Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 09/24/02 | Genre: Platform
It's no wonder people were so disappointed with Yoshi's Story for the Nintendo 64. It's because they were expecting it to be as good as Yoshi's Island. Yoshi's Island is a prequel to Super Mario World. It was originally released for the SNES in 1995. Now, many people consider it the best 2D platformer ever created. This is a game I had just overlooked when it originally came out. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was because you play as Yoshi, not Mario. I have to admit, up until now, I have hated Yoshi's character ever since the Nintendo 64 came out. Now, I appreciate him a lot more. His character comes mostly from this game. Yoshi's Island is not only one of the best platformers ever, it also has the most amazing 2D graphics I've ever seen. If you've never played this game before, then I encourage you to read on.
Although this game fits in the Mario Universe, it's not really a Mario game in a sense. You play as Yoshi, and he can do so many different things than Mario, that it's really a whole new platforming game. The story takes place when the Mario brothers are born. Kamek, a MagiKoopa working for Baby Bowser, envisions the birth of the Mario brothers and foresees the trouble they will cause Bowser. So, he orders that they should be kidnapped. As the stork is carrying the two brothers to their parents, it is attacked. Baby Bowser's henchmen succeed in snatching away Baby Luigi, but Baby Mario plummets down below toward an island and lands right on a Yoshi's back! The Yoshi's of the island decide to use a relay system to travel to Baby Bowser's fortress and rescue Luigi and then take the brothers to their home. Kamek won't make it that easy though. He orders his goons to go find Baby Mario and kidnap him as well.
As I said, this game has amazing graphics. What's so impressive is all of the sprite scaling and rotation going on. You'll see sprites being stretched, squished, and rotated in so many kinds of ways and it just looks really cool. What's even cooler is that all of these scaling and rotation elements are actually used in the gameplay. So not only does it look amazing, it furthers game design. Yoshi's Island proves that better technology and better graphics can actually lead to better gameplay too. Rotation and scaling is used in so many clever ways. What may turn some people off is the visual style. Yoshi's Island has a very cute, hand-drawn crayon style. I, for one, like it. I'm the type of person that can enjoy something serious and moody like Deus Ex or Metroid Prime, and I can equally enjoy something cutesy, bright such as Paper Mario or Yoshi's Island. For me, it's not what particular style is chosen, but how well it's executed, and In Yoshi's Island, it's executed very well. Worlds are detailed and crisp. Everything is colorful, and the rotation and scaling makes for a lot of cool character and object animations. The original game accomplished all of this with the use of a Super FX chip inside the cartridge. Now, that's not needed because the Game Boy Advance is more powerful then the SNES. However, it does suffer from some slowdown when there are a lot of sprites on the screen, but this doesn't happen very often, and it doesn't really affect the gameplay.
The sound is pretty good. The composed tunes are nice, and you may even be humming them later. The soundtrack is not amazing simply because there's not a whole lot of variety. You'll mostly be hearing the same few tunes throughout the game. It doesn't get annoying, because the songs are nice, but I do wish there was more variety. The sound effects are good. If you've played Super Smash Brothers or Yoshi's Story, then you know what Yoshi sounds like. The same effects are used in this game. There are plenty of bops, pops, squishes, stretches, and tons of other sounds to adequately suit the game. There's no complaint here.
It's hard to say what makes Yoshi's Island such a great platformer because there's no one single aspect that makes it great. It's lengthy, challenging, clever, it has awesome graphics, tons of variety, and it's just well designed. The main goal, like most platformers, is to get to the end of the level. Yoshi's Island's case, there are 8 normal levels in each of the 6 worlds with 12 additional secret levels, for a total of 60 levels. Every fourth level is a fortress with a boss. Yoshi has a variety of moves at his disposal. He can do the standard jump, which can also defeat most enemies. He also has a secondary "hover jump" to gain a little additional height and distance. He can also use his tongue to swallow most enemies. He can then either spit them out as a projectile, or swallow them and lay an egg. Eggs can be thrown at enemies to defeat them, and the also have a large variety of other uses. Lastly, Yoshi can perform the all-important butt-stomp. All of these moves are mapped to easy-to-use controls.
In Yoshi's Island, health is handled differently then in most games. Yoshi can only die from touching spikes or falling into bottomless pits (a staple of platformers). Attacks from enemies cannot kill Yoshi. Instead, he loses Baby Mario. See, in Yoshi's Island, your main goal is to keep Baby Mario safe. Yoshi always carries him on his back, but when he gets attacked, Baby Mario falls off of his back and floats helplessly in a bubble. If Yoshi doesn't recover Mario by the time the timer reaches zero, then Yoshi will lose a life and you must start the level over (or from a half-way check point).
Yoshi also has the ability to transform into a variety of vehicles, including a helicopter, car, and train. Although this is odd, it's implemented well and adds to the variety of the game. In addition, Yoshi can collect helpful items by playing the many mini-games. Mini-games are hidden throughout the stages as well as rewarded for completing a certain amount of levels with 100%. That brings us to the next facet of the game.
Each level has 5 flowers and 20 red coins. Also, Yoshi must collect his stars to increase his star timer to a maximum of 30. The star timer is what counts down when Baby Mario is knocked off of Yoshi's back. Completing a level with all 5 flowers, 20 red coins, and 30 stars will get you 100 points. This is a challenging task, and it's fun as well. Finding the flowers takes some extra effort and thought. The great thing about it is that you don't have to do this if you don't want to. If you would rather just complete the game as quickly as possible, then you don't need to find everything. However, you won't unlock all of the secret levels if you don't find everything. If you get 100 points in each level of a world, you'll unlock a secret level. The secret levels are very challenging. There are also 6 additional secret levels that were not in the original SNES version of the game. These are unlocked once you beat the game. Trying to find everything will add lots of hours to your play time.
One thing I like about Yoshi's Island is that it is very challenging, especially if you want to get everything. If you don't want to find everything, you'll have a considerably easier time, but it will still be fairly challenging. If you're going for 100%, though, prepare for a tough challenge. It may even get a little frustrating. There were times that I felt like crushing my GBA between my hands. The great thing though is that the game is difficult because it's genuinely challenging, not because it's cheap.
There is a huge variety of gameplay and a lot of clever ideas in this game. The way scaling and rotation is used n the gameplay will amaze you. There really are no flaws in this game to speak of, aside from the rare slow down. This game doesn't have to e too hard if you don't want it that way. Or, if you want a real challenge, you can try to get 100% and complete all of the secret levels.
Like the other Super Mario Advance games, this one includes the Mario Bros. arcade game. While it's a fun multiplayer game, it would have been fairly easy to turn many of the Yoshi's Island mini-games into multiplayer games as well. So it has multiplayer, but if you have Super Mario Advance 1 or 2, it's the same thing. However Yoshi's Island will take you quite a long time to beat anyways, so I can't say the game will be over too quickly.
After playing this game, it's easy to see why many people consider this their favorite platformer, even above Super Mario World. Nothing can beat this game's thoughtful design, clever use of technology, and sheer variety and size. You've got so many tasks to do, from simple jumping challenges, to trying to ricochet eggs off of walls to get by an obstacle. There's lots of enemy variety too. Like I said before, there's no one thing that makes this a great game. Overall, it just has very clever design, and so much variety that you won't get bored. This simply is one of the best platformers ever created, and I'm glad Nintendo brought it to the GBA, because otherwise, I would have never played it.