Released on: October 4, 1995
Available Platforms: Super Nintendo, GameBoy Advance, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U (Virtual Console), Nintendo Switch
Price: Free (With Nintendo Online Subscription)
Those who read my Super Mario World review will undoubtedly remember that I hold that game in high regard. The same was true for when I was younger as well. It was my gateway into the beautiful world of video games. Since then, I played countless different kinds of games. Even back then, I rented quite a few games, which familiarized me with the classics.
Then one day, while having supper with his mom, young Sergie sees a commercial (that really shouldn’t be on the air at all) about Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. A sequel to Super Mario World? That sounds awesome! Soon after the commercial played (having completely ignored the man that exploded), young Sergie asked his mom to rent Yoshi’s Island for him.
Since then, I’ve played through Yoshi’s Island a few times. It has been a while since I touched it, but with it being on the Nintendo Switch Online’s free Super Nintendo games catalog, I figured it was a good time to revisit this classic. Having played new Yoshi games, it will be interesting to go back to the first game where the player exclusively plays as Yoshi. Is Yoshi’s Island still as egg-cellent as I remember?
One starry night, a stork was carrying a set of twins to their new parents. On its way over, however, it runs into Kamek and his minions. Kamek catches one of the babies and brings it to his castle so that baby Bowser has a playmate. The other baby lands in a forest all by himself. That is until a Yoshi happened to wander into the woods. He was walking along, minding his own vuisness, when a bag falls onto his back. In it, he found a baby with a very familiar red hat. He brings the baby to the other Yoshi’s to discuss what needs to be done. They take it upon themselves to reunite the two babies with their parents. But, first, they have to save the second baby.
It is refreshing to have a Mario game not be about rescuing the princess. Granted, Yoshi’s Island is a Yoshi game, but being that it is the first of its kind, I referred to it as a Mario game as a kid. What I also find clever about Yoshi’s Island’s story is that it incorporates itself into the game’s gameplay elements. The most significant example I can give is when Yoshi loses a life; Kamek’s minions come in and take Baby Mario away. While the player always gets Baby Mario back when they restart a level, it is a nice touch and reminds the player what the stakes are in the plot.
The first thing the player will notice about Yoshi’s Island is its striking visuals. The game’s whole visual aesthetic mimics a storybook from the thick black outlines of the various objects and characters to the cutscenes looking like they’ve been colored in with crayon. This works in Yoshi’s Island’s favor, as it makes the game look impressive and truly unique. Some games came close to Yoshi’s Island’s graphics style, but I can’t think of another game that pulled off this look as well.
Those who’ve been on the internet for a while will probably recognize Yoshi’s Island’s soundtrack. Many content creators use some of Yoshi’s Island’s music for memes and background music, for a good reason. Even while typing this, I have the “Athletic Theme” stuck in my head. When I think back on the songs in Yoshi’s Island, I don’t think there is one track that feels out of place or that I genuinely dislike.
Those who’ve played other Yoshi games (Yoshi’s Crafted World, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Yoshi’s Story, etc.) will know how Yoshi’s Island plays. For the uninitiated, players control a Yoshi (whose color varies depending on the stage) carrying Baby Mario on its back whose goal it is to get to the end. Yoshi’s have the strange ability to turn the things they eat into eggs that they can then use as projectiles. Mastering the delicate art of egg-throwing is how the player will find secrets and beat bosses.
If the player makes contact with enemies or harmful obstacle, Baby Mario will be encased in a bubble and start floating away while crying. If the player can reclaim Baby Mario before the timer reaches zero, Baby Mario will hop back on Yoshi’s back, and the player can go on their If the timer reaches zero when Baby Mario is in the bubble, Kamek’s minions will come in and take Baby Mario away, causing the player to lose a life. Pitfalls and getting squished will result in an
instant loss of life.
The egg-throwing mechanic does take some acclimation, but once the player gets the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Beyond a few new moves like ground pounding, being able to lick upwards as well as to the side, hovering for a few seconds, and the egg-throwing, Yoshi’s Island is still a platformer with the goal of getting to the end of each level. The player can find bonus rooms which house minigames. The bonus minigames will reward the player with items on extra lives if they win. Yoshi’s Island has excellent controls and game-feel.
Even as a kid, I always found the bosses in Yoshi Island to be quirky and interesting. Most bosses have a gimmick to them, where the player has to convince them to reveal their weak spot so the player can either shoot an egg at them, or ground pound them while in a vulnerable state. I love how creative some of these bosses are, as the bosses are not overly formidable, but do require the player to use their head to figure out how to beat them.
The tradition of Yoshi games being simple to beat but challenging to complete, I feel started with Yoshi’s Island. I’m confident most players can beat Yoshi’s Island without much issue, but I think the real challenge comes from getting one hundred percent. To win the game one hundred percent, the player has to complete the level with a maxed-out timer, having found the five flowers hidden within the level and all of the red coins. This doesn’t sound too bad on paper until one realizes it requires precision navigation around enemies so that the player doesn’t get hit too many times.
Even though Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is not a sequel to Super Mario World, despite the name, it is still a phenomenal game that deserves its title as a classic. I could recommend anyone give Yoshi’s Island a shot, but I would especially suggest the game to platforming fans, and fans of the lovable green dinosaur.