The original Yoshi’s Island released in 1995 for the Super Nintendo was tagged as a sequel to the hit classic Super Mario World (after all, it was actually titled Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island), but much like Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES before it, the game played drastically different from its predecessor. Followed up with Yoshi’s Story on the Nintendo 64 and Yoshi’s Island DS on the Nintendo DS, the game has evolved into quite a platformer, and Yoshi’s New Island on the 3DS is another welcome addition to the series.
What Is It?
Unlike other sidescrollers bearing the Mario Bros. name, the Yoshi’s Island games have always looked and felt different. Whereas the Mario games’ enjoyment comes from well-designed stages relying on dexterity and accuracy, the Yoshi’s Island series is more about exploration and appreciation of the series’ chalkboard-like coloring book-themed worlds.
Yoshi’s New Island begins with a little opener, telling the story about a stork having to deliver Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their new home. It turns out that the brothers were delivered to the wrong house, and hoping to be swift with correcting the error, the stork ventures out looking for their proper abode. Unfortunately, the stork is attacked by the magikoopa Kamen, Baby Luigi is kidnapped, and Baby Mario comes crashing down into an egg-shaped planet inhabited by Yoshis of varying colors.
Yes, once again, the story in the latest Nintendo platformer is absolutely ludicrous–but again, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s an excuse to pair Baby Mario up with the Yoshis again for some good fetch quest platforming.
Those who have played Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island or Yoshi’s Island DS should feel right at home here. Pretty much all of the mechanics that made the series what it is make a return here. Unless you fall into a bottomless pit or some poisonous water or get smashed by something, Yoshi can’t die. Yoshi can still walk, run, flutter jump, slurp up enemies and turn them into eggs, and throw these eggs at selected trajectories to attack enemies and solve puzzles all with Baby Mario on its back. If Yoshi takes a hit, Baby Mario will float around the screen in a bubble crying for a limited time, until he’s saddled up on Yoshi again. If you fail to recover Baby Mario on time, you lose a life and have to start over.
Why Should I Care?
For those of you that haven’t played the game, it’s a little different than the rest of the traditional Mario platformers in the sense that the worlds aren’t typically as dangerous as what you may be used to. This is probably due to the fact that it could possibly be aimed at younger audiences as the game’s level design isn’t at all intimidating.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its challenge. Though there won’t be much fear of harm or death, the game’s emphasis on exploration by the encouragement of collecting items does give the game a noticeably pleasant sense of difficulty. Every stage has a number of jumping stars, red coins, and happy flowers to collect. These items are pretty much what the giant coins and K-O-N-G letters were in the Mario and Donkey Kong Country games respectively and like the aforementioned items, and not all of them are viewable to the naked eye. Much like the “? Blocks” in the Mario games, you’ll often find transparent “? Clouds” that you can pop with eggs to uncover these hidden goodies.
Of course, none of these items are required to beat the game, but if you plow through these levels without any care for the exploration or item fetching, then it would probably be an uneventful 3 hours.
Even the game’s new features, like the giant eggdozer eggs or the special stages that make use of the 3DS gyroscope are purely there for the pleasure of treasure hunters. The game’s later stages with moving platforms require precise aiming of these eggs in order to get every last item, and with both these targets and platforms moving, everything becomes harder than it looks–this would all be bypassed if you simply play a level for the sole purpose of getting through it.
As for what the new features are all about, they don’t necessarily add to the game’s experience, only because the game doesn’t really use them all too often. The eggdozer eggs, as stated, are giant eggs that can be used to tear down various parts of the stage in order to reach items you normally wouldn’t have access to, even with Yoshi’s flutter jump. There’s even an eggdozer made of steel, which is stronger and weighs Yoshi down so that he can traverse underwater freely without having to swim. Then there’s the super star, which makes Yoshi both invincible and fast enough to run up walls and defy gravity by running upside down not unlike the way Sonic does in his loop-de-loop stages.
Yoshi’s New Island also takes a page out of the Sonic the Hedgehog book by including stages within the levels for the purpose of collecting coins and other items (vs. rings and Chaos Emeralds) with a gimmick–the gimmick being that the player has to make use of motion controls. For example, one of the first areas turns Yoshi into a hot air balloon, and as Yoshi goes up, the player can tilt the 3DS left and right to guide Yoshi through the path, being sure not to hit any shy guys along the way. There are plenty of other cool things Yoshi can turn into, including a helicopter and a jackhammer, but they could’ve been executed better if they didn’t force players to make use of the gyroscope. Sure, these special stages can be replayed at any time in the level assuming you didn’t collect every knickknack, but motion controls aren’t for everybody.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
While fans of the series should fit right in with the gameplay, there’s a good chance that they’ll also be the roughest critics in terms of the game’s visuals. It goes without saying that when the original game was released, it had quite a distinct and vibrant, cartoonish, almost cel-shaded look to it. When Yoshi’s Story came out a few later on the Nintendo 64, it was met with criticism because it technically didn’t stick to the game’s roots. There’s a reason why Yoshi’s Story looked the way it did, but we’ll leave that for another day. Anyway, Yoshi’s Island DS brought the game back to its roots visually and it played just like the original game did (which was something Yoshi’s Story didn’t actually do either), which made fans and critics happy.
One of the main things that was criticized with Yoshi’s Island DS was the fact that since the game made use of both the top and bottom screens in active gameplay, the gap in the middle was also sort of a nuisance. I’m actually on other side of that argument. As solid as Yoshi’s New Island is, part of me is a bit disappointed that the game didn’t make use of both screens. To me it really gave each level a good sense of depth. All the bottom screen is really used for in New Island is to show how many items and lives you have. It’s useful, but there are other means that get that sort of thing accomplished.
Yoshi’s New Island only resembles the original’s visuals in the sense of its vibrance and adherence to the use of chalk or what looks like crayons or colored pencils to draw the game’s background images. However, all the moving parts in the game are sprites which look great with the 3D on, but the backgrounds themselves look pretty random. There’s one stage where the background was inspired by Japanese parchment art, and it just really made the rest of the level look out of place. Again, it looks great in 3D, but a game looking great and a game’s art style making sense are two separate things. New Island‘s are style doesn’t seem to have any sort of direction at all (but it’s still beautiful).
It’s a similar issue for the game’s audio. All the “voice acting,” or rather, Yoshi’s noises are all typical of what you’ll hear in a Yoshi game, but it’s all still rather annoying. The tune that plays when you complete a stage sounds like farting in rhythm, and it made me think somebody was in the other room was playing South Park too loud or something.
All in all, Yoshi’s New Island is a very solid game. I wasn’t expecting much at all simply because all the videos and preview coverage made it seem like just another Mario game. It also doesn’t help that the latest Donkey Kong Country game was much of the same either. But it’s none of those things. This is a Yoshi game through and through, and it’s a good Yoshi game. It was a complete joy going through these 50 something levels, struggling with how to get every item (which I haven’t done yet). I just wish Nintendo handheld platformers took the kind of risks that we’ve seen in something like Rayman Legends, because if Super Mario 3D World was any indication, they’re fully capable.