Wario's Woods -
Back when the Super NES first came out, a lot of people weren't willing
to make the switch from their old 8-bit NES systems right away. For some,
it was by choice. For others, mom and dad didn't want to shell out close
to $200 for a new system when the NES worked fine. As a result, many early
games were co-released for both the NES and Super NES, particularly puzzle
games (Yoshi's Cookie springs to mind). Naturally, the 8-bit versions were
inferior to the Super versions (and rightly so), but you could still experience
the game even without the new system.
I didn't even know there was an 8-bit variant of Wario's Woods until
my buddies Josh and Jen (from Apt. 6) acquired a copy via a cheat code
CD for Animal Crossing. If you didn't already know, the GameCube game
Animal Crossing (which is a Pokemon-like addiction unto itself) has an
8-bit emulator built in, and you can play various NES games by winning
Tom Nook's end-of-month lottery, digging in a certain spot, swiping special
E-reader cards, or (as my friends did) picking up a cheat code CD.
Back in the day, my mom picked up the 16-bit version of Wario's Woods for me. We always enjoyed
playing puzzle games together, and this one looked really cute. Essentially, this is the game of
second-string Nintendo mascots. Wario gets top billing, even though you play as Toad the Mushroom Retainer (that had to be a kick in the
teeth for Luigi fans... the fungus in an uproar had a starring role before he did!), and it's your mission
to clear the woods of Wario's evil critters. Birdo (the mini-boss of Mario 2) is your ally this time around, and
you use bombs dropped by a helpful pixie to clear the monsters. When a time limit expires, Birdo is
replaced by the evil Wario (who knocks down a Thwomp from the top of the tree, limiting your play area), and
the pixie becomes a Pidgit, who alternately drops bombs and more monsters into the play area.
The game plays a lot like Dr. Mario, since you use the bombs (instead of vitamins) to clear same-colored
critters from your screen. If you clear 5 or more in a row, you get a diamond that will clear the screen of one
color of monster. Toad, with his super-lifting strength, could carry entire vertical stacks of critters and
bombs, and put them down all together, or drop one at a time. And supposedly he can kick, too, but I don't
know how that's accomplished in the 8-bit version. In the Super incarnation, you pushed the L and R
buttons for that Toad-kick action (and I would often end levels by doing the "Funky Toad Dance", making
him kick left and right.) If you clear the levels quickly, you are rewarded with coins (30 yield an extra credit).
Every 9 levels, a progressively larger Wario shows up and ineffectually threatens Toad, time and again, to leave his Woods or else.
Sounds simple enough, right?
But if you actually sit there and think about the game , you
start to wonder. I mean, Birdo, the guy/girl dino (not ever getting into
that oddity) who you fight against 20 times in Mario 2 is now your friend?
Even though he/she does nothing to help whatsoever. And you know something's
strange when the "helpful" pixie is dropping explosivies on your head!!!
I suppose we're talking 'lesser of 2 evils here', since Wario is certainly
the main opponent. The look of pure malice on his face is classic when
he knocks the Thwomp down towards your mushroomy head. And I don't know
what those monsters are supposed to be, but to me they look like
evil sheep, bunnies, turnips, and robots. When Jen was playing (and I
was trying to teach her the ropes), I kept yelling, "Pick up the pink
bunny! No, not the sheep, the bunny!" What else would you call these things?
This is certainly one of those games where, if you play for too long, your eyes turn into anime swirls. Over
in Apt. 6, I played consistently through 60 levels before my eyes would no longer focus. Then I kept seeing
those blasted things every time I blinked or closed my eyes. You remember the effects of playing Dr. Mario
or Tetris for too long? How you kept seeing shapes or matching colors everywhere you looked? Kinda like
Overall, it's a fun way to kill some time. The Super version is much
better (as to be expected), since there are nifty characters like Mssr.
Boo the French Ghost and Aqualea the Mermaid to battle against. Also missing
are the spoken comments by Toad and others after a combo move. I miss
hearing him say "Cool!" and "Sweet!" when I beat a level. And the graphics
and music are much much better in the 16-bit copy, no real surprise. But
the gameplay is essentially the same (except that Toad can't lift the
diamonds in this version)... The bunnies and sheep and robots still blow
up with your pixie-supplied bombs. There are still the diagonal-only monsters
and the color-change bunnies. And those robot guys you have to kill twice
before they go away are just as annoying here. So if it's always been
your dream to blow up strange forest critters with brightly-colored explosives,
then this is totally the game for you. Go, Toad, go!!!
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