Pros: The floating away gimmick may be what prevents this from being the best platformer ever
Cons: That annoying floating away gimmick, which comes complete with annoying crying
The Bottom Line: If your parents don't buy you Yoshi's Island, you have my express permission to cry.
Nintendo frequently receives a lot of flak and criticism from its critics for being a kiddie, play-it-safe game developer because it has created worlds revolving around cutesy characters and has an army of mascots which it is constantly able to fall back on. But after a little bit of revisionist thought, I'm thinking this characterization is unfair to Nintendo. In truth, Nintendo has in fact been one of the boldest and most courageous software developers in video game history. Yes, Nintendo falls back on their mascots way too much. But in their long history of mascot fallbacking, they have mustered the courage to do things with their mascots no other developer would dare try. Make Mario the star of an RPG? Why not? (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars; Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga; the Paper Mario series) Remove shooting game star Fox McCloud from his Arwing? Let's try it! (Star Fox Adventures) Turn Metroid into an FPS? I don't see how that could possibly go wrong! (The Metroid Prime series) Convert Zelda into a side-scroller? It might work. (Zelda II: The Adventure of Link)
That only scratches the surface. But if you don't think it's enough, Nintendo head developer Shigeru Miyamoto recently got bored with the same old, same old and stepped out on limbs to create both Pikmin and Nintendogs. And even if you disregard everything I've mentioned in this review so far, you'll still find yourself in the odd position of trying to shoot down the developer who created the very template of every 2D platform game after 1985, the very template of every 3D platform game ever made, and the template of at least half of the 3/4 overhead adventure games created over the 8 and 16-bit eras. Not even once-invincible Atari or Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani can claim that level of influence or inspiration.
In this context, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island hardly seems like a risk. After all, you're merely being asked to play a Mario game which only qualifies as a Mario game because Yoshi has to carry a baby Mario around on his back through the whole game. But Yoshi's Island is one of the finest platformers ever made. So why don't more people know it? Well, here are a few theories: First, Yoshi's Island has the legacy of its mighty predecessor to live up to. The original Super Mario World is arguably the greatest game ever made. (I am of this opinion myself.) Second, while Super Mario World was the flagship title at the launch of the Super NES, Yoshi's Island didn't show up until that odd era marking the transition from 16 to 32-bit and 2D to 3D, and so it got lost in the tsunami of hype surrounding Sony's ballyhooed entry into the console market, the Playstation. Third, Donkey Kong Country and its sequels were Nintendo's cash cows at the time of Yoshi's Island's release and received more attention from publications awed by the gorgeous 3D rendered sprites.
That final reason has to be grating to reviewers today. Yoshi's Island and all three Donkey Kong Country games received the handheld treatment for the Game Boy Advance. And by all accounts, the Mario baby game mops the floor with Donkey Kong Country. With the benefit of hindsight, many reviewers who were first dazzled with Kong's beauty and showered praise on it were able to see that it is a solid platform game with very ordinary level and character designs. Father Time just smacked it upside the head with the age stick. But Father Time has barely touched Yoshi's Island, which continues to capture the imagination of gamers with brilliant design, cool abilities, and tons of replay value.
On the Game Boy Advance, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is renamed Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3. I can't compare it with the Super NES version, as I've never played it. So I'm stepping into a semi-void here. Yoshi's Island gives you the origins of your favorite plumber. As the stork flew one night with two babies, it was attacked by a Magikoopa and one of the babies fell to the ground, where it was picked up by a Yoshi. Not knowing what else to do with him, the Yoshi takes Baby Mario to his clan, where they decide to run him relay-style back to his brother. Yoshi's Island has 48 levels to play through and 12 which you can discover. Mario fanatics will of course make it a point to both complete the game in a single sitting and also play through the complete game, discovering everything and picking up every item.
Yoshi's Island removes many things which are synonymous with the Mario series. There are no mushrooms, fire flowers, or means of real flight in it. The only stars you'll collect are for increasing the amount of time you have to rescue Mario if he falls off Yoshi's back. In this way, Yoshi's Island is a bit of a black sheep in the core Mario series, though it doesn't diverge as wildly from the traditional Mario elements as the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 does. (Speaking of the American version of Mario 2, there are Shyguys in Yoshi's Island!) For normal Mario elements which don't appear in Yoshi's Island, you'll be having way too much fun to notice the exact reasons why it is so unusual.
Mario has been given some amazing abilities in his namesake series. He may not look like much, but the abilities Mario has been granted make him a legitimate threat to any power-mongering supervillain. Yoshi is the star in Yoshi's Island, and the abilities he has actually make him as powerful as Mario, if not even more so. Yoshi has a flutter jump which allows him to stay in the air for a couple of seconds. If he doesn't feel like jumping on enemies to beat them, he can swallow them and turn them into Yoshi eggs which can then be used to throw at other enemies. He can turn into a mole, train, car, and a couple of other vehicles. He can also perform a useful body slam and swallow a melon which allows him to shoot seeds. The eggsare Yoshi's main weapon and can be used for many different purposes. Like any game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, creativity is almost a necessity in Yoshi's Island.
Throughout the game, Yoshi carries Mario on his back. If you take a hit, Mario begins to slowly float off in a bubble as a timer counts down the number of seconds you have before Mario is kidnapped. You can collect stars to add seconds onto the float-away clock, and you can get up to 30 seconds. This was a thoughtful gimmick; Yoshi's Island is an easy game, and so this gimmick actually adds challenge instead of merely padding it. But there are times when taking repeated hits is possible, and you'll get sick of your inch-by-inch takeover of a level getting interrupted constantly for you to go back and pop Mario out of his bubble.
Yoshi's Island may not have as many levels as Super Mario World (60 as opposed to around 90), but that doesn't mean it's a shorter game. For all their brilliance, levels in Super Mario World were still mostly left-to-right. Yoshi's Island has the most inspired level designs I've ever seen in a 2D platformer. There are so many passages, twists, and I've seen one or two alternate routes that you'll be making a lot of trial-and-error runs just to see what leads where. Furthermore, you'll have plenty of reason to replay levels trying to find 30 stars, 20 hidden red coins, and five flowers in each level. The enemies are also a lot of fun. My favorite are the monkeys, more powerful foes than you would expect, who are clever enough to hold up melons which you will eat by accident if you try to eat the monkeys. Since the monkeys are immune to the melon seed attack, you won't be able to eat the monkey you just tried to swallow until you're finished spitting the seeds out. They are very clever.
Each world has a fortress with a mini-boss and a castle with a real boss, both holdovers from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. But the overall worlds don't have an interactive map where you can use power-ups before entering the level proper. The level number is more fixed than in the last couple of Mario games. Each world has eight levels, with the fortress being the fourth and the castle being the eighth.
The graphics in Yoshi's Island ranked among the best and most colorful of the Silver Era. Many scenery objects actually look like they were colored in with crayons, which does a lot to add to the baby theme of the game. Yoshi comes in various different colors and instead of the generic design from the first Super Mario World, he looks cuter and more bug-eyed and his feet move in a cartoonish blur when he runs. Mario wears his trademark hat but after that, nothing but a diaper. Sounds don't fare nearly as well. The music has a great underground track but is way too cutesy for the liking of the audience which will most likely be playing Yoshi's Island. The crying Baby Mario does as he floats away after Yoshi gets hit is universally considered one of the most annoying sounds in the history of video games - on the list of annoying video game sounds, it ranks only slightly lower than that beep from Katamari Damacy.
As the Silver Era began to close, developers started finding ways to put more moves into the limited number of buttons. Yoshi's Island has a lot of moves, but the interface for using them is easier than one weaned on the Playstation would expect. Yoshi still uses his tongue to strike fear into the bad guys, and it is both longer and faster than his tongue in Super Mario World (and also faster than his tongue in Super Mario Sunshine, for that matter). Yoshi runs fast without help from button B. My game didn't come with a manual, so I can't tell you whether or not button B actually does speed you up. It doesn't feel like it makes TOO much of a difference, though. Mainly it's used for chonking down bad guys whole.
Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 comes complete with the original Mario Bros. arcade game. But while I can appreciate that Nintendo wants to give us four-player capabilities without four people actually having to own four copies of the EXACT same game, the inclusion of Mario Bros. has really run its course. They could have added some more mini-games or perhaps a battle mode a la Zelda's Four Swords. Mario Bros. time after time is getting to be inexcusable. But banning that, Yoshi's Island is one of the greatest platformers ever made. In fact, if one wants to make a case for it being THE best, I can easily understand. If only it weren't for that freaking baby.
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial. Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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Hurra! Yoshi ist wieder da. Durchkreuze mit deinem eierschießenden Helden Kameks fiese Pläne und durchquere die sechs herrlich verrückten Welten des Super NES Originals - aufgepowert mit brandneuen Features für den Gameboy Advance! Verbinde bis zu vier Gameboy Advance-Systeme und spiele den zusätzlich enthaltenen Arcade-Klassiker Mario Bros. mit nur einem Spielmodul! Oder verwende Super Mario Advance Spielemodule für Multi-Modul-Spielspaß.