Motion controls, “shaking”, and general stylus/touch gaming… it’s all terrible. Buttons are here. Crosspads are perfect. Why reinvent how Link wanders over his world because you need to accommodate the latest gimmicks? Mario spin jumps just fine with that A button, thank you very much. Trick controls are lame, and I loathe their implementation in otherwise worthwhile games.
But WarioWare: Touched! isn’t lame, it’s fun.
WarioWare: Touched! is a phenomenal experience that was released early in the DS’s lifespan. This was a godsend, as previous Nintendo DS titles did little to push the benefits of the system. Oh boy! I can play a falling block puzzle game, but now I can tap on random squares for some opaque reason? No, that’s not going to push any portables. And this was a time before touch-screen cell phones began to dominate the market (hard to believe, I know), so even the mere concept of “touch here” seemed weird and foreign. I have to use this pen thing? Like I’m in school? No thank you, Nintendo. This sucker will never work. I’ll just put some preorder cash on the inevitably super successful Playstation Portable. That’s the future right there.
But WarioWare turned those opinions around in one tight/bonkers experience. Fresh on the heels of the previous WarioWare, Wario returned with more silly microgames meant to get the player using that stylus, microphone, and touch screen. And, like WarioWare before it, those minigames had a tendency to lean heavily into “what’s going to happen next?” (which is rather fun when “next” is all of ten seconds away) with games like “cut the snot”, “blow up the planet”, or the incredibly ludicrous “play the Metroid game”. It winds up being one of those experiences that can easily be described as entertaining, and, whether you’re five or five hundred, everyone can enjoy dicing flying vegetables.
But why does WarioWare Touched! work? Why, at a time when touch controls were new and scary, did WWT prove conclusively that touch controls are pretty damn awesome? Why does Wario succeed when even Mario, Donkey Kong, and Link all completely failed to push the idea that “gimmick controls” are your friend? And why did anyone ever think that Phantom Hourglass was a good idea? … Okay, that question is only tangentially related… but still!
The answer is simple: WarioWare Touched! works because it isn’t like other videogames.
Touch controls are an interesting beast, because, conceptually, they should be the same as buttons. “Touching” is a basic move for any given human. Even babies can do it! And using your finger to direct someone or something, whether it be a Hylian or Mr. Driller, seems like the most basic thing in the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used a finger or two to trace a route through an actual map of the world (“the world” in this case being “the path to the nearest Big Lots”), and that should translate well to guiding adventurers through dungeons. And, similarly, it’s completely natural to “shake it” when something isn’t going your way, so maybe a shake or two would be appropriate when you want Mario to have an extra jump. These are all perfectly normal, almost reflexive reactions, so they absolutely should work in a videogame. You can press A to jump, and you can shake it, too. Simple, right?
Except, somewhere along the line, games became looooong experiences (I blame this guy). The latest Zelda game has a certain expectation of play length, and you better believe you have to collect three random mipmaps before gathering another pile of otherwise useless crap. You may not defeat Ganon until you’ve eaten every last vegetable, young man. And when an adventure becomes at least 20 hours (at least), that means that what may have previously been a quick play experience rapidly spirals down into the slog hole. And you know what we don’t need in the slog hole? An excess of movement. It’s super cramped in the slog hole!
You want to know why buttons are successful? It’s not like these lil’ duders were the only things available to early systems, because you all know I’ve got that Colecovision with the light gun to disprove that theory. The reason buttons are the dominant life form on Planet Videogame is because they require nothing. It takes next to no effort to push up on a control pad, and, if you have to do it for twenty solid hours, you’re not going to think about it even once. Give or take the occasional game that is all about timed button pressing, pressing a button is natural, its subconscious, and, once you understand a controller, it’s easier than drawing a line or shaking a chunk of plastic. For further examples, please note that that this article was written via a magical device featuring at least 26 characters that I can instantly access and use to type some weirdly high number of words per minute. And ain’t nobody writing a novel with “gestures”.
That’s why touch controls don’t work, but why do they work with Wario? Because “mini” means “not twenty hours”. The average WarioWare game is limited to a whole ten seconds, and, win or lose, it’s done in less time than it takes to sneeze. And that’s brilliant for touch controls! It means that you are active, and moving, and enjoying these touch controls in the tiniest of bite-sized chunks. The slog hole is vaulted, and we’re happily skipping along the… let’s call this The Fields of Happiness. There is never a point in a WarioWare game when the player feels exhausted, and “actively” participating in WarioWare’s touching feels more akin to playing a sport or doing that going outside thing I keep hearing about. WarioWare isn’t a hike, it’s an inning, and that means you don’t have to hear whining about stopping for a water break every fifteen minutes. Play through a few periods, hit the bench for a break, and then return refreshed to hit a few more zingers.
And this is the essence of touch gaming. The best touch-based games are not Mega Mans or Marios; they’re short, quick affairs that you can play while waiting in line (for the latest Mega Man or Mario release). WarioWare hit the nail on the head (also a minigame) well before the idevices conquered the world, and your Flappy Birds and Fruit Ninjas owe it a debt.
Short, to the point, and touchy is the future, and Wario always knew that. Wario has all the best ideas. He’s greedy like that.
FGC #321 WarioWare Touched!
- System: Nintendo DS. Also playable on the 3DS… and I think it was a downloadable title? Maybe with Club Nintendo? That would be nice.
- Number of players: One toucher at a time.
- Favorite Microgame Set: The answer to this is always the Volts, 9-Volt and 18-Volt. I could play mini classic Nintendo games all day, and… Oh, they eventually made that game.
- Mikey likes it: Mike the Karaoke Robot exists exclusively to test the microphone capabilities of the DS… and then he disappears forever. This is in stark contrast with Ashley, who also premiered in this game, and went on to become some kind of internet darling.
- Did you know? This game wound up released in America before WarioWare:Twisted!, the game that introduced the rich Mona lore regarding Mona Pizza. This means that that storyline in Touched is super confusing for anyone that just finished the original WarioWare. … Well, it confused me at the time.
- Would I play again: Yes, absolutely. This is one of my favorite DS titles. I might not play from a “fresh” save file, but I’m certainly going to bite down on some random minigames again.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy! Wait… just Final Fantasy? Like… the original? Not mystic, legends, adventure, explorers, tactics, theatrhythm, dissidia, or, I don’t know, Episode Pompadour? Neat. Time to save Kary for last, everybody! Please look forward to it!