Review by NT220
"I still insist that it's better than Super Mario World."
Super Mario World was released together with the SNES, and is generally considered one of the finest games for that system, leaving many fans clamoring for a sequel. When the sequel came, however, as the form of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, many fans were surprised (and more appalled): This game has nearly nothing to do with the original! Although not nearly as well-known as the previous Mario games, it is definitely one of the pinnacles of 2-D platforming, and the Mario games in general. Why? Let's start with the...
Hmmm, a Mario game without a save-the-princess storyline! What has the world come to? Well, anyway, this game takes place before all the Mario games, before Mario and Luigi were even born. Kamek, an evil Magikoopa (remember them from the original Super Mario World?) has divined that a certain pair of twins (Mario and Luigi, of course) will bring disaster to the Koopa family. He thus orders for them to kidnapped from the stork that brings them. However, the kidnappers only snatched one, Luigi. Mario, the other, fell off the stork in all the confusion and, by a strange twist of fate, right on a Yoshi's back. Luckily, Mario can sense where Luigi is and quickly points the way. You must rescue Luigi and bring the twins to their parents.
In Short: Not much, but for a Mario game, this seems like great literature.
Innovation and variety. They are to two keywords to the gameplay in Yoshi's Island. Attacking and the life system are both very different, yet very logical and easy to understand. First and foremost, jumping is no longer your main attack in Yoshi's Island. It is replaced by egg-throwing: When Yoshi eats an enemy, he can turn them into an egg (certain enemies can't be turned into eggs, however) that can be thrown. The eggs are used for defeating enemies, busting open ? clouds (similar to the ? blocks of previous Mario games), and collecting items from a distance. Like jumping, you MUST master egg-throwing in order to survive in the game.
The life system is also an innovation. Instead of giving you a certain number of hits before you die, in this game Mario will float away in a bubble whenever you get hit by an enemy. Meanwhile, a counter will start counting down, and when it reaches zero one of Kamek's henchmen will come and take Mario away. The number of seconds on the counter can be filled up to 30 by collecting stars, and will gradually go up to 10 whenever it's under 10. However, certain hazards such as pits, spikes, and lava still result in an instant kill should you go into them.
The primary objectives are still getting to the end of a level, but like most later sidescrollers collectibles have been added. There are five flowers in a level, and like the dragon coins in the original game they will give you an extra life if you collect all of them in a level. There are also 20 red coins hidden among the regular coins (although they do have a slight reddish tint to them) to collect. When you complete each stage you will receive a score: Each flower collected will give you 10 points, each red coin collected will give you 1 point, and every second you have remaining on your life counter will also give you 1 point, for a total of 100 points. If you get 100 points on all 8 regular levels of a world, you will open a secret level. These secret levels are ultra-hard to get through and even harder if you want to get 100 points in them. But there's one problem: you get NOTHING from defeating extra levels. None. Zip. Nada. Zero to the Nth power.
And what levels they designed to stuff those collectibles in! Instead of completely linear levels where the game firmly holds your hand and brings you to the end, levels in Yoshi's Island encourage exploration. Vast and boundless, with hidden areas all over the place, the true splendor of the levels cannot be unveiled in just one playthrough. Only on a serious attempt at 100% in all the levels can reveal the levels in their full glory.
Variety is the keyword to the levels. You have your typical Mario tasks of jumping through series of rotating platforms and navigating mazes of underground caverns, but you also have challenges such as riding ski lifts, going through platforms that vanish when you get off them too many times, and even skiing!
Morph bubbles, starmen, and Poochy the dog all add even more variety. Morph bubbles will change Yoshi into different types of vehicles, including a helicopter (can fly), a mole tank (can dig through dirt), and a submarine (the only means of underwater action). A starman will allow Mario to hop off Yoshi's back and run through levels completely invincible, also allowing him to run up some walls. Poochy the dog will run in the direction you're facing; he can blitz through just about any enemy and also across spikes and lava, all at uncontrollable speeds. They do add some variety to the levels, although they can seem more like a hindrance than a help sometimes.
One thing I'm pleasantly surprised about is the difficulty of this game. It's already pretty tough beating the game and seeing the ending, but getting 100 points on all the levels including the secret ones is nearly impossible. I'm very satisfied with the challenge, and how it doesn't accomplish it via bad control or impossible enemy AI.
The only thing I don't like about the gameplay is the lack of multiplayer. In fact, the only multiplayer in this game is playing two of the mini-games (only one which is any fun) while using a certain code. I really wonder why there isn't a two player take turns mode seen in most previous Mario games, although you can always take turns with the controller.
With so many things you can do and the egg-throwing system, the controls can be very messed-up and hard to use. They can be very messed-up and hard to use, but they aren't. Egg-throwing is surprisingly easy to pick up, and all the stuff you can do off your jump (flutter, ground pound) are pulled off well too. Also, you only move at one speed in this game--fast. That's right, no more using the Y button to run. Jumping is a bit imprecise though (although nowhere as bad as the NES Mario games), and I wish they had dreamed up a use for the X button. But those are just minor gripes.
AWESOME! The graphics are so lush and colorful, with such an innocence about them that it's just like an animated coloring book (in a good way). Instead of going with the semi-realistic look of the DKC series, this game has opted for a more hand-drawn, flat look, but it looks every bit as good. The bosses look big and menacing (shame that they're such paper tigers...), and every enemy have their unique look. The graphics seem to overflow from the television screen, drawing you in with its larger-than-life fantasy world.
SOUNDS AND MUSIC (7/10)
This is where the game fails. The soundtrack, although great in there own right, sound slightly generic and there aren't enough songs. The ordinary grass-level songs, in particular, don't fit in with the levels very well. One thing I like, though, is how one instrument is added to the overworld theme for every world you beat. The sound effects are so-so, except for Baby Mario's annoying crying. It's loud, extremely annoying, mute-button-grabbingly heartwrenching. On the upside, though, you can view that as even more incentive to grab Baby Mario back at the soonest possible moment.
When you ask people what their favorite Mario game is, the most common answers are Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World. Not many people will mention this game, which is quite a shame. This is possibly the most underrated Mario game ever (next to the US version to Super Mario Bros. 2). If you haven't played it, GO FIND IT! You haven't played a Mario game without playing this one.
OVERALL SCORE: 9.4
FINAL SCORE (after rounding to fit GameFAQs system): 9
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 08/09/01, Updated 12/29/01
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