"Yoshi's first adventure is an amazing one!"

When the Super Nintendo was first launched, all attention turned to Super Mario World, a game that soared Mario (as well as Nintendo) to new heights. Super Mario World wound up going down in gaming lore as one of Mario's best games, if not the best outright. Mario was blessed with all sorts of new abilities and skills, not to mention a slew of graphical and mechaical upgrades. One such upgrade was the first appearance of Yoshi, the beloved and cute green dino that Mario occasionally used to hitch a ride on. Yoshi was so loved, in fact, that Super Mario World was given a sequel in Yoshi's name.

Yoshi's Island is a prequel to the early Mario games. It tells a story of a stork who is ambushed in his effort to deliver Mario and Luigi to their rightful parents. Both babies were lost by the stork; one child winds up in an unknown destination, and the other winds up falling onto Yoshi's Island. Almost immediately afterwards, a slew of Yoshis notice the lost child, and sense that he has a missing sibling somewhere. The Yoshis vow to deliver Baby Mario to his long-lost brother through a relay system, and thus, the masterpiece known as Yoshi's Island begins.

Yoshi's Island is unique in that despite it having a similar model to past Mario games, its feel is very fresh. There are six areas of Yoshi's Island, with eight levels accompanying each of them. To clear the game, you must take control of the Yoshi clan and transport Mario to his brother Luigi by clearing all of the game's levels in order. Each level has a unique feel to it, be it a world of ice, a world high in the air, or a world underground.

Despite the fact that the game is a platformer, it is unlike earlier Mario games in that the levels have no time limit. You can guide Yoshi through the level as fast or as slow as you wish; there is a lot more freedom in Yoshi's Island than there is in past Mario games, and this leaves the game open to have a brilliant level design. I feel that aside from the gameplay itself, the level design of Yoshi's Island is easily the best quality that this game possesses. Gone are the days of tear-assing through a level at top speed due to being bogged down by an imminent time limit. Yoshi's Island's level design gears itself more toward puzzle-solving than it does running through a level in a set time limit, and the game benefits from this. You will spend far less time running and far more time enjoying the challenge of using Yoshi's abilities to traverse through the levels.

As mentioned before, this game is also absolutely brilliant from a gameplay perspective. Mario's abilities were always nice, but Nintendo was beginning to reach Mario's limits in terms of the abilties granted to Mario in a two dimensional game. Yoshi's appearance adds an entirely new feel to the series, and given how fun it is to use Yoshi through the game, the change clearly pays off. Yoshi has a slew of abilities granted to him that Mario could only dream of. Yoshi's standard character revolves around eating enemies, turning them into eggs, and using the eggs to both defeat enemies and solve the various puzzles of the game; however, eggs are not Yoshi's limit. Yoshi has the ability to simply spit en enemy out after eating it, the ability to pound the ground (which crushes stumps, sand, and of course the enemies themselves), the ability to hover for a time after jumping, and even the ability to transform into various vehicles. Yoshi will even get to use watermelon seeds in his adventure. Watermelon seeds! No human in his or her right mind could possibly deny the brilliance of Yoshi sucking in a watermelon and using seeds to kill things.

The best part of all is that the level design of Yoshi's Island gears itself toward having to use all of Yoshi's skills; no ability is denied sufficient attention. The game also has a beautiful built-in replayability system. In every level, you are given a score at the end. The more Red Coins, Flowers, and Stars you collect, the higher your score. 100 points is the highest, and the desire to get a 100 in every level opens the game up for a wonderful in-game challenge. This goal is something to strive for, especially considering that once you achieve a 100 in any area's eight levels, a hidden ninth level opens up. This means that there are six secret levels in the game, and the challenge in all of them is enormous.

Graphically, Yoshi's Island is presented from a storybook perspective. Most of the game is given the appearance of being drawn by a child, and even though this may sound like the game has a childish look to it, it doesn't. The storybook aspect of the games graphics apply more to the background than the foreground in which all of the action takes place, and despite an odd appearance, it suits what this game is trying to do very nicely. The game also tries to accomplish a similar effect with its musical score, and though it may seem odd at first, the music of the game blends in extremely well with everything else. The game looks, sounds, plays, and feels far ahead of its time, despite an initial reaction of the game feeling childish.

Not only is Yoshi's Island an amazing game, it's surprising just how good this game truly is for many people who play it for the first time. Despite an initial childish feel, the game winds up presenting a fun, challenging gameplay experience that can be even more challenging should you decide to explore everything the game has to offer. Yoshi's Island is a true one of a kind, and no fan of Nintendo or the platformer genre should be without it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 12/20/04

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