The Wii's Virtual Console brings opportunities and dilemmas. Introducing classic games to a new generation of players, along with reliving fond memories of those games are amongst the opportunities. The dilemmas present themselves when determining how well the games hold up in a generation of pseudo-realistic graphics, and how we, as consumers, go about judging those games. Holding them to today's standards wouldn't be fair to the games, but giving them a break just because they are older doesn't cut it either. So how should you decide if the games on Virtual Console are right for you?
Wario's Woods is a perfect example of the conundrum we face. This game is by no means a bad game; to the contrary, it's a fantastic puzzler that could easily trump some current-generation games. The use of Mario characters is just a ruse, and the true value of this title lies in the complexity and frenzied action that takes place. As the pieces fall, you must attempt to match them up in three of a kind or more. It's not a speed test though, as the pace of the game is very slow. Rather, the test comes from the quality of your choices.
In most puzzle games, the pieces fall at random, but in Wario's Woods it seems that every bomb given to you has purpose. The challenge is to have the blob-like monsters in the right place at the right time. You control Toad, who is limited to two very basic movements: pick up, and kick. Because these are mapped to a single button, sometimes Toad will kick the piece you intended to pick up, or visa versa. The complaint might seem minor, but when the action gets chaotic, the problem becomes apparent.
With a catchy little tune that's sure to get stuck in anyone's head, the music adds even more value to the game. The sound effects may not be voiceovers, but the classic bleeps and bloops add a nostalgia factor. In this puzzle game, there's no point for superior sound effects or graphics, and the two do an exceptional job of complementing each other. I only have a gripe with the lack of options concerning the music. While the theme is catchy, I would prefer to be able to choose from at least two tracks, much like what Tetris and Dr. Mario offered at the time. Additionally, the sound effects could be more in line with the Mario universe, but that's just being nitpicky I suppose.
Graphically, I feel Birdo's bored look sums it up nicely. The background seems like a never-ending Mario level. Your eyes will soon glaze over from focusing on a black box with brightly colored characters surrounding it. The characters look like what they're supposed to, but they don't seem to mesh together well. I don't know why Toad couldn't be clearing up baddies like Goombas or Koopa Troopas, nor do I understand how Wario and Birdo paired up. The creators definitely took a risk with choosing third-string characters to be the stars of the game. Regrettably, that risk didn't pay off, as this title deserves more attention than it ever garnished.
Another small letdown comes from the modes available. The multiplayer is a race to clear the screen, and unless you need a two-player fix, you're better off being challenged through the single player modes. As usual, a Time and Training mode show up, and play an important role for those looking to sharpen their skill of blowing up innocent-looking monsters.
At the end of the day, it seems that I am left with the same dilemmas I mentioned earlier. In the grand scope of things, Wario's Woods is a fun game. It offers up some challenging puzzles and can keep even the shortest of attention spans. In contrast, the game is simplistic in look and sound. Does that hinder the title, or add to its nostalgia? I think all this time I've been asking the wrong questions about these classic titles. The only question I should ask myself is the easiest one to answer: Is this game any good? The answer is a resounding yes. Wario's Woods is an excellent and fairly obscure title, and I whole-heartedly recommend it.
Review by Super-Jesse