Review by SilverMelee

"Playable, but it's nothing compared to Yoshi's Island."

Remember Yoshi? He debuted in Super Mario World as a creature Mario could ride around on. The green dinosaur later got his own adventure with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the SNES, a game full of artistic charm and some surprisingly deep gameplay. A bunch of puzzle games on various consoles later (the only real noteworthy one being Tetris Attack), Yoshi is back with Yoshi's Story… and it practically undoes everything that the Super Nintendo hit strived to be. What happened? Whereas Island looked childish but had lots of charm, Story is just childish with zero charm. While Island had quite a bit of depth to its gameplay, Story is extremely shallow and a massive step backwards for the little dinosaur.

For a game with “Story” right there in the title, the opening story is certainly nothing special. Yoshi's Story takes place on scenic Yoshi's Island, where peaceful Yoshi creatures live out their lives. But alas, not everyone on the island is happy, which brings us to Baby Bowser! And since he can't be happy, no one can! So one day, he manages to steal the source of the Yoshi clan's happiness: the uncreatively named Super Happy Tree. Of course, making the little dinosaurs miserable by stealing their food supply isn't enough for the little tyrant, so for some reason he decides to trap the world in a storybook. Naturally, all seems lost for the Yoshies, but wait – on remote edge of the island, six newborn Yoshies are hatched! Together, they develop the idea to… try and get the Super Happy Tree back from Baby Bowser! Really, the entire island is in peril, and no one else can be bothered to save it? And why does Baby Bowser trap the island in a storybook? Isn't it enough he stole the island's source of happiness? Best not to ask questions, as the game won't really make an effort to answer them.

Story is side-scrolling platformer with an unorthodox method of completing levels. Most platformers go for the tried-and-true technique of simply going from the start to the goal, or “point A to point B,” but to beat a level in Story, the player simply has to use Yoshi's long tongue and eat thirty pieces of fruit. The levels themselves actually loop, so once you reach the end of a level, you can take a warp that will take you back to the beginning. Initially, it sounds like a promising concept that could work… until you realize that collecting the fruit is way too easy. There's fruit everywhere in the levels and I really mean everywhere; you can't go three feet without seeing a piece of fruit lying about or floating inside a bubble.

However, there is one fruit that stands out among these other fruits: the elusive melon. Melons are the only fruit that are hidden in each level, sometimes requiring you to play a minigame or pound the ground in certain areas (some of which are ridiculously discreet). The fruit itself grants a decent healing bonus and you receive bonus points based on how many you ate within a level. This is the only real challenge the game offers, and it isn't even rewarding – all you'll get for your troubles is a high score and nothing else! Compare that to Yoshi's previous adventure, Yoshi's Island on the SNES – if you get a perfect score on each level in a world, you would unlock a bonus level and a minigame where you can get items and extra lives. Why doesn't Story offer that?! Why doesn't Story reward my efforts with something that's actually rewarding?! High scores and high scores alone are not an acceptable replacement for the bonus levels and minigames that Island offered!

When you start a level, you'll have one of six Yoshi colors to choose from (there are also two secret Yoshies that will make the other colors useless – you'll know why if you play the game). How much health is restored from eating a fruit is relevant to the Yoshi's color: Red and Pink Yoshies get more life eating apples, while Green gets more out of Watermelons. It's a nice touch, but it hardly affects the game. Each Yoshi also acts as a life – lose a life, and you lose the Yoshi (they can be recovered with a special item in Story Mode, though). Times you'll have to worry about losing a Yoshi? For anyone whose age is in the double digits: Zero. Most levels contain minimal platforming, and Yoshi can simply restore his life by eating fruit, enemies… most anything that can be eaten really (which is %75 of the enemies and creatures you encounter). Of course, since something edible with healing properties is usually never too far away, you'll seldom have to worry about dying or even losing health.

The main game, Story Mode, consists of six worlds (or “Pages,” as the game calls them), each having four levels each. To move onto the next world, the player simply has to beat one level in that world. Add to that how ridiculously easy it is to get fruits and how there's no point in getting the best score, and you've got a very short, very easy game. How many levels are available in the next world is based on how many hearts you collected in the previous level (you can find up to three in a level), but another problem comes from the fact that the levels aren't very interesting – there's rarely much in the way of actual platforming, and fruit is still everywhere. In addition, there are no quirky challenges like the ones presented in Yoshi's Island: No vehicle transformations, no special minigame huts, there aren't even any creative boss fights! Indeed, while playing Story, you'll encounter a mid-boss and the final boss each time. While the final boss may present some challenge to some (for about 10 minutes, until you realize what you need to do), the mid-bosses are all laughable – one boss simply hops around the area while Yoshi is tasked with devouring the sugary abomination!

Yoshi retains all his basic abilities from his SNES adventure; the long tongue for eating, the ground pounds, and the egg-throwing are all still there. Eggs function differently in this game, however – aiming can now be manually controlled for improved precision, and eggs explode when they reach their destination (they will land directly on the cursor and explode unless something blocks the egg's path, like a wall). The manual aiming is obviously a plus, but while exploding eggs can make for some neat tricks against enemies, this sacrifices the clever puzzles that Yoshi's Island presented with the ricocheting eggs – there were often spots in the SNES title that required the player to toss an egg around obstacles and bounce it off of walls and whatnot that are no longer possible in this N64 adventure. Even worse is the fact that there are no “special” eggs like in Yoshi's Island, such as the yellow and red eggs that dropped coins or stars when they hit certain enemies. All eggs in Story will generate the same effect, regardless of color: Explode on impact. If Yoshi is at full health, the radius of the blast is increased significantly, but nothing else.

Yoshi's Story, despite it having 2D gameplay, has a 2.5D look – everything is lovingly rendered, but don't be fooled into thinking the game is 3D: The characters are really just highly detailed 2D sprites, and backgrounds follow suit. Environments are made to give off a storybook feel, with some levels looking like cardboard pieces pieced together, sculpted clay, or even patches of denim stitched together. While I personally preferred the coloring book look Island presented (it had a storybook feel, and didn't quite a look as childish), I will acknowledge that the visuals in Story look like a lot of work was put into them, and both characters and levels have a lot of detail to them, despite being 2D sprites.

But the music is just about abysmal! Ninety-five percent of the songs use the same melody, and the melody itself isn't even very good. On top of that, a lot of the tracks sound extremely basic and unfinished - many of the tunes don't have much of a harmony, and instruments are very low-quality (a great deal of the in-game songs sound like unrefined MIDIs). The only melodies that really sound finished are the title screen's theme and the ending theme, and while the ending theme gets a pass in my book (it's the only decent song in the game), the title theme is terrible; a xylophone plays as the Yoshies “sing” in the background. On paper, the singing sounds cute, since the Yoshies have these cutesy voices and everything… but in the game, it sounds grating and awful! Yoshi also has some new voice clips to replace the ones he's had since Super Mario World, the hard-to-pronounce noises he originally made have been replaced by high-pitched, babyish shouts of “Yoshi!” and similar grunts. My favorite is the unintentionally funny noise he makes when trying to double jump… sounds like poor Yoshi is constipated; serves him right for not eating enough fiber.

Now granted, while the game will prove to be highly unappealing to anyone over the age of 10, it'll still prove to be a fun romp for the youngsters out there. Heck, I enjoyed the game quite a bit as a kid, and it's safe to say other kids will, too. It won't challenge kids too much, and given their patience, they might find getting high scores to be more entertaining than us grown-ups would. If you have $10 on hand, and are looking for a game to keep your kid or little sibling or whatever busy for awhile, then pick it up (it's a pretty common N64 title that even went on to make Player's Choice for some reason). Otherwise, don't waste your time with it – if you really want a 2D platformer for your Nintendo 64, you may want to try Mischief Makers instead, although that game isn't much better...

As someone who grew up on Nintendo games, I hate having to call one of their games “kiddy,” but that's really the best word to describe Yoshi's Story… well, that and “total step backwards from Yoshi's Island”. The game is unchallenging, unrewarding, the story is unimpressive even by Super Mario standards, and the music is terrible. The game's only real saving graces are the graphics and that the younglings out there will like it. To any teenager or adult, this is an extremely dull title and doesn't do Yoshi any justice at all. For a good time with Yoshi, give Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island a try on the SNES (or GBA), or consider picking up Yoshi's Island DS instead.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 01/12/10, Updated 07/19/10

Game Release: Yoshi's Story (US, 03/01/98)

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