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Retro Game Review: Wario's Woods NES
Title Screen Screen
Oh, Wario. Mario's cousin who isn't quite evil enough to be considered a villain, but who has a long-standing grudge against Mario. Today, he is perhaps best known for his minigame extravaganzas, but at one point he had a deep desire to become a game star in his own right. He had platformers, weird mouse-based games akin to Mario vs Donkey Kong, and my personal favorite: Puzzle games. When I was younger, I had an SNES, and Wario's Woods was one of my favorite games. Ever. Of all time. To this day, I would stay it's STILL my favorite puzzle game. It's stood the test of time, being rereleased as a wiiware title. However, as a child I had NO IDEA that this had been released on the NES at the same time it came out for SNES!
It was, in fact, one of the last games released for the NES, and the only one, to my knowledge, to receive an ESRB rating. The rating, for those who are curious, is “KA: Kids-Adults”, which would later become “E: Everyone”. In 1994, the NES was being phased out, so it's no surprise that I never knew this game existed. Thankfully, my robot overlords over at Google have alerted me to it's presence, and I spent all of last night making it through 100 levels of puzzlely goodness!
KA Eventually Became E
Toad & Birdo
Now, if you haven't played Wario's Woods already, all you really need to know is that the plot, like most puzzle games, is nothing to write home about. There's a forrest in the Mushroom Kingdom that, as a child, I assumed was the Forrest of Illusions from Super Mario World, but is actually called the “Peaceful Woods”. Wario took over this place; the game doesn't say how, so maybe he bought up the land, maybe he was just a squatter, the world will never know. But he hollowed out all the trees and filled them with monsters, which you must kill with bombs. So... like I said. Nothing to write home about. BUT GOOD GOD IS IT FUN!
Toad, the head of the Mushroom Retainers, Princess Peach Toadstool's personal guards, is called upon to solve this monster infestation. He only wears a vest and those puffy pants, so he brings along his friend Wanda, a fairy that I've never seen since in a Nintendo title, who's going to supply him with bombs, and Catherine, more commonly known as Birdo, to keep an eye out for Mario. I love Birdo, just as an aside. And I think that this game went a long way toward segmenting that love for her in my brain.
Birdo & Toad
Unfortunately, the sound takes a huge hit on the NES. In the SNES, there's a variety of things that Birdo will say depending on how well you play, like “Cool!” or “breakfast!”. I tried to line up so many combos that her sound clip couldn't play all the way through before starting over so she'd go, “Co-co-co-cool!”. In the nes, you don't get any of that. There's no room for voice acting, and the sound chip can't take it, so you just get little nes sounds. Dings and pings are a poor substitute if you're already used to the voice clips. It probably wouldn't bother me so much if I hadn't played and loved the SNES first. But because I had, the absence was really noticeable. And the sounds are indicators that your combos have bought you more time, so I wasn't sure whether or not the extra time had registered. But again, that's mostly because I was used to the voice clips, and not because the dings didn't do their job.
Now obviously, the 8bit graphics have nothing on the SNES. With it's multiple layers and it's 32,000+ colors it's obviously going to be prettier, so the nes probably shouldn't be judged on it's inability to display images with the same beauty as it's successor. But some of the issues with graphics make little sense to me, even taking that into account. For example, Wanda looks more like a fairy in her NES, lower pixel sprite than she does in the snes. So that's weird. And Wario himself has his colors inverted; his hat and shirt are plumb and his overalls are yellow. I don't see why limiting colors would cause that.
But the worst thing about this game; what killed me over and over; the thing I absolutely could not deal with- is an issue with the nes controller itself. In the snes game, you can sit down a monster or bomb, and then kick it across the screen. If it hits a row in which it would explode, it explodes. If you are trapped against a column and a wall, you can kick your way out. The button that performs the kick is the Y button. Which does not exist on the nes controller. I would say that this easily doubles the difficulty.
All in all, you can sew why this game is my favorite puzzle game ever, but if you had to choose only one version, play it on the SNES. If you're willing to play both, it's definitely worth a nes playthrough, but be prepared for the added difficulty.
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