When one thinks of the NES, a plethora of beloved games spring to mind. Who can forget their good times with, among other classics, Super Mario Brothers 3, Contra, The Legend of Zelda, and Wario’s Woods? Wait, what’s that you say? You’re telling me that that last one isn’t familiar? Well, truth is, not many people know about it, and that’s a shame.
Wario’s Woods is a game with an interesting history, one where it’s easy to see why not many people have heard of it. Released in 1994 with a simultaneous launch on the bigger and more happening SNES, the game wasn’t just one of the last games on the slowly dying NES, it was the last game to be released on the NES. As a result, it likely slipped through the cracks for many people, doomed to hide in the small, shadowy corner of Nintendo’s illustrious hall of classics.
Truth be told, it’s mainly just luck that I have even heard of the game myself. Back in the day, I was an avid fan of Animal Crossing on the Gamecube, collecting as much furniture as possible and trying to pay off my debt to the evil landlord and small business owner Tom Nook. One day, through some odd occurrence involving an actual official Animal Crossing memory card that I can’t quite remember, I entered my town to find mail in my box, no different from any other day. However, this time was different. Within the mail box was an NES game. I didn’t even know that there were NES games in Animal Crossing. Furthermore, I hadn’t even heard of the game before. Curious, I went inside my house, plopped down the system, and started playing.
As I began the game, a multitude of thoughts coursed through my head. “Do… Do I play as Toad?”, “What are these monsters doi- oh my, this is a puzzle game.”, and “Damn, this music is catchy.” I hopped right into the gameplay, and I was, for a moment, befuddled. I was in an arena similar to that Tetris or Doctor Mario, with some cute little color-coded monsters. However, there was no guiding the pieces as they fell. I was Toad, stuck in the slowly filling tree alongside everything else.
The gameplay is relatively simple, but it has a slight learning curve. To win a round, the tree arena must be cleared of all monsters, a feat which can be accomplished by using bombs to knock out rows of three or more similarly colored creatures. In order to clear the tree, Toad has to pick up, carry, drop and kick the monsters contained within the field of play until they line up just right.
The controls, while they take a short while to master, are useful and effective. Toad can’t jump, so he has to make his way around by climbing up walls and stacks comprised of bombs and beasts. While one button will pick up or drop a single monster, another will grab an entire stack, allowing for some handy rearrangement of the field. While it may feel a bit finicky at first, it soon starts to feel like second nature and you find yourself moving all around the field with ease, dispensing explosive justice upon the trembling creatures of Wario’s Woods.
For those that feel that level upon level upon level of similar matching and destruction seems tedious, game mode B adds something new at every level that ends with the number 9: a boss fight. Within the boss fights, you square off against a larger monster such as an imp or an ogre, trying to make connections that lead towards him and blast him, knocking down his health until his hearts are gone. While it’s nothing amazing, it works well, and there is a fantastic sense of urgency that accompanies the frantic yet careful bomb and creature stacking while the screen becomes swamped with enemies.
The moral of today’s story is simple: play Wario’s Woods. While it may not be on the level as some of Nintendo’s other classics, it’s still a fantastic game and a great amount of fun; a title that deserves much more recognition than it receives. You can get the game right now on the Wii’s Virtual Console for five dollars, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go and grab Animal Crossing and hope you get lucky. You won’t regret it.
Well, you will if you buy Animal Crossing and don’t find the game, but that’s a whole other story.