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Donkey Kong Jr., who speaks for himself, by this point had been replaced by both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country respectively.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…
Wario as a character is not appreciated nearly enough
You get the creative team of people at Nintendo R&D1 making Mario Land, getting so pissed off at having to work with a character that limited their possibilities so deeply that when the game took off and they made another one, they made this twisted parody of said character the final boss.
And right away they went on to make him the star, used him to explore gameplay possibilities within the platformer, went on to use the series that spawned as experimentation for what you can do.
“what if you explore and gather those coins instead of just getting to the end? what if you can’t die? what if instead of being a hero you’re just really selfish and the butt of many jokes in order to progress? and if the enemies are your weapons rather than obstacles? what if we put a time limit that affects the outcome of the game? what if you don’t know you’re rescuing the princess but there’s subtle hints to it being a sidestory to your goal?”
None of that sounds like a copy of Mario or Mario games as a whole. In fact, I don’t think any of this would have happened if they were to developing a Mario game. These guys took something that could have ended as a generic “bad clone” idea and took it way beyond. And that’s not even mentioning Wario Ware coming afterwards as a sign of the character and the series developing even further, just by virtue of how good of a character Wario ended up being.
Good ol Wario might be funny but he’s also a prime example of brilliant character design for games and how well you can direct your creativity if you just keep experimenting and developing your possibilities.
He stands for way, WAY more than people take him for.