Crafted World is simple. You'll be on your toes the whole time if you want to 100% this one, folks.
Wario Land: Shake It! has likely flown under your radar because there were so many good games out at that time, but if you have the means, I highly recommend picking it up. GameStop is clearing out their Wii titles as they make way for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, so there's no better time than the present. Here, I've done half the work for you:
As we celebrate Mario Day on March 10th, I ask that you avert your eyes from the spotlight-stealing rotund plumber, and turn your focus to his money-stealing, even more rotund doppelganger. Give this game a chance; you won't regret it.
And if anyone at Nintendo is reading this, please make a Super Wario Bros. game. Waluigi needs some love too!
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