The 'Shroom:Issue 105/The Year of Ashley 2015
The Year of Ashley 2015
2015 has been an... interesting year for the WarioWare series, to say the least. Since the incredibly lukewarm release of the spin-off Game & Wario, Nintendo has remained almost dead-silent about the series' future for years now, leaving WarioWare fans (particularly me) to only hope that a new mainline title is in development for a future console, even going so far as to suggest that WarioWare is one of the series Nintendo is porting to mobiles, having skipped the 3DS entirely (a decision I'd fully support if it meant getting a new microgame-centered WarioWare game sooner D:). Heck, Nintendo currently has no intentions to even bring the latest release in its sibling series Rhythm Heaven overseas (might I add, that REALLY SUCKS). So for many, it seems that WarioWare is slowly becoming one of Nintendo's relic series akin to F-Zero; looked upon with fondness and the desperate longing for a revival and return to greatness, but only ever getting guest appearances in Smash Bros. because ~Nintendo history~.
Overreacting aside, the future of WarioWare is certainly unclear. However, for the past year (and a bit) there has been an odd exception to this radio silence, and it appears that Nintendo clearly thinks you’d better learn her name, 'cause it's Ashley.
Ashley has received an incredibly notable amount of attention from Nintendo ever since the release of the latest Smash Bros. installment, in which she features as an Assist Trophy. This wouldn’t be unusual if Ashley had already been receiving lots of attention prior, but aside from cameoing in Brawl, Ashley has had little-to-no outside promotion since her debut in WarioWare: Touched! in 2004. She still quickly became one of the most favoured characters of the series however, rivaling characters such as Mona in popularity (based on anecdotal evidence alone), but never really being too popular outside of WarioWare circles (all 3 of them olololol).Club Nintendo Japan in 2014, eventually escalating into more and more unprecedented guest appearances throughout 2015 (becoming the first WarioWare character to cameo in a Mario title aside from Wario himself). For some of the more...dedicated WarioWare fans, this unusual spike in popularity is a little bitter-sweet, as it means other WarioWare characters are being left by the wayside in favour of moar Ashley. But, if it means a new WarioWare is imminent, then what does it matter? For Ashley fans, this may seem like a blessing. With the amount of appearances she made this year, did we actually just live through the Year of Ashley 2K15™ (or The Season of the Witch™)? Will we see more Ashley in 2016, or has Ashley's popularity peaked? Am I really being serious about this article?
We can only guess the answers to these questions, so as the Year of Ashley 2015™ draws to a close, please enjoy these ramblings of a madman with clearly too much time on his hands and no qualifications to predict the future as he details all of the cameos and guest appearances Ashley has had this year and what they might mean for WarioWare as a whole. Hocus Pocus.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS
As mentioned before, Ashley was revealed to be an Assist Trophy in the latest Super Smash Bros. games, appearing alongside Kat and Ana who return from Brawl. I personally view this as being Ashley's most notable guest appearance simply because its effing Smash Bros., the game with a fanbase that continuously obsesses over their favourite characters getting into the game simply because Smash Bros. = recognition from Nintendo and recognition from Nintendo = more advertisement and a possible revival if the popularity is apparent (I see Pit, Little Mac, Roy, and the recently announced Corrin as proof of the power Smash Bros. really has to boost the popularity of a character and the franchise they come from).
But, the funny thing about Ashley is that she's far more than just an Assist Trophy in Smash; the overly dramtic cover of her song from WarioWare: Touched! was one of the only WarioWare songs with vocals to return from Brawl, meaning that Nintendo chose to secure the rights to redistribute the song (and its JP version, which appears in the game's official soundtrack) over other songs such as Mona Pizza (which was obviously a kick in the gut to the Mona collective, I'm sure). It also oddly features as the alternate track for the WarioWare, Inc. stage in the 3DS version, and even received ANOTHER cover in Japan (which I vastly prefer to the Brawl version tbh). It seems as if Nintendo has latched onto the popularity of the song after its appearance in Brawl and exploited it to the fullest in Wii U / 3DS. Not that I'm complaining, Mike's song a shit.Smash Tour, an Assist Trophy, a profile icon, and three versions of her song, a fair portion of the relatively minuscule WarioWare representation was dedicated to Ashley, far more than any other WarioWare character that featured in the same game (probably even beating out Wario himself). So, with that fact, I think Nintendo clearly wanted to boost Ashley's popularity with her appearance in Smash Bros, and it's interesting to note that most of Ashley's other guest appearances occurred after this inclusion. But why is Nintendo aiming to extend her popularity outside of Smash Bros. if there isn't a WarioWare game on the horizon? It's completely baffling.
In effect, I see the decision to highlight Ashley in this shitfest as a recognition of two things: Ashley is incredibly popular as a WarioWare character, but wasn't too popular in the overall Nintendo fanbase, and Nintendo wanted to change this for... some reason, and look where we are now.
And as an addendum, in this year's Final Smash Bros. Presentation forever and ever until the end of time, an Ashley costume was unveiled for the Mii Swordfighter, being one of the last DLC Mii Costumes that will be added to the game. With this announcement, Ashley joins the ranks of characters such as Inkling and King K. Rool which couldn't be made into fighters but were still popular enough to prompt Nintendo to make purchasable costumes for. Coming off of all of her other appearances this year, this simply shows how much Ashley's popularity has skyrocketed since her initial appearance in the game.
For me, a devout Rhythm Heaven and WarioWare fan, this crossover appearance was simply the best. Not just Ashley, but the entire WarioWare cast (excluding Wario himself) features in the last two unlockable bonus stages in Rhythm Tengoku: The Best+ as playable characters in a bunch of remixed rhythm game goodness. As both Rhythm Heaven and WarioWare are developed by the same holy video game developer team Nintendo SPD1, a crossover between the two franchises was always a pipe dream—the closest we got to this before was the Chorus Men cameoing at the end of Game & Wario (which might I add featured an art-style similar to Rhythm Heaven as well, coincidence????)
To emphasize her growing popularity as Nintendo's token WarioWare rep, Ashley is the first character you encounter in the stage, and also has another cameo in the game in the form of a little doll decorating one of the menu screens. Cute. Also, this is technically Ashley's first playable appearance in a game outside of WarioWare as well, so that's exciting. (But not her only one this year!)
Without going on too much of a tangent, I believe that Rhythm Heaven is sorta in the same position as WarioWare at the moment. With the lack of any localisation announcement at E3 or throughout the rest of the year, it seems that the rest of the world might never get to enjoy RTTB+ and by extension Rhythmware to the fullest. Not to mention the primary songwriter for the games, Tsunku♂, has been battling laryngeal cancer and recently had to have his vocal chords removed, which is incredibly sad (and I still wish him all the best with his recovery). So yes, the future of Rhythm Heaven is also looking pretty bleak, probably even bleaker than WarioWare because the game doesn't have an Ashley of its own to promote, but if it really were never to receive another installment, at least it would go out on a very high note with the Rhythmware crossover, the perfect end to a fantastic compilation of great Rhythm Heaven minigames.
Daigasso! Band Brothers P
Moving on to another Japan-exclusive rhythm game that features Ashley (and Red) as a cameo: Daigasso! Band Brothers P. Being completely unaware of this series myself, I had to do a bit of research into its premise to understand why Ashley would be included in it. The game revolves around playing songs with the use of carefully timed button presses, and features plenty of music videos and OVAs to jam to, and allows you to record your own songs as well (plus it's also the series home to Barbara, The More You Know™). Ashley's Song features as downloadable content that was released sometime in the middle of this year, having also appeared in previous titles beforehand (but without a music video), and in promo material for the series.
The music video itself is just a mash-up of clips from games such as Touched!, Smooth Moves and D.I.Y., but the music is something that needs to be heard. I'm not sure if you can change the instrument you play for this particular song, but if you can then I would be avoiding trumpets at all costs.
A pretty minor appearance all around, but it still shows that Ashley is most renowned for her song above all else. I mean, why else did it receive three remixes in Smash Bros.? (Related: it's a shame that we will never get the true best version of Ashley's Song in any /official/ Nintendo medium whatsoever).
Super Mario Maker
Probably the most surprising guest appearance this year, Ashley was revealed to be a playable costume for Costume Mario in Super Mario Maker sometime in early September, beating out other spin-off bait characters such as Daisy, while simultaneously becoming the first WarioWare character aside from Wario to appear in a Mario title (9-Volt am cry). Like all other costumes, she is unlocked by playing through the dreaded 100 Mario Challenge.
It's interesting to note that she uses sound effects from Game & Wario as her flair, death, and level-clear jingles instead of something more obvious, indicating that perhaps her minigame in Game & Wario was more popular than expected (or they probably couldn't put the lyrics of her song in the game, whatever suits you). If all of these appearances are truly all leading up to <Ashley Game> then Nintendo testing the water again with playable Ashley wouldn't be unusual, but batshit insane theories aside, all of these appearances indicate that the Game & Wario art-style obviously isn't going away anytime soon. RIP in RIP red-eyed Ashley (mostly).
What's most fascinating about this appearance is that it serves as a milestone for just how far Ashley's popularity has risen over the past year since her appearance in Smash Bros. Nintendo now believes that Ashley is worthy enough to appear alongside memorable Nintendo characters such as Mario, Green Mario, Dr. Lobe, and even the legendary majong tile. That's kinda magical.
Nintendo Badge Arcade and other appearances
The rest of the Year of Ashley 2015™ was littered with more minor appearances. The most low-key of these was a drawing of Ashley that was used to promote a new feature in Art Academy: Home Studio in Japan. Not much else to say about this, except that whenever Art Academy images feature Nintendo characters, they're usually more recognisable (Yoshi and Goomba come to mind), so it shows that Nintendo does now consider her to be one of their more notable characters (to an extent).
In October, Ashley received her own 3DS Home Menu theme for Halloween, accompanied by a collection of Halloween-themed Ashley badges for Nintendo Badge Arcade which feature her dressed up as different monsters. There were a few badges of other WarioWare characters released as well, but none of them received new artwork aside from Ashley. Not only that, but Ko Takeuchi released a promotional comic to accompany the theme, and as far as I know it's the only 3DS theme with a promotion like it so... that's notable, I guess? The Nintendo Badge Arcade promotions didn't stop there however, as Ashley also featured as part of a collection of holiday-themed badges in which she dresses up as Santa alongside Nikki from Swapnote and Isabelle from Animal Crossing: New Leaf (it seems Nintendo likes having those three together). Whilst the Halloween badges makes perfect sense for Ashley, the Christmas promotion is kinda strange, but again, why am I to complain?
And to top it all off, WarioWare: Touched! is currently featured on the wiki's main page. Perhaps one of the MarioWiki higher-ups also has a liking for Ashley. Is there a link here? Could this person also have infiltrated the inner circle of Nintendo's marketing team and is currently campaigning for more Ashley appearances in 2016 as well? We might never know.
BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Clearly, our Ashley levels are reaching critical. With so many guest appearances and promotions featuring Ashley in just this year alone, Nintendo needs to release a new WarioWare soon or else the Ashley fandom might achieve a singularity and cease to exist. Or maybe their plan is to achieve just that? Am I at risk? Using the research above, I have carefully constructed a graph which I can use to predict the likelihood of Ashley appearances in 2016 and perhaps years after that.
It's conclusive, we're doomed.
The one downside to all of this Ashley is the thought that other WarioWare characters are being ignored (even poor Red in some cases), and that WarioWare might simply become AshleyWare in the future if this trend continues. However, that's an incredibly entitled outlook in my opinion, as this excessive promotion of Ashley has given me nothing but hope for future WarioWare titles because if at least one of its characters can remain relevant in the all-seeing eyes of Nintendo, then there has to be a chance another game is in development. If more Ashley is our only ticket to a new WarioWare, then so be it; bring on the Ashley spin-off of a spin-off of a spin-off announcement at E3 2016.
I'll be honest, a few years ago I never would've thought Ashley would receive so much attention from Nintendo, and it still feels surreal having a character I once joked about being in Mario Kart actually appear in a Mario game this year. Regardless, with the Ashley Mii costume being released early next year, it doesn't seem like Nintendo is going to slow down on the Ashley promotions, and whether this is all leading up to something bigger or not still remains to be seen. So, will we see the Year of Ashley™ continue well into 2016 just like the Year of Luigi did? Probably. For now though, it's just fun to reflect on the "Year of Ashley 2015" and hope that the future of WarioWare is a bright one. Happy holidays!