In the dying days of the era of the SNES (1995, to be precise), a game called Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island debuted. What made the game fascinating, more so than many other games on the console, is that it used a chip inside the cartridge to perform graphical tricks that were heretofore unseen on the SNES. It was a masterpiece of a game, with a whimsical art style and brilliant new music, both of which were unseen in Mario games before. It was an instant hit, and went on to sell 4 million copies and keep the SNES afloat for a few more years. I remember playing it years ago and loving everything about the game. And of course, the term “Nintendo Hard” applied just as much to this game as other games that have earned this dubious honour. Yoshi’s Island saw a remake for the Nintendo Gameboy Advanced, and then again for the Nintendo DS. Now we have the game’s true sequel: Yoshi’s New Island for Nintendo 3DS. Is it as ground-breaking and amazing an experience as the first Yoshi’s Island game was? Let’s take a trip to the New Island and find out.
Yoshi’s New Island starts off where Yoshi’s Island left off, and the stork had somehow managed to deliver the twins, Mario and Luigi, to the wrong parents. What. A. Twit. In an effort to put things to amends, the stork finds himself ambushed by Kamek’s crew again, and Baby Mario falls onto Egg Island to find himself amidst the Yoshi Clan again. So off the Yoshis go to once again reunite the boys and deliver them safely. In short, a very familiar story to the first game.
This review is going to be vastly different depending on whether you’ve played the original or not, which makes it one of those really dividing issues. It’s going to be a little like Choose Your Own Adventure in here, so let’s dive in.
Review for Newcomers!
Gather round, all. I have wonderful news for you.
Yoshi’s New Island is a platform game where you play as Yoshi. In the game, you carry Baby Mario on your back and head for each goal. Yoshi can jump, stomp, and swallow his enemies to turn them into eggs which can be aimed and tossed at the scenery. Every level has 30 red coins, 30 stars, and 5 flowers to collect, meaning that you either find it all on your first attempt at the level, or try again as many times as it takes to collect them all (assuming you’re a completionist, of course). Half the fun comes from trying to figure out exactly how to get some of the more out-of-reach items (hint: throwing eggs around helps, especially since they ricochet around. Seldom before has the term “angle of incidence equals angle of reflection” meant so much in a game). Occasionally, you can find gigantic shy-guys that Yoshi can swallow and (painfully, I presume) turn into an egg. This probably involves some hammerspace physics that one had best not think too closely about.
Some of the best fun comes from sections of gameplay that involves Yoshi changing shape and becoming some vehicle or another, whether a helicopter, a submarine, or a jackhammer (it’s a vehicle now, ok?). You use the 3DS gyroscope to manoeuvre through the level, which provides a very nice change of pace every now and again.
In terms of art style, just about everything in the game is stylized to look as if drawn, painted, inked, or coloured with traditional art materials. This is even more impressive when applied to the obviously 3D objects within the game. Some of the game art even has that art canvas grain for extra effect. It’s brilliant and gives the game that extra bit of charm.
The music was composed by Mayosashi Ishi, the same fellow who composed the music for Dragon’s Dogma and Sonic Rush. There are one or two memorable tunes here, but the feeling it’s supposed to invoke is childlike, fun, and whimsical. I leave it to you to decide whether the kazoo is an appropriate instrument for conveying these feelings.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun to play, and it’s a great experience exploring Yoshi’s New Island. Yes the game is fairly hard, especially if you’re trying to get all the collectibles, but even an average playthrough will net you enough lives to make a reincarnated Buddhist blush.
Review for Veterans of the original Yoshi’s Island
I’ve got bad news, I’m afraid. I’m one of you, someone who went to Yoshi’s Island and fell completely and utterly in love with the game and the world it created. Someone who was looking forward to revisiting the Island, and falling in love all over again. It’s not to be.
In terms of gameplay, not much has changed. Sure, there are the new giant shy-guys and their giant eggs, but beyond that, it’s all very samey, and somehow inferior to the original. One of the nicer changes is the options you have for aiming the eggs. You can choose the standard methods available on the SNES, or a new method that uses the 3DS’s gyroscope. Somehow, however, it’s incredibly telling that this game was not developed by Nintendo’s in-house studios.
If you read the bit above for newcomers, you’ll see that the music was composed by Masayoshi Ishi, and it’s clear that he’s an inferior composer (sorry, Masayoshi Ishi, but next to Koji Kondo, you just can’t compare). Heck even having Kazumi Totaka, who composed the music for Animal Crossing would have been a better bet. To be fair, Kazumi DID work on the game, but only as a sound director, not a composer. Man, I miss Koji Kondo work in Yoshi’s Island! If you don’t care about music or composers, by the way, feel free to have skipped that entire last paragraph. What’s that? I should have warned you earlier? Oh…oops.
In contrast to Yoshi’s Island’s level design, Yoshi’s New Island seems to be composed mainly of troll gaming, designed to trick you. It felt to me like a great middle finger to decent platform gaming. I know I’m hating on Arzest studios here, but it seems that they grasped the basic idea behind what made Yoshi’s Island so wonderful without grasping the deeper subtext, in the same way that someone who watched a film version of an amazing book grasped the basic idea without fully comprehending the deeper meanings. Yes, it’s the same thing on the face of it, but the soul of the experience has gone.
This all makes it sound like the worst game in existence but it’s not, I assure you. That dubious honour belongs elsewhere. What makes people like us, the veterans, so despondent is the fact that we played a far, far superior game in the past and this game simply does not live up to the standards set by that first game. And I’m not simply talking through the rosy bespectacled sights of nostalgia, because I actually went back and played the first game again to try and figure out what the hell went so wrong here when it looked like it should have been so right.
To new players—which being the majority of you—you’re all in for a treat and a wonderful experience. It IS a fun game to play, and the art style screams ‘charming’ so loudly that you’ll wonder why Care Bears aren’t clustered around you. The music isn’t brilliant, but there’s a whimsy of its own that you’ll enjoy. Get it—you’ll not regret the experience.
Those who played the original: your memories of the original Yoshi’s Island will hurt your experience here. In time you may come to love Yoshi’s New Island, but having played something better in the past is going to make you jaded. I’m so, so sorry.
Final Score: 8 New Island Prawns out of 10 if this is your first experience with Yoshi’s Island, or 6.5 New Island Prawns out of 10 if you played the game before.
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Age Rating: PG (cartoon violence)