Where's Wario?

When Nintendo announced New Super Mario Bros. 2, reactions were certainly mixed. Many greeted the news with immediate excitement and anticipation, whereas others were less enthusiastic about what they felt to be underwhelming news of a predictable sequel. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, though, it's safe to conclude that New Super Mario Bros. 2 is going to be a major sales success for Nintendo.

One thing, however, struck us at Nintendo Life as being somewhat, well, uncharacteristic. Take a look at this informative New Super Mario Bros. 2 trailer that we posted last week, below. We've already seen that Mario is once again battling his way through Bowser's minions, as enticingly as ever, but this trailer in particular elevates and draws attention to what has always been a secondary goal: collecting coins.

Dating back to the original Mario Bros., coins have been bonus items in practically every Mario game. They typically add to your total score, and Super Mario Bros. introduced the concept of earning an extra life every time you gathered 100 of them. It's hard-written into Mario's DNA by this point: collecting coins is good.

That trailer, however, seems to suggest that collecting coins is of paramount importance in this game: after all, you'd be hard-pressed to take a few seconds of that footage and not find it swimming in gold. Instead of dotting the landscape or tracing the way to the goal, coins are now everywhere. Enemies throw them, powerups generate them, and Mario even produces them from a box he wears on his head. They rain from the sky, they come out of walls, and they absolutely dominate Mario's attention: our little Italian friend has always loved his coinage, but since when has it been such a lusty obsession?

It's difficult not to draw parallels between the money-grubbing Mario in this trailer and his sometime-nemesis Wario. After all, isn't it Wario who is typically portrayed as the lucre hound?

It's difficult not to draw parallels between the money-grubbing Mario in this trailer and his sometime-nemesis Wario. After all, isn't it Wario who is typically portrayed as the lucre hound? We may not yet know the intricacies or reasons behind this coin chasing, but Mario's ambitions are typically more selfless than this shameless accumulation of personal wealth: it's Wario who should be looting landscapes, leaving Mario to rise to the tasks demanded of a real hero.

So what happened here? Was New Super Mario Bros. 2 originally the concept for a game starring Wario? It would certainly seem to be more tailored toward his characterization: the visual presentation is pure side-scrolling Mario goodness, but the greed seems to fit his porkier rival a lot better.

Consider the powerups highlighted in this trailer. While we're used to Mario gaining new abilities with every outing, we're also used to those abilities being put toward offensive, defensive or explorational use; here they are all used to generate cash. We see gold rings that turn all enemies into gold, providing additional coins for defeating them in this state. We see golden koopa shells leave behind long trails of coins when they are kicked, and golden lakitus that hurl them down from above. We see a block that spits out coins as long as Mario wears it on his head, which did appear in Super Mario 3D Land, though it seems to be far more generous this time around. We also see a golden fire flower that allows him to turn walls and obstacles into gold with his projectiles. Is it just us, or do these seem more like Wario-style corruptions of classic Mario tropes, rather than the next step in Mario's evolution? As the trailer's narrator proclaims, "this time around, it's all about the coins": let's just hope Mario doesn't accumulate enough of them to retire on a private island before he rescues Peach.

All of this, plus the stated goal of collecting one million coins, screams to us of a Wario plot; yet Wario is nowhere to be found. What happened? It's actually reminding us of an issue we raised a few months ago: is Nintendo over-reliant on Mario? Don't get us wrong; we love our jumping, stomping, mustachioed spaghetti-bag, but wouldn't this be an ideal time to hand the spotlight over to poor Wario?

Eyes on the prize

It hasn't always been this way. Wario's starred in his own series of successful platformers, including Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 on Game Boy and Virtual Boy Wario Land, which is commonly considered to be the strongest game in the entire Virtual Boy library — faint praise if there ever was any, we know. Lately, however, Nintendo seems to relegate him to rounding out the roster in sports games, and playing host to various collections of mini-games. Here, after all, is the perfect chance to plug him naturally into a high-profile core Mario game but, instead, he's nowhere to be seen.

So what do you think? Is the plot of New Super Mario Bros. 2 a reappropriated Wario adventure, or is it just coincidental? Surely someone at Nintendo, at some point in the development of this game, must have said, "don't we already have a different character that would fit here?"

Don't get us wrong; any time we spend with Mario is time well spent, but it's curious that his latest adventure may see him embodying the worst characteristics of his villains. At this rate, New Super Mario Bros. 3 will be a quest to kidnap Peach before Bowser can stop him; nobody wants to see that.