Wrecking Crew

In June of 1984, the last of the blue-collar Mario titles was released in the form of an Arcade game called VS. Wrecking Crew as part of the Nintendo VS System line of Arcade titles. Most of these titles were head-to-head two-player versions of existing NES titles or earlier single-player Arcade games, but VS. Wrecking Crew actually came out a full year before its NES counterpart.

To rip some development info from various wikis: Wrecking Crew was Yoshio Sakamoto's first job as a game designer following a brief stint as a pixel artist. The idea was to create a "puzzle action game" centered around breaking walls. The game originally had no tie to the Mario series, the protagonist being an unnamed overalls-wearing man with no mustache. During development, Shigeru Miyamoto was shown the game and suggested Mario to be the player character as "he’s really easy to draw, and people recognize him."

Despite the fact that it started life as a not-Mario game, the title feels very much like a follow-up to Mario Bros., which came out the year prior. The game consists of one-screen boards of multiple tiers populated by ladders, doors, walls, bombs, and enemies. You traverse between levels wrecking shit to increase your score and bashing enemies (or your opponent) with your permanently equipped hammer to temporarily stun them. The hammer stays true to its DOnkey Kong roots, and Mario (or Luigi) can not jump at all, though they've figured out how to climb ladders with the hammer out it seems hehe. And, like Mario Bros. staying on one floor of the level for too long spawns a fireball that weaves its way across the screen.

In a clear stroke of brilliance, each screen represented a different side of the construction site, with Player 2 appearing in the background layer of Player 1's screen, and vice versa. This allows players to hid behind walls and such in order to try and get the jump on their opponents. There's even special doors you can open to send enemies over to your opponent's side of the level! It's downright criminal that they haven't yet revisited the concept on the 3DS.

The only enemy in the game appears to be the Gotcha Wrench, despite the fact that the promotional flyers above showing some axe-faced thing as well. These things look like they have a name like Tyrannosaurus Wrench, an idea supported by its Japanese name Spanagon, which appears to be a portmanteau of Spanner and Dragon.

Roughly a year later, in June of 1985, Wrecking Crew finally dropped for the NES home console. It's a little different from its arcade counterpart. Levels, of which there are at least 100, can extend up more than one screen. There are new enemies, including the Eggplant Man, and the infamous Foreman Spike, introduced as a counterpoint to the fact that there was now no longer an opposing player to occupy the background layer of the level. There's also a level editor, so you can make your own levels. And I could be imagining it, but I swear the graphics are better than in the arcade version. And remember, all this in an NES title. Remember when they had to cut down DK, Jr, Mario Bros, and DK3 to get them to fit on the NES? And make the graphics worse? Yeah...

The Eggplant Men are, well, men dressed like eggplants. Their profile in the Mario character book seems to indicate that it's some sort of full-body welding mask. Their AI is a little different from the Gotcha Wrenches, but the basic strategy still boils down to "avoid them when possible, smash them with your hammer if need be". Not a whole lot to them, really. And then there's the other new guy, Foreman Spike. Yeah. I love this guy. I'm going to repeat myself a bit from the blue-collar Mario games post here:

This guy is interesting in that he's the anti-Mario from before Wario was a thing, though ironically Waluigi actually pays a lot more homage to Spike than Wario ever does. The clipped scan from the Mario Character Book above reveals that he's from America, has a bit in the corner that says "??????????", which roughly translates to "Wario is less bad [than Spike]?" (take that how you will), and has first person quotes that say (roughly) "I am the original rival!" and then talks about fucking with Mario at his job (being the wrecking crew at the time) and trying to defeat him with bombs. He basically acts as an AI-controlled player on the background layer that tries to hit you with his hammer and maybe send enemies your way. He's never really that hard to get the better of, but he's still a really fun concept that precedes Wario by a good seven years.

Wrecking Crew also sports a power-up in the form of the Golden Hammer, which destroys things in one hit that might otherwise take two or three (or more). It's a bit of a hidden power-up though, as it's only available on maps that have at least three bombs, and the specific bomb hiding the hammer must be the third one you blow up. I certainly never would have figured that out on my own.

After the NES title, that was really it for the Wrecking Crew crew until the follow-up years later in the form of the Super Famicom game Wrecking Crew '98.

Wrecking Crew '98 has more in common with Wario's Woods than it does the original Wrecking Crew. The game is a "match-at-least-three" puzzle game in which you control the pieces as Mario and can bash out blocks you don't want with the hammer. Enemies will prowl around the multi-tiered puzzle area which Mario can also hammer-smash. The game's story mode is a series of eight or so head-to-head puzzle battles similar to Tetris Attack in which you go up against the original Wrecking Crew characters plus Bowser, with a bunch of optional fights against random ass opponents like (I shit you not) a fucking rice ball, a random old man, and random little girl, and (this one came out of left field, even after the rice ball), a living Dogu figurine.

As you can see from the video above, the plot is thus: Mario walks into town and sees that a skyrise is blocking the sun from the flowers below. Being the ecoterorist that he is, Mario decides that this injustice must be punished, grabs his hammer, and proceeds the fucking demolish the city in an act of anarchy that goes largely unpunished and even appears to be supported by the local monarchy, because fuck Bowser, amirite guys?

If you couldn't tell, I'm not overly fond of the title.

Here's a TAS which contains the closing credits which play over a Rare-style character roll, which starts around halfway through the video, around the 5:20ish mark. In it you can see the updated designs of the original Wrecking Crew characters, as well as the host of new enemies, the vast majority of which appear to be little more than living construction equipment without much interesting design thought put into them. They are, copying the list from Mariowiki, as follows:

Forkun, a forklift that cruises around the stage, stopping momentarily to raise its fork. Only appears in chains involving three Pink Walls.
Blonya, a masked white creature carrying a cement block. Appears in combos of four Pink Walls.
Buruccho, a bulldozer that cruises around the stage, stopping momentarily to raise its front end. Similar to Forkuns, but slower. Appears in combos of five Pink Walls.
Burnya, a slower variety of Blonyas brandishing wielding tools and walking backwards. Appears in combos of six Pink Walls.
Dumpty, a dump truck that cruises around the stage, stopping momentarily to tilt its back end. Similar to Forkuns and Burucchos, but even slower. Appears in combos of seven Pink Walls.
Jenya, the slowest of the Blonya family, flying with a jetpack and stopping momentarily to throw cement blocks. Appears in combos of eight Pink Walls.
Kanbank, the most fatal enemy of them all. It is actually a sign of Bowser that's six walls wide and more than six walls tall, immediately ending the game of the opponent of the player that summoned it. Appears in combos of at least nine Pink Walls, thus very hard to get.
Guruccho, a screwdriver that appears only in chain sequences. Paired with Forkuns or Blonyas.
Gata Gata, a roadblock that appears only in chain sequences. Sometimes stops momentarily to let the sign on it swing. Paired with Burucchos or Burnyas.
Poles, a series of three poles that appear only in chain sequences. Paired with Dumpties.
U Dokun, a standee of a construction worker that appears only in chain sequences. Sometimes stops momentarily to put its arm up. Paired with Jenyas.
It's a shame that the follow-up to Wrecking Crew chose to be so dissimilar to its predecessor. I'm not really sure what they were thinking there.

Wrecking Crew has, unfortunately, not had a true follow-up, though its characters and items occasionally pop up here and there in cameo roles.

Starting in 1999 and continuing throughout the Super Smash Bros. Series as a whole, Mario has sported a Brown/White alt color that is an intentional homage to Foreman Spike, while Luigi has sported an alt that features his strawberry colors from the original Wrecking Crew.

Spike made a playable appearance in Mobile Golf for GBC in early 2001.

Later that same year, Eggplant Man was a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

A Wrecking Crew minigame was featured in WarioWare Twisted! in 2005.

Waluigi's signature song in DDR Mario Mix is Destruction Dance, a remix of the Wrecking Crew bonus round music, as an apparent nod to the similarities between the two characters.

Even later in 2005, Waluigi's Golden Mantis Kart in Mario Kart DS seems to be another nod to Waluigi's similarities to Spike.

Early in 2006, Eggplant Man makes a cameo in Chibi-Robo.

The Golden Hammer was featured as an item in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in 2008 (and later in Super Smash Bros. For 3DS in 2014)

Wrecking Crew was one of the main 16 or so titles featured in NES Remix in late 2013.

And, most recently, Wrecking Crew got a stage in the the latest Smash Bros entry! Right on!

I think that just about brings us up to date. Please let me know if there's anything I missed.

If anyone's interested in looking into the original NES game, it's available on the Virtual Console for both 3DS and Wii U, as well as the original Wii. It's fairly inexpensive and loads of fun. I highly recommend checking it out.