Review by Sprock
"Destroyer of legacies."
Anybody who played Yoshi's Island on the Super NES and has any ounce of gaming taste whatsoever can tell you how masterful that title was. Throughout the early years of the Nintendo 64's lifespan, gamers endured somewhat experimental titles which placed classic gaming icons in 3-D environments, pulling the majority of them off successfully. Yet, many gamers still yearned for the days of side-scrolling action. In entered a newcomer directing team from Nintendo, vowing to return the world to the earlier days of platform glory. 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 storyline. More than likely well before Baby Mario drifted from the sky and miraculously landed on Yoshi's back, 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 Yoshis 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 and combusting embers. Just because he feels like it, Baby Bowser decides to make everyone else miserable by stealing the Super Happy Tree. Hahaha. 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.
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 that I will discuss later. Unlike previous platform titles that utilize characters of the Mario franchise, however, Yoshi's Story does not follow the standard 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 health meter. This meter is represented by a Flower in the top-left corner of your screen. Each petal on the flower represents a point of health, and 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 annoying. Fortunately, 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. However, the method of progression is somewhat unique, even if it bites itself in the back in the end. In the game's main single player mode, 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. That is absolutely pathetic. 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. 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. Really, what the game offers can be fun, but the lack of challenge completely kills it.
Eggs are your primary source of ammunition. They can be obtained by a number of methods. Certain floating blocks with egg markings on them will pop out eggs until you reach your maximum limit. Also, 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 rapidly fire the egg, which will explode once it hits its target. This technique is incredibly valuable for sniping airborne enemies, knocking down high objects, and triggering particular events. Of course, Yoshi can also attack with some more standard moves, like hovering and pouncing off an enemy's head, such as when needing to knock a Shy Guy off his stilts in order to devour it.
The most docile cast comes in the form of the pesky Shy Guys which are basically everywhere, even underwater! A few other classic Mario foes make their return, including giant Boos that clog tunnels in the sewers and overgrown Piranha Plants that extend from lengthy chains of brambles. And of course, no platform game is complete without regular boss battles. Unfortunately, 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 humiliatingly bizarre and simple. For example, one of the bosses is a giant walking ball of cotton candy. It has no real tricks or attacks other than harmlessly jumping around the arena while you try to brutally murder the abomination by eating it. The other bosses are not nearly as embarrassing, but like the rest of the game, none of the challenges are truly threatening in the least bit. Even the final battle is a cakewalk once you figure out the strategy.
Visually, this game really has nothing to complain about. Some of the storybook textures may appear overbearingly childish, but at least the models are vibrant and fluid. The audio, on the other hand, is like a giant dagger through my heart. Talk about an uninspired soundtrack. Everything is a remix. No, not a remix of classic Mario tracks, but a remix of each other. Every single track follows the exact same melody. The tempo is simply tweaked to suit the environment. I will admit, however, that some of it is relatively catchy, and when you compare it to the other audio aspects, you won't mind it as much. Yeah, it gets a whole lot worse, I'm afraid. 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.
I'd be making a complete hypocrite of myself if I said that only kids play Mario games. Yet, Yoshi's Story 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. 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 classic platform game formula is present. There's just no soul.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 01/02/07, Updated 02/27/07
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