Review by Malorkus
"A scrambled legacy."
Yoshi's Island on the Super Nintendo remains one of the most masterful gaming experiences to date. Throughout the early years of the Nintendo 64's lifespan, players endured somewhat experimental titles which placed classic gaming icons in 3-D environments, pulling the majority of them off successfully. Yet, many players still yearned for the days of side-scrolling action. Eventually, Nintendo announced a game tentatively titled "Yoshi's Island 64". Then the delays came. Months passed. Years. Finally, a last-minute announcement was made the developers had chosen to completely change the direction of the game, altering its atmosphere into Yoshi's Story. No longer was the game simply lighthearted and suitable for all ages. It was now child's play. When the final product came, the side-scrolling action was indeed there, but it came in the most mediocre way possible.
In order to understand how elementary this game truly is, one must understand the unbearable pain that comes in the form of the game's story. More than likely well before Baby Mario drifted from the sky, Yoshi's Island was protected by the Super Happy Tree. No, I'm not making that name up. As long as the tree flourishes, the Yoshi species will live in paradise. But wait It gets worse. Far worse. Baby Bowser wakes up cranky from a nap one day in his lovely castle that's surrounded by a gorgeous spectacle of rushing magma. Just because he feels like it, Baby Bowser decides to make everyone else miserable by stealing the Super Happy Tree. Stupid tree. And so the Yoshis start whining. Unfortunately, the tree's displacement results in chaos, as Baby Bowser turns the entire island into a giant pop-up book for no apparent reason. Thus, the Yoshis must regain their happiness by retrieving the Super Happy Tree by completing each chapter of the book, or else Yoshi's Island will never again be a happy place.
Mind you, I would have no problem with an ultra-cutesy set-up if the game itself were enjoyable. Unfortunately, it's not. Before beginning each stage, you will be given the options of choosing from one of six or more different-colored Yoshis. These Yoshi basically represent the amount of lives you have. Ability-wise, all the Yoshis are practically identical, though they do have their other differences. Yoshi's Story does not follow the standard game method of reaching the end of a stage in order to complete it. Rather, you must swallow a grand total of thirty fruit scattered throughout the stage in order to progress. Assorted fruits are the game's primary items, and each have their different effect depending on the Yoshi you are controlling. Eating fruits that have a similar color to that specific Yoshi will increase more points to your flower health meter. Getting hit by an enemy will knock off three petals, but as stated, they can be restored. For instance, Green Yoshi will regain the most health from devouring a watermelon, and the Red/Pink Yoshis will benefit most from swallowing apples. Munching on edible enemies will also restore points of health, as Yoshi's tongue is one of his primary weapons.
More elusive than the standard variety of fruit is the melon. First and foremost, melons pose as any other standard fruit in their effect on Yoshi. However, for those gamers who seek absolute completion of their games, thirty melons have been hidden throughout each stage. Melons obtained per stage are archived in the stage records, but there really is not much incentive for searching out and collecting every single freaking melon. On top of all, doing so can prove to be an extremely tedious task fairly quickly. For instance, in some of the game's beginning stages, you must ground pound certain parts of the ground beneath you to unearth melons. Unfortunately, since there are no hints for many of these locations, you have to literally sniff out and pound every little segment of each stage. This is the epitome of tedium. The locations get cleverer later on in the game, requiring you to solve a puzzle or defeat a batch of highly-defensive enemies. On the whole, however, these are much more trouble than they are worth, and if you accidentally eat another type of fruit, you have to completely start over from the beginning.
Yoshi's Story is composed of six different worlds, with four stages in each. In the game's Story Mode, each time you complete a stage, you will advance to the next world rather than the next stage. Consequently, you only need to complete six stages in order to reach the final area and save Yoshi's Island from Baby Bowser's obnoxiously idiotic schemes. You can easily see the ending in less than an hour of first playing. Of course, to complete all the stages, you will have to tread back through Story Mode a minimum of four times total. Does that not add more to the game? Hardly. It's just not a fun way to progress from stage to stage, and having to replay them in different patterns is just the game faking its length. You see, compared to platform titles of the past, the stages found in Yoshi's Story are pathetically simple. You do not even have to journey through an entire stage to complete it, there are infinite opportunities for you to restore your health, and the bosses, which I will touch on later, are an absolute joke. The game also features a Trial Mode where you can try to beat your high scores and completion times repeatedly, but again, there is truly no incentive for doing so.
Eggs are your primary source of ammunition. When you swallow an enemy with Yoshi's excruciatingly long tongue, Yoshi will crap them out into an egg. Aiming is slightly different than in Yoshi's Island, giving you complete control of the cursor rather than being forced to time it at a certain position. This freedom is actually a fair bit more practical than the original method. Yoshi will lock-on to the cursor as you move it around the screen toward the object or enemy you wish to wail. When released, Yoshi will fire the egg, which will explode once it hits its target. The enemy cast is a blend of old and new Mario faces, bowing a fair bit from Yoshi's Island, as well. Boss battles are present too, but unfortunately, they are another disappointment. Each time you trek through Story Mode, you will only face one boss, excluding the finale. Even more disappointing is the fact that these bosses are insultingly simple. Even the final battle is a cakewalk, and if you want to play through every stage, you have to complete it at least four times as a cheap game longevity trick.
Shockingly enough, the one area this game actually holds up to day is graphically. Thanks to its unique storybook-textured environments, Yoshi's Story has the best-aging graphics on the Nintendo 64. The backgrounds and assets are creatively designed, featuring stitches and patchwork and making the game feel like a real virtual storybook. If only that charm carried over to the audio. Everything is a remix, of the same song, and unlike in Super Mario World, its source material is not good to begin with. The sound effects are even worse. Yoshi's grunts and wails of agony can be cute, I admit, but then there's the singing. Yes, the singing. Immediately when you turn on the game, you will be greeted by an incredibly irritable musical score composed of toddler squeals that are supposedly the Yoshi's cries of joy. Worse yet is the score that comes after completing each stage, which is basically an indecipherable abomination of audio daycare recordings.
Yoshi's Story remains one of the most disappointing Nintendo games ever released. Once brimming with potential, the final product is so unbelievably simplistic and unbearably obnoxious that I cannot help but call it child's play. I suppose it's a good thing that Nintendo decided to change the game's name at the last minute, as calling it a sequel to Yoshi's Island would be nothing more than an embarrassment to its supposed predecessor (more recent games with "Yoshi's Island" in their title, on the other hand, were not as polite). Collecting melons to progress to the next stage turns enjoyable platforming into a tedious scavenger hunt with no challenge, no lasting appeal, and no incentive for full completion. The sound effects are absolutely intolerable, making Barney songs sound like a godsend in comparison. All of this is a true pity too, considering how what it does offer can actually be relatively fun at times. Classic Mario foes simply are not enough to bring a smile to one's face. The winning platform game formula is present. There's just no soul.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/07, Updated 03/27/14
Game Release: Yoshi's Story (US, 03/01/98)
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