Review by darthjulian
Shigeru Miyamoto did it again...and his brilliance obviously knows no bounds!
"Super Mario World"...now honestly, who doesn´t look back at this milestone Jump and Run with fond and heartwarming memories? Not only was it the game that started the glorious and beloved Super Nintendo, it was also one of the best games ever, a title that´s just as great as it used to be back in the days, and it´s quite possibly the epitome of perfect video game design, a testament to the abilities of Nintendo and especially Shigeru Miyamoto-san. The only downside to such a tremendous success, both critically and financially, is the fact that gamers and critics were yearning for a SNES sequel to "Super Mario World", and naturally, expectations were sky-high for a Super Mario World 2 project - expectations Nintendo practically never had a chance of fulfilling. But since we´re talking about Nintendo during their glorious days, they proved us all wrong by dishing up a sequel that is vastly different from its predecessor and yet at the same time at least just as good. Fasten your seatbelts, and welcome to the wondrous world of "Super Mario World 2: Yoshi´s Island".
The first surprising twist you will encounter in "Yoshi´s Island" is the absence of good old Mario as the main character. As the story tells us, he hardly could be the main character anyway, since he and his brother Luigi turn out to be babies at the time the story takes place. The two future plumbers and Princess Peach´s saviors along with the stork carrying them are being abducted by Kamek, young Bowser´s personal servant, because Luigi and Mario could turn out to be a threat to Bowser´s reign...but sadly, Kamek loses Mario while kidnapping the two, who ends up on Yoshi´s Island. Fortunately, the Yoshi´s decide to help Mario to reunite him with his brother, and hence the adventure begins, with you being in charge of Yoshi, carrying Baby Mario on his back. As Yoshi, you have quite a few interesting abilities to choose from, with the ability to swallow your enemies and to lay an egg afterwards (or simply spitting them out at other enemies) being the most famous one. If you´re in possession of eggs, you can also throw them at enemies or at switches via a weird but well working target system. Other than that, Yoshi can also use his feet to stay in mid air after a jump for a few seconds longer, which is quite helpful in order to reach higher platforms, and you´re also able to stomp on your enemies after a jump. All these abilities also help to make Yoshi´s Island a more complex Jump and Run than its predecessor or other titles of the genre. It´s not just a straight-forward platformer, but instead a Jump and Run where you have to use your abilities wisely in order to solve a certain puzzle or simply to proceed, giving you more freedom than you´re used to in a 2D game and providing you with a sense of exploration. There are 6 worlds overall, each being divided into several levels that can take quite few minutes to go through, so the time limit of earlier Mario games has been nixed in favor of another form of reward at the end of each level: a roulette-like ring can be seen at the goal of each stage, and by jumping through it, the roulette starts, and based on your score in each level (i.e. depending on how many coins and flowers you collected), more "winning" results will appear,, and if you´re lucky, the roulette will stop on a flower, which will send you to a nice little bonus game (i.e. a memory-type of mini game) that gives you the possibility of earning a bonus item or a bonus life. As for the levels themselves, their design is completely and utterly brilliant, and that´s probably an understatement. There´s simply so much more to them than what you might be able to see at first, with tons of secrets to uncover and bonus rooms to be found, and that alone already guarantees a long playtime, longer than usual in a Jump and Run. The boss battles are yet another highlight of the game, each of them being unique in their own way and requiring different strategies of defeating them, but much like the rest of the game, the difficulty level here is demanding, but fair all the time. To make things short, "Yoshi´s Island is practically perfect in the gameplay department, and it´s hard to imagine that any other Jump and Run will ever be able to reach this tremendous level of quality.
The graphics in this game, despite the fact that they´re already over 10 years old, still manage to amaze me with their extremely cute and beautiful style as well as the magnificent technical execution, ranking as one of the visually most impressive SNES games ever. The characters are again cute little sprites featuring tons of awesome animations that look extremely fluid as well as impressive sprite scaling, and they manage to add to the fun factor of the game. The backgrounds, however, feature a completely unique look that makes them seem as if they had been drawn with crayons, and despite this unusual approach, it was a perfect design choice by Shigeru Miyamoto, thanks to the power of the Super FX 2 chip used for this game. This distinct look of the game, however, also makes it seem a little childish, and there might be gamers who are not exactly keen on such an approach, but no one can deny that "Yoshi´s Island" is a stunning looking game and one of the crowning achievements on the Super Nintendo.
The music is quite typical for a Mario game, which means that it features some happy and upbeat melodies that are quite catchy and will give you a good feeling while playing. There are also occasion on which the music gets slightly "darker"m like in the last world, but it fits the mood pretty well. The only downside I can think of is the lack of variety in terms of music, since a lot of the pieces, no matter how wonderful they sound, appear too frequently throughout the worlds, making a lot of the levels sound similar, and I think that Nintendo could have composed some more tunes for the sake of variety - but in view of the quality we´re being provided with, it´s bearable. And then we have the sound effects, overall, they´re excellent, featuring a very cute cartoon approach that is pretty obvious when you´re listening to the yells of some characters. But there is, unfortunately, the infamous cry of Baby Mario that can be heard whenever an enemy hits Yoshi. It´s just plain annoying, even though you´ll eventually get used to it, and I am sure Nintendo could have come up with something less penetrating. Nevertheless, the audio found in "Yoshi´s Island" is great, and the sound effects as well as the lack of variety do not change anything about that.
If there are still people out there who never played this masterpiece before...then you simply have to change that post-haste! "Super Mario World 2: Yoshi´s Island" simply is essential gaming, a masterpiece on the same level as its predecessor and one of those games that will never lose their appeal due to the sheer brilliance and creativity that went into its design, and even though it´s debatable whether or not it´s the best SNES game, it definitely is one of the best video games ever and it has aged considerably well. Indeed, Nintendo and Shigeru Miyamoto never cease to amaze me.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
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