Once I Left Wario’s Castle

Picture a younger smaller version of me, Franklin Raines, not but single digits, sitting with my mom on an airplane ride going from one side of the country to the other. I remembered specifically that it was the last time I rode a plane at night, making the event stand out more than past or future rides. I found myself bored, which for a kid at that age, felt like a lifetime. I was getting close, but have yet not achieved the necessary skill to read the fiction I would soon like, so books are out of the question. This only left me with my trusted teal green Game Boy Color found in my possession. I used the excuse to go walk to the bathroom at the end of the rows of passenger seats, where I notice another young boy. Just like myself he was traveling with his Game Boy Color and his mom (thinking back, of course I noticed the Game Boy far faster than the mom), so I talk with him until I decided to loan him a game until the plane touches down. I forgot what I loaned him, but remember that what I got in return was Wario Land II.

Having played hours worth of the sequel, Wario Land III, I instantly started to look for similarities between the two. Wario Land II still had me playing as the money-grubbing anti-hero Wario, where III dropped Wario into an alternate universe by way of crashed plane (coincidence to my present environment not noticed), II found Wario asleep in his castle as three shadowed creatures steal his treasure and flood his home. The thieves even left Wario a living alarm clock just to spite him. Wario wakes up and I, now the player, decided to work with what I knew from my experience in III; otherwise known as find walls to shoulder charge and floors to ground stomp through to find coins, to which my younger self found oddly comforting in its familiarity. A younger me found just enough time to finish the first stage of five levels before he had to stop at the second stages’ forest when the plane landed. Figures one would have to leave right when they started exploring the area outside of Wario’s castle.

Many years later, present era me one day stops reminiscing about how I never was able to play more of Wario Land II, and bought a digital copy for the 3DS. Instantly, I am brought back to my younger self, with at least a decade’s worth of video gaming under my nice crocodile belt and perpetually tired eyes warn like war-paint to show for it. Older me found myself focusing more on the presentation, be it how I remembered the two to three heavy colors used for backgrounds and enemies, or how each status effect that Wario would endure like being set on fire or turned into a zombie had specific sound themes. I saw the connections for what would become Wario Land III with a gameplay mechanic centered around using these status effects to progress further, all the while never having a health bar or Game Over sequence. But most importantly, I was able to traverse beyond Wario’s castle to learn. The younger I never learned that a woman, the mechanical genius Captain Syrup, was behind Wario’s newfound misfortune and that later down the line the game could possibly branch off into multiple endings. As mentioned earlier, there just was not enough time the first go around the castle.

The concept to grasp is not that I looked fondly at my younger self with nostalgia, reminiscing on a time which I could never return. No, I understood that there is nothing keeping my younger interests in the past if I find them warranting revisiting, so there is no reason to keep the preverbal game boxed up in a closet up top. The idea to grasp was how an internet using semi-adult would interact with Wario Land II. I picked up the same mechanics and stylish choices his younger self found (well, present me knew to call Wario a sprite), but I also looked up aspects of the game on the Wiki and found himself checking the play-time mediums on HowLongToBeat.com seeing my estimated hours-to-beat Wario Land II. The younger I would have just played the game and found those answers on my own. Present me could still experience the same level degree of engagement in videogames like Wario Land II his younger self, but older aspects of life like having friends to borrow games from, more interests to keep me busy, and studies to keep up with have really restricted the older me from getting to know the game as thoroughly as my younger self. Sometimes things changed a little too drastically once I left Wario’s castle.

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