Even with the release of the 16-bit Super NES, Nintendo’s reliable 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System continued to thrive for a few years. By 1994, however, it became apparent that, with 16-bit consoles dominating the market and 32-bit and 64-bit systems on the horizon, the NES would have to be retired after nearly a decade. Nevertheless, Nintendo opted to give the system a grand send off, and they did so with a puzzle game called Wario’s Woods, which was not only the last Nintendo-published game for the system, but it also ended up being the very last game to be released for the system. Today, I shall tell you more about this addictive puzzle game, which was somewhat overlooked back in the day, but which has nevertheless become a classic.
For the first time, Toad, the Mushroom Retainer, becomes the main hero, out to rid the forest of Wario, who is wreaking havoc along with his monstrous minions. Not much of a plot, and the cut scenes, which show up after every ten stages, merely show Wario taunting Toad. The story, however, takes a back seat to the addictive game play, in which our hero must use the bombs that are given to him by a friendly fairy to defeat the monsters on every screen. By matching bombs with two or more monsters of the same color, you will destroy them. Eliminate all of the monsters on the screen, and you will proceed to the next level. While most monsters can be destroyed by lining them up with bombs either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, some of them require special techniques to defeat. For example, one type of monster must be destroyed with two same-colored bombs in quick succession. These variations are sure to keep players on their toes as they progress.
As you play, Birdo the dinosaur will cheer you on, but only as long as the meter that appears below her does not run out. If it does, Wario will appear and cause trouble. Not only will more monsters than bombs fall from the top of the screen, but Wario will cause a large Thwomp to gradually fall to the bottom of the play field, decreasing its size. If the play field becomes filled up with too many monsters, the game is over. To prevent Wario from appearing or to decrease the length of time that he is present, you can use combos (destroying a lot of monsters at once) and chains (eliminating multiple groups of monsters one after the other) to extend Birdo’s meter and decrease Wario’s meter. Large combos can also create diamonds which can be used to destroy all of the monsters of a specific color.
There are two variations of the single player quest-Type A and Type B-that you can select from the main menu. Both modes are similar, except with Type B, every tenth stage has you fighting a boss. You must use bombs to take out the boss before he fills up the screen with too many creatures. Amazingly, these battles are quite fun, and they make the Type B mode the superior of the two variations. In all honesty, though, both modes are excellent, and with 100 rounds apiece, you have plenty of puzzle solving to keep you occupied for a while. Even if you lose, the coins that you can win at the end of each stage can be used to earn continues (you earn one continue for every thirty coins you collect) to keep you going, while the save feature (the game saves automatically after every fifth round) will ensure that you do not need to complete each mode in one sitting.
Other modes that are featured in the game include a practice mode and a time attack mode. The practice mode is pretty much what you expect: a mode where you can learn about and practice various techniques that will serve you well in the main game. In time attack mode, you must clear stages as quickly as possible in order to set a new best time. Sadly, there is no versus mode either against a computer player or a friend. In fact, this game is limited compared to the Super NES version, which did include a versus mode and a somewhat higher difficulty level. Despite its limitations, however, the game is quite addictive, just like so many other Nintendo puzzle games.
Since the game was released so late in the NES’ life, its graphics and music are top notch. The colorful graphics are lovely to look at, though the limited color palette means that Wario ends up wearing a purple outfit instead of a yellow one. Even so, the game is proof that NES graphics had come a long way since the system’s early days. The music is of a typical happy style, with plenty of bouncy tunes in a soundtrack that is largely different from the SNES version. Indeed, I tend to get the main stage and time attack tunes stuck in my head for quite a while. Nintendo tends to come up with great music for their games, and this is no exception.
Wario’s Woods has become a bit tough to find, perhaps because of its landmark status of being the very last NES game released in America. Interestingly, it ended up becoming one of the first games to be released on the Wii Shop Channel, so players who do not want to hunt down a copy of the original version can simply download it and enjoy hours of puzzle-solving fun. I highly recommend that you obtain this game any way you can, as it is addictive and a neat example of what a final game for a system should be like. It is great to know that the NES went out with a bang with this game, and it makes me wish that every system in existence had a game that turned out to be an equally great swan song.