Review by SneakTheSnake

"Take a relaxing trip to Yoshi's Isle..."

I remember the release of Super Mario World 2 rather well. I was very excited for it, and as soon as it was available for rental, I got it, stuck it in my old Super Nintendo, and played it to my heart's content. Back then, of course, I couldn't explain the complex nature of its gameplay and graphics, or why exactly it drew me back, but I simply enjoyed the new gameplay challenges, and all I asked for back then was a fun game. Super Mario World 2 is more than just a fun game, and after a decade, I now have the ability to explain why.

Yoshi's Island was released in 1995 for Super Nintendo, and has subsequently released as part of the Super Mario Advance series on the Gameboy Advance, with a few extra features. The gameplay is wholly original, and the graphical style is one of the most memorable parts of the game, along with its unique challenges To some, it may look as though the graphics in this game have taken a step back, but actually, this game is one of the more technologically superior games for the Super Nintendo. These two prime elements, along with the replay value and great music, make this a game to treasure.

It seems the stork has made a mistake in its baby-delivering duties. One night, as our stately stork was on its way to deliver two bundles of joy, a mysterious creature called Kamek flew past the stork and knocked it off course. A bundle fell from its beak, and landed in a dense jungle. This jungle is part of a lush tropical place called Yoshi's Island, and is populated mainly by these dinosaurs. The Yoshis decide that this bundle, which is actually Baby Mario, should be taken back to the neighboring village, where his parents most likely are. So begins the adventure of the Yoshis' trek through Yoshi's Island and beyond.

This game should not be looked at as a direct follow-up to the wonderful Super Mario World. Not only does the gameplay take place before anything else in the Mario universe, but the gameplay style is very different. Yes, Mario and Yoshi collect coins, stomp on bad guys, go through pipes, and fight bosses, but the way the game handles itself is very different. One primary difference in how the game is actually played is that it is played through the Yoshis' perspective.

The player actually controls Yoshi through the entire adventure, and carries Baby Mario on its back. Yoshi must be on constant alert for the safety of himself and Baby Mario. When Yoshi runs into something, Mario flies off its back and floats around in a protective bubble, crying. If Yoshi does not catch Baby Mario in the allotted time limit, the baby is immediately taken away by a swarm of Baby Bowser's minions.

Yoshi has gained some new abilities to help in his adventures. With a Ground Pound, it can stomp enemies and unearth goodies. Also, Yoshi has the ability to chew up and swallow his enemies and turn them into eggs. These eggs follow Yoshi behind it, and can be shot as projectiles with reflect off surfaces. Eggs can be used to shoot question mark targets or even other enemies, and come in different sizes depending on the size of the enemy swallowed.

There are also new collectibles in Yoshi's new locale. Five flowers and twenty red coins are scattered throughout each level. These and thirty "Star Points" equal one hundred points per level. "Star Points" are collected by question mark targets or Continue Rings. One "Star Point" is equivalent to one second Baby Mario can be off Yoshi's back.

Yoshi can additionally morph into different vehicles to get where it wants to go. Our little dinosaur can transform into a helicopter, a train, an underground digging vehicle, or a race car in order to get where it has to go. These can bring a lot of gameplay variety, and add longevity to the experience.

Bosses and other large foes in Yoshi's Island show off the true graphical prowess of the game. These monstrosities are between three to twenty times the size of little Yoshi, and can scale, rotate, zoom, and contort in any direction imaginable. Yoshi must use his wits and his resources to find a way to defeat the menacing bosses, and eventually conquer the evil Baby Bowser.

Graphics aren't everything, but this game would not be too memorable if it weren't for its astounding graphical style. The environments look like they were pulled from a children's storybook. Regular sprites move with a natural and impressive fluidity. Both large and small sprites have been pushed to their limits through the Mode 7 technology embedded in the Super Nintendo and its games. What is more impressive is that the bosses and the environments do not clash, and everything looks in place. This means rotating platforms, moving switches, spinning and shrinking bosses, and more are abound in every stage. All of this together brings a very impressive and exciting atmosphere.

Take the Boo boss, for example. In one of the stages, at its end, there is a gigantic Boo waiting for the determined duo. Keep in mind that this ghost takes up a good seven eigths of the room at hand, and goes into a smooth transparency effect when Baby Mario and Yoshi face it. Each time the ghost is hit, it whittles down damage and shrinks, and shrinks, and shrinks. The technology implemented makes this boss battle and many more very satisfying.

I would say the game sounds as good as it looks, but this is not entirely the case. The music, though, is astounding. Sounds and instrumental soundalikes are used very well in constructing a good soundtrack for the Yoshis, and is easy on the ears. The boss battles are accompanied by a fast and frenetic song, while the open, outdoor stages play lighter tunes. The musical experience is very atmospheric.

When Baby Mario falls off Yoshi, though, the sound takes a turn for the worst. Baby Mario begins to make an incessant whining noise, that will not stop until Yoshi picks him back up. Along with this piercing cry, sirens are screaming if time is running out. This can become very grating, because particularly in the later stages of the game, Baby Mario will often become lost. I've known many to be turned off by this game entirely because of this noise.

On a lighter note, I would recommend this game nonetheless for those who are interested in the dying genre of 2D platform gaming. Those such as myself who have grown up with only platforming left to right would be quickly immersed in this experience, but those who may not have grown up in that console generation may find the game simple and uninteresting. Beside the Mario crying noise and its lack of multiplayer, this game is still a gem, and can still pull its weight.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/07/05, Updated 12/01/05

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