Yoshi’s Island on the SNES is one of my all-time favorite Mario games, SNES games, and video games as a whole. I played that game to death when I was younger and was super adament about getting through the game and finding all of the hidden collectables. Throughout the years, Nintendo has tried releasing a variety of different Yoshi games to build upon the success of Yoshi’s Island. While I do like most of these attempts, I don’t think any of them have been able to reach half of the enjoyment that I’ve had with the original. I always thought Yoshi’s Story was a little underwhelming and Yoshi’s Island DS just came up short of my expectations. However, in the last year, Nintendo announced that they were trying the Yoshi’s Island formula yet again in a new title, Yoshi’s New Island, an obvious attempt at capitalizing on the “New” formula that Mario has been using in his most recent 2D installments. However, despite the repetition and oversaturation of the New Super Mario Bros. series, they have still been some pretty high quality games, so I was curious to see how this game stacked up.
The story begins right after the ending of the first Yoshi’s Island game. It recalls the events from Yoshi’s Island and sets up the story at the doorstep of Mario and Luigi’s parents. However, when the parents take a look at their newborn children, they realize that there has been some mistake and that the babies do not belong to them; throwing all evidence of these two iconic brothers having parents out the window. The stork has made a mix-up and must now deliver the children to their actual parents. On the way, Kamek attacks once again, stealing Baby Luigi as Baby Mario falls down to a new place called Egg Island. Egg Island is also populated by Yoshis, so once again, the Yoshis must now take Baby Mario to Kamek and Baby Bowser’s castle, which also happens to be on the very same island.
If you played the original Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, this game will be very familiar to you. In fact, it works on the same exact engine. You work your way through every level in the game until you reach the end. Each level has its own gimmick or feature, and throughout the levels, you can challenge yourself to obtain all of the hidden items and collectables you can get. Whenever you get hit by an enemy or an obstacle of some kind (one that can’t one-hit kill you), Baby Mario will fly off of Yoshi’s back in a bubble and you must get him back before a timer reaches “0” (your star count). If you fail to get him back, or die through some other means, the screen will fade to black and you must start the stage over from the beginning or the last middle ring you touched. Midway through each world, you will have a battle with Kamek, which will usually consist of you bonking him with an egg, or using the battle arena to your advantage. At the very end of each world, Kamek will use his power to turn a small creature into a boss creature. Although it changes the formula, I do like this change for being something a little different, even though you would think that the Kamek battles will be tougher because he is kind of the main bad guy. In terms of difficulty though, it works, because the big bosses are generally a lot more difficult.
Although it is unrequired to beat the game, like Yoshi’s Island, you can also try and collect every red coin and flower in all of the stages, along with beating a stage with 30 stars as well. You will find that the challenge is actually made a lot easier this time though. In the original game, along with Yoshi’s Island DS, you had to collect all of these items in one go of the stage in order to record a perfect 100% score for that level, and when I said all of the items, I meant all of them. In Yoshi’s New Island, you have a bit of a buffer where you only need to collect a complete set of each collectable in order for it to count. So for example, if you accidentally get hit at the end of the stage and end up with only 29 stars, but you did collect all the red coins and flowers; if you finish the stage, you don’t have to collect the red coins and flowers again, just the stars. I think this makes the challenge a bit more fair for people who may struggle with these tasks and I do not have a problem with it. However, I do have a problem with the way you have to locate some of these items, because some of the locations are kind of ridiculous and random. Sometimes, in order to trigger a red coin or flower to appear, you have to step on specific locations of the stage. For example, in one stage you have to run under a mushroom for a group of coins to appear on top of the very same mushroom. Now, in most cases, some of these locations are pretty obvious and you will be able to spot out the spots pretty easily. However, there were some stages where I had to play through multiple times before I found everything, and in the cases of red coins, this means I had to recollect every coin on every attempt afterwards. This is why I recommend trying to beat the stage slowly at first, checking all locations and just exploring the level in general. That way, even if you have to redo the stage for stars, you can pretty much run through the entire stage without stopping for anything except the stars themselves, and most of the levels aren’t too long anyway. Also, whenever you restart from a middle ring, your stars will always go back to 10, not what you had when you made it there. This means if you die during a level and you want to complete the star run, you are better off just starting the stage over, which is why I almost recommend you just focus on red coins and flowers first.
I wouldn’t say the game itself is really that hard though. There are definitely some trouble spots, but I think they are all very fair challenges and the difficulty is consistent, or at the very least, not all over the place. I also appreciated the challenges of the secret levels (from getting all stars, red coins and flowers in an entire world) , but I will say now that some of the challenges could cause some frustration. If you thought “Poochy Ain’t Stupid” was a hard level, “See Poochy Run!” will make you want to hate the little doggy forever. And “Snow Go Mountain,” takes bullet bill jumping to an extreme where you start to wonder if Nintendo is trying to team up with Mario ROM hackers. It’s like I said though, the difficulty of just getting through the game is fair and and has a nice, linear progression, but the randomness of getting 100% on every level is what I think will cause gamers to get a little annoyed at doing a full (100%) playthrough. Also, remember the Super Guide from every single Nintendo modern platformer since New Super Mario Bros. Wii? It’s back, but this time in the form of Yoshi wings, that will allow you to hover through a level at your own leisure and comfort. As usual though, if you want the full experience of the game, you cannot use this feature at all unless you go back to that level and beat it the normal way, because you will not be able to fight the true final boss until then.
As I said before, not much has changed in the world’s of Yoshi’s Island, and while I think that is good for players who didn’t want a drastic gameplay change, players who expect an entirely new game will be a bit disappointed. Let me explain; Yoshi’s New Island is not a port or remake of Yoshi’s Island by any stretch of the imagination, but there are times that you will feel like you are playing one. A lot of the levels from Yoshi’s New Island are very similar, or at the very least, use extremely similar level themes from the original Yoshi’s Island. In fact, when I was going through World 3 of New Island, I found an extremely close parallel from each level that linked to a level of World 3 from the SNES game. “The Cave of Harry Hedgehog” is now called “Harry Hedgehog Labyrinth,” “Don’t Fear the Spear” features lots of spear guys like in “Jungle Rhythm,” and “Slime Drop Drama” really reminded me a lot of Prince Froggy’s Fort.” Now, like I said, the levels aren’t carbon copies or anything, but it really felt like this game took a lot of inspiration from the original…almost a bit too much. Almost to the point where it seems they just took the original game, updated the graphics, and just changed the rooms in every level. Does that make the game bad? No it doesn’t, but it doesn’t make the game very unique or interesting either, and if anything, I was a little disappointed that they played it so safe.
One of the biggest new features of the game are the huge eggs Yoshi can use in a few of the different levels. Whenever Yoshi encounters a huge shy guy, he can swallow the beast to create a huge egg that will allow him to launch throughout the room and collect goodies, being able to destroy boulders that would otherwise be indestructible. While this does seem egg-citing, pardon my pun, it is so under-used and undeveloped. That is literally the only use you have for the giant eggs and you can’t even take them out of the room or level you get them in. They are just a one-time gimmick that you may or may not use to get through a room, and that is very disappointing to me. There are also giant metallic eggs that pretty much have the same purpose, with the small addition that they will also allow you to sink and walk underwater. Again, you only use them in only a few levels, so they don’t really add a lot to the game. The only other addition I can think of is the revamping of the Yoshi transformations. The transformations are now limited to a single room that you enter via a transformation portal. Many of these transformations are completely optional with the exception of getting 100% on the level. The twist with these transformations is that they are all controlled by the 3DS’s gyro controls. Now, while I am not a big fan of being forced to use gyro controls in games, at least in this case, they are manageable and not a big part of the game itself. In fact, there is no penalty if you screw up the section, because if you run out of time, you have the option to try again with no penalty. Aside from that though, these are the only “NEW” things you will find in Yoshi’s New Island, and I think that is a bit of a letdown.
Another thing that was a huge letdown for me was the music. When I was kid, I absolutely adored the music for Yoshi’s Island. It was catchy, memorable, and the kind of music that you just didn’t mind if it repeated. In this game, a lot of the tracks that are featured in the game are remixes…remixes done with a kazoo-like instrument in the background. Before I got the game, I had heard rumors of the game’s horrific soundtrack, but I wanted to give the game the benefit of the doubt and at least see the kind of style they were going for. The moment I heard the “Ending Stage” theme, I swear, I don’t think I ever turned the volume bar back up again for the entire duration of the playthrough. That may seem a bit harsh, but it just murders the original arrangements of the songs, and not in a good way. Whether they were going for a specific style or not, it just didn’t fit the mood for Yoshi’s Island and that for me was something that kind of irritated me. As far as the graphical presentation, I don’t feel like it was butchered by any means, but it just didn’t excite me as much as the original, which was very vibrant and colorful. I think they were going for a more realistic, but still cartoonish, envirionment, and while I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, it just didn’t have the same affect on me as the original did.
As far as the controls are concerned, I do feel like the game was able to capitalize on having very fluid motion and full control of Yoshi and Baby Mario. There was rarely a situation where I felt like a certain jump or movement was impossible, and I felt like Yoshi’s flutter-jump was actually the best it has ever been. There were times where I was able to make a jump that should have been impossible, but thanks to my creativity and using the environment around me, I never felt like I was screwed and I had the confidence to at least try something to save myself, and that is something I think is missing from platforming games.
As far as the entire game is concerned, it’s not a very long adventure and you should be able to complete it in a few hours, a time that may double if you decide to go for 100% in every level. However, getting 100% doesn’t feel as worth it as it was in the original game, and I think that’s a problem. It may just be the nostalgia talking, but I really don’t feel like I accomplished much in New Island by going for 100% completion…probably because getting 100% felt more like a chore I could easily just knock out in 3 very minimalistic playthroughs of the same level, as opposed to SNES Island where I was challenged to do everything in one go. I also may be a bit spoiled by achievements and unlockables that exist in other games, but I feel like the game could have at least given something to show for all of my hard work or something I could come back to and say that I was proud that I beat this game. A lot of people were also really turned off when it came to the game’s final boss and the game’s ending sequence. I’m not going to try and spoil very much, but I will say the final boss was not very exciting and the ending…well, let’s just say the ending didn’t exactly stir up any waves in Mario franchise…not that anyone should be surprised.
All in all, I wouldn’t say that Yoshi’s New Island is a bad game. It still caught my attention enough to finish the game completely and was a pretty solid platformer in general. However, if you played the original Yoshi’s Island, or even Yoshi’s Island DS, keep your expectations low because this game doesn’t do enough to break itself away from the mold that Yoshi games have already established. That’s why I was a bit more excited for Yarn Yoshi (or Yoshi’s Wooly World) because even though the yarn-gameplay was already used in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, at least the gameplay will be different for Yoshi standards. I did want to give this game a shot though after being a fond lover of the original game and although I was disappointed in some aspects, I wasn’t completely disappointed.