Captain Syrup would’ve been a great character to star in the Mario spinoff games and I’m confused as to why she didn’t get that role a long time ago, namely starting with Mario Tennis. Allow me to explain why in this retrospective.
#1 – THE SET STANDARDS
Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 came out in 2000, and I insist this is where Syrup would’ve been ideal to begin including in the Mario series’ rosters. It marked the return of several characters that previously had irregular appearances and roles, by whom I mean the following:
Princess Daisy, who’d featured in Super Mario Land, but also established herself as both an ally to Luigi as well as a counterpart to Peach in NES Open Tournament Golf.
Birdo, who’d made two seperate appearances as a boss in Super Mario Bros 2, and Mario RPG, in addition to some minor and cameo roles.
Donkey Kong Jr., who speaks for himself, by this point had been replaced by both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country respectively. His place in spinoffs was later allocated to Diddy Kong, but between the two of them, they make regular roster appearances.
This might seem like a digression, but it’s important to understand the backgrounds that the comeback-characters had, and therefore the reason it was a good idea to bring them back at all, since Mario Tennis was the point in which partnerships started to factor into future character pools.
Now, we all know who actually got the role as Wario’s partner, but let’s take a look at Syrup’s credentials.
#2 – ESTABLISHING SYRUP
Syrup made her debut with the game that marked the start of Wario’s own series, Wario Land, which was released for the Game Boy in 1994 and subtitled Super Mario Land 3. It was here where she featured as the game’s main antagonist and final boss, seen only at the end of the game, and not much is really said about her directly. In fact, this has led to several sources, such as a guide in Nintendo Power, to mistakenly refer to her as ‘Princess’, and while her name is given in some way through the game, as the final stage is called 'Syrup Castle’, every other level is also named after some sort of kitchen item. You’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just to uphold that pattern and doesn’t refer to the boss’ name, based on this.
Four years later, she made a return as the villain of the sequel, 1998’s
Wario Land 2. Contrasting with her role in the first game, in Wario Land 2 Syrup features instead as a recurring antagonist, and that applies in two separate ways; she appears in the game’s cutscenes between worlds alongside her pirate crew, and is also in each of the game’s five possible final boss encounters.
Wario fights against her in three of them and rescues her when she’s captured by a greater evil in the other two. Syrup is also mentioned by name several times in Wario Land 2, be it in some of the level titles, and the prompt for the final level.
I say all of this because even though her role between the first and second games is the same on a base level, what with being each game’s villain and final boss, the way in which she’s presented offers more information in the sequel. We see her go from appearing only as a final enemy revealed at the end of the game, to an established character that acts as a recurring villain, referring to both the series itself, and Wario Land 2 individually. This validates her rivalry with Wario, making their relationship one that not only endures, but also develops.
#3 – WHAT IF CAMELOT DIDN’T KNOW?
It might be tempting say it’s possible that Camelot didn’t know about the Wario Land games, and therefore couldn’t have known about Syrup. Given her little mention, that is possible, but it seems quite unlikely to me.
For a start, Princess Daisy is featured in Mario Tennis, as said before, and she stemmed from Super Mario Land. Wario himself was introduced in Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, and the game that Syrup comes from is subtitled ‘Super Mario Land 3’. All three of these games were made by the same development team, Nintendo R&D1, and not to mention, Wario Land 2 was still in recent memory at the time Mario Tennis would’ve been developed, given its release in 1998. If Daisy was both relevant and timely enough to have been brought back at all, why wasn’t Syrup, who’d had more recent and potent appearances? I’m not protesting Daisy’s inclusion, the selection process just doesn’t make much sense.
Perhaps an argument that could be presented is the possibility that Camelot was aware of Super Mario Land, but not of the subsequent Wario Land games. That seems unlikely as well, however, and this is due to Wario’s Player 3 palette in Mario Golf, which predated Mario Tennis.
With the white hat and shirt, and black overalls, it’s exactly as he looks as in in his Game Boy appearances. Wario Land 2 did have more of a light-yellow colour on the Game Boy Colour version, but the point still stands that the colour scheme is iconic for his Game Boy appearances, seeing as it then returned to the white in Wario Land 3, in 2000. Somehow I think it’s very unlikely that they weren’t aware of this series, and the characters in them, if one of their games references them.
UPDATE: There’s no doubt about Camelot’s knowledge of the games. The Wario court in Mario Tennis plays music from Wario Land 3. Thanks to http://kitchen-island.tumblr.com/ for pointing this out. Jesus Christ.
#4 – WARIO LAND IN SPINOFFS?
This can be considered a minor point, and I’m not sure how much water it holds, but it’s definitely a possibility. Supposing there’s any doubt as to whether or not Wario Land can be properly referenced in the Mario games, I’d like to point out Sherbet Land, the secret world in the first Wario Land game.
As anyone who’s played Mario Kart 64 knows…
There’s a track of the exact same name and theme. Hell, both of them feature penguins, as the boss of Wario Land’s Sherbet Land is a giant boxing one named Hinyari. Funny too how it’s underneath Wario Stadium, huh?
#5 - COLOUR ME PUZZLED
Any of Syrup’s three colour schemes would’ve given her a primary colour for things such as karts, cursors, and anything that can be characteristically coloured in Mario Party. All three could’ve been unique to Syrup and were unused by the other characters, bearing in mind games that she would’ve appeared in as a regular part of the roster, such as Mario Kart DS, for instance. To give you a better idea of what I mean, here’s what the cast have as their signature colour in the Mario Party series during certain minigames:
Mario - Red Luigi - Blue Peach - Pink Yoshi - Green Wario - Purple DK - Orange Daisy – Yellow
Were Syrup a part of this cast, any one of her colours could then have been used without overlap. Here’s some examples using features from Mario Party 3, which is what her first outing in that particular spinoff series would’ve been.
White, cyan and black are all suitable for this objective.
To be honest, I could go on about how Syrup has many things that could serve as a basis for her personal karts later on if she had been featured in the Mario Kart series, the SS Teacup and Bobo being good examples, but I’d say that even her possible colour schemes show that she could carry herself no matter which she sported, in the end.
#6 – ANYTHING YOU CAN DO…
Lets address the elephant in the room and talk about Waluigi. Persisting as something that I still don’t understand
to this day, Waluigi’s debut appearance was indeed Mario Tennis, where he’s Wario’s doubles partner. The development team apparently wished to include a character specifically for this role, and had considered a Wario-styled copy of Princess Peach in order to fill said role, before the idea being rejected. How exactly Syrup wasn’t seen as appropriate for both of these needs is beyond me, given that she’s relevant to Wario by way of acting as his antagonist, and also relevant to Peach.
In spite of that, Waluigi was created, and the fact he was a terrible idea is shown through many different aspects of his character design. Any strength that he had at this point in time, Syrup achieves either in the same way, or in a superior one. I’m going to run through everything that Waluigi had at the time of Mario Tennis, and offer a rebuttal for what could justify his introduction.
For a start, there’s his immense height, which is Waluigi’s most immediately noteworthy character asset. Given that the bigger characters featured, such as Bowser, were all chunky, the point could be made that this was untouched potential. No existing main Mario character who would’ve been appropriate to feature in the spinoffs had a design that sported a tall height, but slim figure.
…Were it not for Syrup.
Bear in mind, it was around this time where Wario’s size was perceived as much larger than Mario. Check out this title screen, for example.
Now, take a look at this screenshot I took in Photoshop.
Syrup’s height in Wario Land 2 makes her 3 pixels, or 10% taller than Wario is.
Now, 3 pixels might not sound like much, but bearing in mind the resolution of this game sees Wario himself appear only 29 pixels high, 3 pixels becomes a quantifiable portion, at the very least enough to imply one character is taller than the other. For what it’s worth, 4 pixels is the height difference between Mario and Luigi in Super Mario Bros 2.
It’s worth noting that later down the line in Wario Land: Shake It, she’s in fact about 29% taller than Wario and comparable to Waluigi’s size with his standard posture at this point, which does display that multiple development teams had no qualms about showing Syrup as above-average height.
But even when only factoring in Wario Land 2, Syrup’s taller than Wario by a fair amount, and given Wario’s height at the time, that would make her taller than most of the other cast, too. My point is that even if Waluigi’s towering height and the variety it offers is enough to convince you that he was worth the introduction, the fact is that Syrup already had that going for her, and this feature could’ve been exaggerated further to suit the need.
The bottom line is that if you consider it part of Waluigi’s own unique charm or something, bear in mind that Syrup was already perfectly suited to this asset. It was by no means unique to Waluigi.
In the same manner, even though Waluigi is dressed in the exact same way as the other plumber-based characters, he has a build that’s unique from the other human males of the series. But by the same standards, Syrup is unique as well, as there’s nothing to her that’d have you confuse her for Peach or Daisy in any regards to her body shape, face, hair and clothing, she simply doesn’t look like either of them whatsoever.
Waluigi does have the honour of being the only exaggeratedly skinny person amongst the plumber types, but Syrup sports plenty of aspects to her design which make her a character an actual character, rather than bits and pieces of others. She has the advantage of sporting her own distinct wardrobe and theme, given that she’s a pirate captain. Compare this with Waluigi, who sits as the fourth in the entries of the base ‘plumber’ setup, which, if you look at both of his foundations, makes him a clone of a clone and a clone.
If I were to count Baby Mario, who’s also in Mario Tennis, that actually brings him to number 5. Syrup, on the other hand, had some sort of vision behind her, beyond compulsion and misguided sense of necessity.
Oh, and if you’re under the impression that Waluigi’s head is unique, at least…
…No, it isn’t. This is the Witch from Super Mario Land 2, by the way.
While it is true that Wario doesn’t have a Player 2, given the nature of his games as a strictly single-player experience, I must insist that the introduction of a straight-up 'brother’ clone is needless in comparison to the more complex relationship he has with Captain Syrup. As said before, in two of Wario Land 2’s endings, Syrup is actually captured by other enemies, and it’s Wario himself who sets her free. One of these chapters is actually titled 'CAPTURED SYRUP!’ in reference to this, as the noteworthy highlight of the level.
The fact that he antagonises her and considers her the enemy, yet still makes it a point that he needs to save her is an interesting clash implied between two characters and sets them up as intriguing duo potential, especially considering that what immediately follows from her rescue is slapstick humour.
To add more wrinkles to the matter, the other chapter in which Wario rescues Syrup turns out to be a dream Wario was having while asleep. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there, but the point stands.
With the plot given in Mario Tennis’ intro, the important thing is that Wario and his doubles partner are outcasts from the tournament. For as long as this is true, the only necessity for this is that his partner must also be an enemy who’s warranted exclusion. In Syrup’s case it makes sense especially, considering she’s previously caused trouble for the main Mario characters, since in Wario Land she stole a giant statue of Princess Peach, which you actually see Mario recover in the game’s ending. If their partnership really needed justifying from a logical point of view, it would’ve made sense that both of them were simply banned for different reasons, and decided to team up as a truce.
Regardless, they’re from the same series, have a history as rivals and have wronged the same people to explain that story aspect. However you look at it, it has more basis than a counterpart who’s just suddenly there seemingly out of obligation, and never amounted to anything. The fact remains that Syrup had two appearances in incredible main-series games, and even after fifteen years, Waluigi hasn’t warranted a single one.
And… That’s about it, really. Syrup deserved that 8th player spot from the get-go, always has and always will. She deserved a chance to represent the Wario Land games and invoke the interest of players in the wonderful games she originated from. She deserved a chance to develop as Wario’s partner character and heated rival. But, more than anything…
Princess Shokora is a fantastic character and everything you need to know about her is right there in Wario Land 4. In this article I’ll go through every appearance she has - as chronologically as possible - and talk about the merits of the character that are evidenced through the game’s content and presentation.
#0 – 14-YEAR-OLD SPOILERS
Before I get started on anything else, something has to be established so that the rest of the article makes sense to those unfamiliar:
These three are the same person. They’re all Princess Shokora, the former two being her in her cursed state, the third being her true form. Just making sure of this now so that the rest of this article is cohesive. The Shopkeeper in the centre there is shown on-screen to turn into the cat, and the cat is shown turning into Shokora. This frees me up to explain the rest.
As for how this happened, I’ll let the game’s instruction manual explain. This is the only time in this article where I’ll use a source from outside of the game’s content itself:
“Cursed sleep” isn’t exactly correct. Princess Shokora was actually cursed to take on another form, but I take this as inaccuracy on behalf of the newspaper, who must not have known about the exact nature of the spell. Regardless, Princess Shokora was cursed by the Golden Diva. With those details out of the way, let’s proceed.
#1 - SHOKORA THE STRAY
Let’s start with the intro. Here is every shot in the skippable pre-title cutscene.
Now, for specifics…
There she is! Right off the bat, Shokora’s in the first frame in the game, appearing in an alleyway. In general, it’s worth noting that before Wario Land 4, Wario’s base environments were more fantasy-oriented, living in castles, burgling pirate islands and flying around in a small biplane. Here though, it establishes that Wario now lives in a city. What this means for Shokora is told in the next shot:
Cardboard boxes, trash cans and other stray animals such as this dog. Shokora’s been living rough! Life as an alley cat has probably worn her down, as we can tell by how angry she looks in the next shot that she’s in, after Wario begins driving his car.
This particular sprite of the black cat isn’t used anywhere else in the game, so it isn’t as if this was the only walk made for her and the expression was more justified in another circumstance. No, the angered look to her implies how she feels as a whole, given that there isn’t anybody or anything for her to interact with. Her typical mood is implied through this scene-exclusive graphic.
I’d say this demonstrates a fear of being run over by a car, but… Well, I think every living being has that, really, let’s move on.
A newspaper then blows into Shokora’s face…
…Which she then reads. If she’s able to and willing to read the article, and stops to do so, this immediately states that despite now having the body of a cat, Shokora still possesses her own human mind, and has perceived the world like that for as long as she’s been a cat, which makes her homelessness all the sadder as she would retain the memories of what her life was like before the curse. That in itself is evidenced here:
She’s shown reading the article, and two pictures are included of relevant characters. Though they aren’t named or given stated occupations, their character designs and the topic of the paper’s article set their roles. The top photograph is of Dr. Arewo Stein, and based on his comically-styled ‘mad scientist’ appearance, you can deduce that he is the man behind the pyramid’s discovery. Any inclinations of this are confirmed when players see him wandering around the Pyramid’s interior and areas with a magnifying glass.
As for the painting at the bottom, obviously coming into this article you know it’s Shokora, but even without that much, given her clothing you can piece together that whoever it is, she’s meant to be the ruler of the Pyramid that the article mentions. The fact that the article talks of the pyramid’s actual discovery tells that it’s been around for a very long time.
When you bear in mind that Shokora was the ruler of this pyramid that was only recently discovered and contains legendary treasure, and that she’s still alive, you realise that she’s spent life as a stray cat for a depressing length of time.
#2 - MS. GAME & WARIO
Here is the game’s prologue, as I suppose it can be called. This is shown after a new save file is created and isn’t skippable.
Wario begins by finding the pyramid in the jungle and celebrates his discovery. He then enters the pyramid and goes through a corridor to find the black cat.
Shokora leads him through to the next room…
…and down this hole, ensuring him that the way is safe. This friendly approach and direction assures the player that the black cat is their ally. If you know and bear in mind her true identity, it becomes apparent that Shokora doesn’t protest Wario’s exploration of the pyramid, most likely in hopes that he will help her overcome the Golden Diva, who is referenced for the first time in-game in the next shot.
Take notice of the kabuki masks on either side of the chute’s entrance. While the player won’t yet know it, these mark the first of the Diva’s recurring appearances.
Here we also get the pleasure of listening to the first of Wario’s many 'WAAAAAAH!’s whenever he’s flung to another location. Wonderful.
This next shot shows a giant wall carving with an open mouth and a large tongue…
…which acts as a safe slide for Wario to enter the pyramid’s depths. This detail is actually pretty important considering who led him here, as you’ll see later.
For now, Wario has made it inside the game’s HUB world and can begin his adventure in the Entry Passage.
So, thus far Shokora has found out that Wario’s heading for the pyramid, and has proactively made her way there to help guide him through it. This assigns her with a role wherein she’s taught Wario as a character by sharing her knowledge, but seeing as this sequence is an automated cutscene and is inevitable, this aspect to her doesn’t really concern the player.
…Except it does.
Look, there she is!
These inscriptions not only give the player instructions on how to play the game, but are also placed as contextual aspects of Wario’s world. This not only serves as an indication of Shokora tutoring Wario, but it’s also relevant to the player as, in the process, Shokora is also tutoring them. She doesn’t do this through dialogue or in any way that interferes with the player’s control over Wario, just simple diagrams to explain certain necessary functions that wouldn’t otherwise be self-explanatory, meaning there’s no typical tutorials in any other level in the game.
Shokora ensures that the player is armed with the knowledge to fairly step to any challenges the game presents, and this is themed through Wario being able to read messages left to him on the pyramid’s walls. This is simply brilliant. No animation is played to make Wario stop and turn to Shokora’s hieroglyphs, or anything like that. Wario’s learning happens at the same rate as the player, as their very act of interpreting the graphics equates to a character’s action in their story, and it happens seamlessly.
Of course, either from prior knowledge or the note at the start of this article, you know that it’s Shokora’s cursed state that’s conveyed in the inscriptions, but a first time player would be forgiven for it shrugging off as a simplistic character designed solely for easy tutorial conveyance, or a Mr. Game and Watch look-alike as a cute reference to Nintendo’s history.
It’s when access is granted to the Entry Passage’s boss that this teaching point becomes concrete, and it’s also where it becomes apparent that Shokora wears many hats.
#3 - PRINCESS SHOPORA
Once the Hall of Hieroglyphs is completed, the player moves Wario further into the Entry Passage, where more of the game’s core elements are shown. Here’s where we first get to see how much of a fucking badass Shokora is.
The first thing you come to next is the Mini-Game Shop, which contains three Mini-Games for you to play, as accessed by these… Rocket-robot-arcadey things. You pay coins gathered to the levels to play them, and playing well nets you Frog Medals.
Next along the corridor is the Boss door.
…With this Item Shop just before the boss’ domain, which is there to sell you items to damage the bosses before the clock starts, in exchange for Frog Medals.
Not bad, eh?
As you can see, it’s run by Shokora. This particular one is for Spoiled Rotten only, and features only the weaker four of the Items, which are all weapons with a rainbow pattern. They are the Apple Bomb, Blast Cannon, Vizorman and Bugle.
While you’re in here, Shokora can also give you a free smile.
…Which she’s delighted to do, clearly! I think this speaks for how happy she is to finally have a companion, someone aiding her in her own battle against the Golden Diva. Her enthusiastic dialogue and offer of a smile to him is a good indicator of how grateful she is for his support, which once again backs up how lonely she’s been in the past.
She even seems pretty miffed when you don’t want anything.
Sometimes, before you enter the shop, the black cat will be standing outside, and then run into the shop. Since there’s no trace of the cat once you’re inside, and the only other person in there is the shopkeeper, this is the first clue that they’re one and the same. While we’re here, about that sign…
Believe it or not, this very sign confirms many details about Shokora.
It serves as evidence that Shokora is indeed responsible for the hieroglyphs of the previous level, take note that here she’s demonstrated that she can draw a likeness of her cursed self by way of this sign. Granted, it shows that she’s capable of recreating that likeness, thus giving the hieroglyph observation some backbone.
As well as that, take note of the multiple bright colours this sign has…
…and how much it resembles the rainbow motif on these weapons in the shop. I take this as a sign that Shokora is inventing her own weaponry, as her sign and items have the same decorative theme going on and thus qualifies her as an expert technician. And that she likes rainbows.
In addition, take note of how the sign resembles this unused graphic for another sign:
As you can probably guess, this was supposed to advertise the Mini-Game Shop we saw earlier, but selecting to enter the room on the map brings you straight inside, rather than setting you along a hallway for you to then enter it through a door that this sign would be above. I think this was the only reason that this sign wasn’t used, as it had no place.
Nevertheless, the fact it’s in the exact same style as the other one implies that the Mini-Game Shop, or Game Corner, is also Shokora’s work, which then logically means she’s the creator of the Game-bots as well. In fact, let’s take another look at the room.
Notice how the dialogue box is in a similar style to the speech bubble in the Item Shop, and how the manner of speech is pretty similar to how the shopkeeper speaks. I would say that all of the robotics and inventions in the pyramid’s HUB that are outside of the levels are all Shokora’s own handiwork.
Hell, if you’d been around as long as she has, you’d have time to brush up on your skills, right?
Before we move on, just a quick note that Shokora as the black cat can also randomly appear in the pyramid’s main map HUB. You can’t interact with her when this happens, but it does help the impression along that she’s always in here with you, in the same way as Dr. Arewo Stein is, as mentioned before.
Now, let’s talk about the Shop once it’s expanded.
#4 - ENTER THE BLACK DRAGON
This is the Item Shop for every boss after Spoiled Rotten, featuring four new selections: the Black Dog, Large Lips, Big Fist and Black Dragon. What’s interesting about these is that whereas the other four are weapons, these are powerful transformations that Shokora takes on to fight the boss. As a demonstration, here’s the Black Dragon up against Cractus, guardian of the Legendary Crown.
All of the bosses have weaknesses to a particular transformation, hence why they’re all given the same price. It’s up to the player to decide which form is likely to fare best against which boss. In this case, for example, Cractus is a plant, so it makes sense that the Black Dragon’s fire breath is most effective against him.
The basic thing to take away as it that, given enough Frog Medals, Shokora can take on lethal forms and absolutely pulverize those bosses. Given that the transformations are not a physical item to be given on her behalf, I deduce that the Frog Medals themselves have magical qualities that give her the ability to shapeshift and build weapons. Frog symbols have certainly demonstrated magical capabilities in this game already, such as every time you enter or exit a level.
Indeed, the Frog statues are what create the warp holes to and from the Golden Pyramid. Based on this, I’d say that Shokora needs those Medals out of necessity rather than greed. Money is literally power in this game, and I’ll elaborate on that later on.
And that actually leads me onto another point about why Shokora is such an effective and important character.
It can’t be denied that she’s a total badass; she copes with living rough, builds and handles weaponry, has experience as a rocket scientist and shapeshifts into extremely powerful.forms. But here’s the distinction and what’s important to the player:
She needs you.
Let’s take a look at another boss fight to examplify this point.
This is Cuckoo Condor, the boss of the Ruby Passage and guardian of the Legendary Earrings. As you can see, he has two forms in the fight, Form 1 on the left and Form 2 on the right. They are very different from oneanother in how they’re fought and require different skills learned in the game. If one of them was included but not the other, it would make the fight a lot more shallow and a lot less engaging.
Now, if you choose to battle Cuckoo Condor without enlisting Shokora’s help, he turns from Form 1 to Form 2 when seven pegs of his health bar remain. This is exactly halfway through the fight, as he begins with fourteen pegs in total. Now, let’s take a look at what happens when you have Shokora transform into a Big Fist for the battle.
Now, that’s a massive wallop she just gave him, but what exactly did it do?
That’s right! Shokora can lay down an intense amount of hurt, but she’s never quite strong enough to finish them off. That’s your job.
Look at Cuckoo Condor; He’s left with two pegs, and remains in Form 1. Which means you still need to figure out and execute the attack on Form 1…
…before you’re given Form 2 for the final peg! Game design at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.
Regardless of how much more time you have left on that clock upon your
victory, everything you learn is exactly the same as you would’ve had
you gone without Shokora’s support; You figure out the measures you must take and you put them into practice.
What this means for Shokora is that, despite how powerful she can
be, the one to make all the difference is Wario, the avatar of the
Now, just before we get to the game’s finale, I think we should discuss the Sound Room.
#5 - DJ CHOCOLAT
Music is a very important part of Wario Land 4. The soundtrack speeds up and slows down, distorts, diverges, it really does tie itself up in knots, proving to be one of the most dynamic and impressive soundtracks in the history of video games. How is it important to Shokora, though? Let’s see…
These music CDs you can find throughout the levels are WL4′s equivalent of hidden treasures from the past games, having the most in common with those of the first Wario Land. As you can probably guess, they actually function based on their form, and will give you a piece of music to listen to as a bonus if you manage to find one. You can do this by going to the game’s Sound Room, on the main map.
First of all, recognise where it’s located? That’s right! This is where Wario fell in from at the beginning of the game, having slid down the wall carving’s tongue. So, this is where Shokora led him in through, and also where you go to listen to the CDs you find… Keep that in mind.
Welcome to the Sound Room! As you can see, all the game’s CDs are lined up here in rows to represent the passages you found them in. You might think the first time around that this must simply be a Sound Test to listen to the level tracks, but you’d be mistaken. In actual fact, they’re short, experimental songs mainly dabbling in everyday sounds, reworked tracks from the game such as the Puzzle Room theme and Shokora’s boss intro, and a variety of genres. Most of them create a sort of narrative, as you listen. If you’ve never heard them before, just imagine if fever dreams were nothing but audio. They’re absolutely terrific to listen to and are one of the best takes on treasure, serving as both a trophy and an unlockable.
When you start listening to one, you are given the song’s title, album art, and a TV in the top right that plays random two-frame GIFs. Each song features its own animation of someone dressed up as Wario clowning about, and all of them share a common pool of other bizarre things.
…Such as this goofy, bobbing dog head. But the real reason I bring this up is the fact that Shokora someitmes appears in that screen…
…mixing the tracks. This detail is amazing, as it consolidates Shokora’s savviness with technology, but also demonstrates another interest of hers: Making music! If you’re to examine the two animations’ implications, and remember that this room is in the way Shokora let Wario into the pyramid, you can deduce that all the CDs are actually her own creations, not even to speak of the relevence some of the tracks hold in particular.
To properly make some points, I’m going to skip around to different parts of the game.
Wario Land 4 keeps track of high scores, in that it’ll keep a record of how many coins you’ve managed to collect on each level. If you manage to collect over 10,000 coins, you’ll earn a Gold Crown for the level.
If you manage to do this with all 18 levels, a new option will open up in the Sound Room.
Yes, Karaoke! This feature allows you to sing along with one of the game’s most memorable music tracks, Medamayaki, or Sunny Side Up. This song is actually the music played in the level, Palm Tree Paradise, and features vocals in both the level and Karaoke (though in the latter it can be switched off).
As the song plays, all 16 of the Wario cosplayer animations will play at random, and the little cat on the album art will move its mouth to sing, if you have the vocals switched on. The song is in Japanese, but I have a rough translation of it here that has it flow properly in English:
Ukulele echoes, As we roam our new home. On barefoot we go, Searching for the moon in whole, We find it split in half.
We can sketch out a map on canvas, With a drop of a rainbow, Let’s colour it in. And if we don’t return for sunrise, Stop the clocks and we’ll leave them together for good.
I want your sighs and worries to dissolve in the sea, I want your voice forever carved into in a stone. When the moon comes floating by in your bowl of soup, Hold your head up, the clouds printed like leopards will smile
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the lyrics themselves, but once more, consider that Sunny Side Up is in the Sound Room at all…
…and also that one of the CD songs, The Moon’s Lamppost is a remix of it in reverse, with a contrasting title.
Long story short, there’s plenty to indicate that Shokora is the DJ behind everything in this musical room, but I could still use some evidence linking a song directly to her, and not just her cursed shopkeeper form, if we’re being picky. Once again, bank that for the time being.
For now, with all this talk of music, I’d like to briefly return to the intro cutscene, and the song that I neglected to mention the first time around. It too features vocals, and these lyrics are in English. You can hear the song here.
The important lyrics here are the first ones, as put by the female vocalist:
You wanna test it now?
Your time is over, I’ve had enough. Here I come, Look out, here I come!
Now, what could that be referring to? Well, time to find out!
#6 - THE SHOWDOWN
I’m going to go into a lot of detail about the final part of the game, so buckle up.
The point of beating all of the bosses is to nab the treasure that they guard, each a piece of royal jewellery. Given that I’ve been talking about a princess the whole time, I think you can immediately understand the significance of this, regardless if you’ve played the game or not.
Here’s what happens each time you beat one of the bosses:
The boss’ treasure levitates before you, alongside however many chests you managed to save, based on how quickly you beat the boss. They then fly into the the central pyramid, and light up the corner of the passage you just completed.
When you manage this with all four passage bosses, this will happen:
The central pyramid will rise, and reveal an entrance, leading to the Golden Passage, a final level that puts all of your skills to the test. This helps to further establish that the treasure has some real power behind it, in this case the ability to raise a crypt. This broadens the ‘money is power’ motif that the game has set in place, which is the main reason Wario feels so at-home in the scenario the game presents.
Once the Golden Passage is completed, it’s time to face off against the evil one behind Shokora’s curse, the selfish hoarder of the legendary treasure, the Golden Diva herself.
Right away, with the boss icon the recurring kabuki mask that’s been seen throughout the game on the Jewel chests now makes sense.
It’s also the same that was featured on Shokora’s entrance to the pyramid, too.
Now, for the fight, I’ve enlisted Shokora’s help, having her use the Black Dog transformation, because this will confirm something I’ve seen mislabelled as speculation.
This is it. This is what the intro song was referring to: The Golden Diva’s time is over and Shokora’s had enough. This is the confrontation that could only happen with Wario’s help. Wario was Shokora’s chance to finally make things right.
The Diva enters through a shroud of mist, in a room full of gold, jewels and the treasure chests salvaged from the other boss rooms. She’s wearing all the treasures of the bosses, too.
Shokora strides in and stares her enemy down, as usual.
She becomes the Black Dog…
…and starts chomping away at the Diva’s face. The Golden Diva’s mask changes whenever she takes damage, to explain the change.
However, instead of leaving after her attack, she stands beside Wario, still as the Black Dog.
…But the Diva transforms her back into the much weaker cat.
This is important, as it proves for certain that the shopkeeper, black cat and Shokora are all the same, without any need for theory or interpretation. It might’ve been implied earlier on, but here is where the fact is made concrete. Regardless…
Even when reverted to her powerless form, Shokora’s still up for the fight.
She tries one last attack…
But it proves ineffective, and she’s captured inside the Diva’s lips, after which the fight begins. This scene is genius in how it’s constructed, with the Diva differing from the other bosses by being the only one to harm Shokora. Hell, let alone harm her, she completely imprisons her! Being shown all of this provides a greater incentive to overcome the Golden Diva and serves as fantastic character development for Wario. The story to begin with was that Wario was only in on this adventure for the sake of graverobbing, and up until now, that was the only incentive he had. Each boss gives you treasure, and nobody’s really been threatened. But this scene changes things.
This little black cat has been the player’s guide and partner throughout the game, and now, out of nowhere, they’ve been put in grave danger. Even with the vast amount of treasure that’s at stake, seen in the background, the fact that a friendly character is put at risk gives the player, and Wario by association, much more to fight for. Not only is this gaseous horror in the way of the treasure you’ve fought for, but now they’ve taken your buddy captive.
This change happens to Wario because it happens to you.
The player then battles the Diva and her vast array of tricks. Notice the look of complete worry on the second mask.
…And eventually, her final mask breaks off, revealing her true appearance. This is where her patience evidently begins to wane, as instead of weaponry, the Diva starts slamming into the ground to break it. This illustrates that she’s beginning to comprehend exactly what’s happening. After years and years of reigning over little else than this single, isolated room in the pyramid, all alone with her gold, her time is coming to an end, and in the name of the one she was so desperate to keep held down, no less.
Fantastic storytelling via simple animations. Take notes.
Once the player hits her head enough times, her treasure will float into the air as she bursts, leaving nothing but her lips, where Shokora was held. Wario gives her a final attack, and seals her fate once and for all.
#7 - SHOKORA IS FREE
Now, the beginning of the ending sequence is something I find very interesting. Just after all the chests are counted in, and Wario poses in celebration, the pyramid begins to fall apart. Arewo Stein drops in from the ceiling and Shokora seems adamant on them getting the hell out. The way that the screen fades to black gives the impression that Wario is faced with a dilemma…
…Being Wario, though, he negotiates the situation through an insane display of power! Given her expression, Shokora here’s either determined to escape, or questioning to herself if he’s out of his mind.
Shokora expresses concern for Wario, and Stein gets his own back before running off. Shokora scolds him for this and keeps waiting for Wario. Just as she did in the beginning, once he catches up to her she leads him right back out.
Wario and Shokora manage to escape the pyramid, just before it crumbles into the ground…
…and together, they share a hearty laugh, probably just happy to still be alive.
Recognise it? Indeed, Shokora’s theme in her final moments is none other than Sunny Side Up, reworked into a triumphant and beautiful arrangement.
The four boss treasures are returned to the little black cat, and this twist I’ve rumbled throughout the article finally occurs…
…as she begins to take on human form. The black cat and the shopkeeper are both Princess Shokora.
She was with you the whole time.
After she has transformed, Shokora kisses Wario and thanks him, her compassion expressed through a little heart.
To this day, this scene brings a smile to my face.
Probably the most well-known aspect to Shokora is her four different possible forms, one of which she takes on depending on how many chests you managed to recover during the fight with the Golden Diva. Granted, this features works well to reward those who played well and poke fun at those who didn’t, but what’s particularly interesting is what’s her true form. Remember the newspaper article?
This picture (presumably a painting from her own time) features Shokora as she appears in the standard Good ending, the second-best that’s possible. So why then is her true, Best ending form not shown? Well, there’s nothing that can pinpoint the reason other than not spoiling the surprise of the Best ending, but I do have a plausible explanation.
This picture is of Shokora as she was last known, before the curse was placed upon her by the Golden Diva. When you consider the other forms, and the order they’re in, with her as a baby being the Worst ending, I theorise that these forms showcase her appearance at different ages. As for the Best ending’s form, I will explain that shortly, but first…
Moments after expressing her gratitude, Shokora’s spirit ascends into heaven, so that at long last, she may finally rest in peace.
Once Shokora has departed, Wario lays there for a while, in awe of what just happened.
Soon though, he stands up, looking invigorated…
…and leaves, with his treasure in tow.
Shokora’s treasure? No, Wario’s. Not even Wario’s, really… yours.
#8 - MEMORIES
Princess Shokora is not just a damsel in distress, nor is she the means to an excuse plot. She’s not a parody or a joke, and she’s not even the things I mentioned, such as a tutor, a robotician or a musician.
No, Princess Shokora is an incredible character, and far, far more than the sum of her parts.
This is something you can truely realise when you know what’s inside of those chests.
These aren’t treasures because they’re made from gold and jewels, and have a value in currency. These are treasures because, long ago, they held significance in somebody‘s life, and that person is Princess Shokora. The more of these you manage to recover, the more of Shokora’s life can be remembered, hence how progressively grown she is shown to be.
But if the picture in the newspaper shows the latest account of her in life, would that not make her true form?
Through your ability as the player, you become the sum of Shokora’s efforts. The form she takes on in the game’s Best ending, accessed only by recovering every single chest, stands for all the time she’s spent under the Golden Diva’s curse. All the time she’s spent on the city streets as a stray cat, learning to make music from her surroundings and preparing herself to battle her captor alongside you as an ally, that is what makes this version of Shokora the true one. It’s your capability to learn from what she taught in the very first level and succeed where she could not.It’s your ability to master the game.
Wario and the player are what complete her.
Shokora’s memories are sealed inside those golden treasures, so why did she accept a successor so willingly? Why did she allow and even assist Wario in taking every treasure, that she’s only just rightfully gotten back?
Well, it’s because Shokora must understand what a phenomenal video game is bound to do.