Title:

  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Better Known Simply As:

  • Yoshi's Island

Genre:

  • Platformer

Developer:

  • Nintendo

Publisher:

  • Nintendo

Release Date:

  • October 4, 1995 (US)

System(s):

  • Snes9x

Box Art Credit:

  • A YouTube video, of all places

Systems Used:

  • Windows running on MacBook

On Wikipedia:

Many, many, years ago, there was a time when Nintendo's new Mario games actually featured truly new mechanics and functions, and it didn't feel like they were dredging old stuff out of their past like they do now. Sonic was brand-new (the hedgehog, not the drive-in with the best ice) and was actually seen as a threat to Mario's sales. Good times. In August 1991, the Super Nintendo was released in America, and with it, came Super Mario World, also known as Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World in Japan. It was a great game, even if it's very clearly "8-bit esque". The star of the show was of course, Yoshi, who Mario could hop on. Yoshi could eat enemies with his tongue, and depending on color and/or shells eaten, could stomp to kill enemies, breath fire, or fly.

Yoshi was inducted into the Mario canon and a few years later was given a game of his very own, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island. Yoshi's Island was a game that used the Super FX chip (the second iteration of the SFX) with beautiful artwork, an egg-throwing mechanic, and much more. It wasn't the traditional Mario hop-and-bop adventure, but it was a game well-received and innovative.

A few years after that, Yoshi's Story was released for the Nintendo 64. YS I never played, and by all accounts, it largely sucked. It sold poorly, and letters in the old issues of Nintendo Power I have complained about how short and easy was. It had 24 courses, too, and even less of them were needed to complete the main storyline. The only thing why it's worth mentioning is that it gave Yoshi a real voice for the first time, which would color Yoshi's further outings for years to come.

The infamous "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" level.

I played the SNES classic for the first time circa 2006 as the GBA port Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, which was basically the same thing as the original, except with Mario Brothers added as a bonus, and a few sound effects thrown in from Yoshi's Story. Because of the fact that I never played the SNES game, things like the new sound effects or the control (using L and R to compensate for the lack of X and Y buttons). I gotta admit, I liked it. The sound effects probably would've bothered me if I had played the SNES version first (in my The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past review, I take time to note how much I hated that).

Yoshi's Island is a very different game than Super Mario World but not in the type of different Super Mario Brothers 2 was, it really did feel like a Nintendo classic, and the plot follows how Baby Mario (long before he became hated on Mario Kart: Double Dash!! falls into an island of Yoshi (Yoshi plural, that is) after Kamek captures Baby Luigi (he missed Mario). There's no Princess Peach, but there is a faceoff with Baby Bowser at the end. Besides the egg-throwing mechanic, if you get hit, you have anywhere from 10 seconds to around 30 to get back the crying Mario before you lose the level (spikes and bottomless pits, are of course instant deaths as well).

Despite all of its problems, the music of Yoshi's Island DS gives me some nostalgia feels.

It only made sense to play Yoshi's Island DS, which I did around 2007 (because I was playing it during Spring Break 2007, and that was before my memorable 2008 Spring Break trip, which I'll explain at another time). Originally to be known as Yoshi's Island 2 right up until its release, YIDS was developed by Artoon, and did several sins of sequels. The first is "trying to shoehorn a similar plot set clearly after the first one", with Baby Luigi being kidnapped by Kamek -again- but this time with gimmicks. I didn't like Donkey Kong Country 2 all that much because the difficulty level wasn't fair and the Banana Coins (and all the other crap to collect) made it a bit of a drag, but at least that was a good sequel that improved on the original. What YIDS does is not only strip out a lot of the uniqueness of the original (they didn't even get the font right, it looks like they just used some form of Helvetica) but add in dumb gimmicks. You get to switch out at parts of the game between Baby Peach (which allows for some floating), Baby Donkey Kong (don't know what he did, don't care), Baby Wario (with a magnet), and Baby Bowser (shoots flames).

Sounds stupid? It is! You don't even get fire and ice melons anymore, and all the graphics and sounds everyone liked from Yoshi's Island (the SNES original) is replaced or removed. The dual-screen layout makes stages more "vertical" and is generally annoying (seriously, if they were going to go for the "baby switching" element, why not use the bottom screen for that?), the music is forgettable, and somehow, stages are longer they need to be. One thing that Yoshi's Island DS has going for it between its myriad of problems (including the sequel problem of "I'd rather be playing/watching/reading the original", which I most recently experienced with the sequel to RED) is the option of using the control scheme with the original SNES layout (since the DS actually has X and Y buttons) or the GBA layout (which wasn't all that bad all things considered). Another thing that I didn't like about YIDS that I couldn't put my finger on at the time was the inconsistency of the artwork: Yoshi and the baby were drawn in normal, crisp black lines but softer, lighter work was done for the enemies like the Shy Guys.

Critics seemed to like it at the time, though, probably because they were desperate for a Yoshi-centered game that didn't completely suck. Of course, popular reception tends to change over time: there was a time when Bubsy the Bobcat was received better than EarthBound.

So the original SNES classic is the one to play if you haven't done so (or if you have, like I am), but like anymore than the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie or the first Matrix movie, playing anything more than the original Yoshi's Island will make you lose your taste for the series and dilute/ruin the existing storyline. Oh, and one more thing: I have not played Yoshi's New Island, which does at least the job of erasing YIDS from canon (that alone gets it points right then and there). From what I've read of YNI, it basically re-introduces the ultra-soft Yoshi's Story visuals with largely the same mechanics as YI, and even though it's not nearly as good or satisfying as YI, it at least doesn't muck up the works like YIDS does.

Image Sources: NeoGAF (YIDS), MarioWiki (YI GBA)

February 14 2015

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