Well, it’s Sunday again so that means it’s time to settle down with a nice hot cup of hangover-soothing tea and a handful of your favourite biscuits and read your Retro Review. This week LiquescentShadow has reviewed another old favourite of mine, albeit one that was enjoyed in brief snatches when I was visiting friends because I never actually owned a SNES. Anyway, enough of my banal waffling, here’s the good stuff:
Game Reviewed: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Reviewed Platform: SNES
Release Year: 1995
Whilst a stork is carrying Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their parents, Magikoopa Kamek appears and attempts to steal the children. He successfully retrieves Luigi, but Mario falls and lands on Yoshi’s Island. The Yoshis that populate the island then commence a journey to save Baby Luigi from Kamek and Baby Bowser.
In Yoshi’s Island, you play as various coloured Yoshis trying to rescue Luigi from the evil hands of Kamek and Baby Bowser. This journey spans across 6 worlds, each containing a number of different stages. Mario rides on the back of the Yoshis, who effectively play a large relay race with him – after completing a stage, the current yoshi passes him on to another one to complete the next stage.
To help you through the stages, the Yoshis have a number of abilities, such as the ability to float jump, stomp the ground, eat people, make eggs and transform into vehicles. These come in really handy, as you will often need to use all of them to complete a stage. Eating an enemy grants you two main abilities – you can either spit him back out again (which can be used to take out other enemies), or turn them into an egg for later use. The eggs which you make are the most important to gameplay, as they can be used to take out enemies, walls and hit icons which give you new places to go. There are even a number of special items that you can eat which give you the ability to spit something more deadly such as fire.
Hitting certain bubbles cause the Yoshis to transform into a number of other forms, which may be required to pass certain areas of a level. Large gaps can be passed as a helicopter, stretches of water can be passed as a submarine and so on. In certain areas of the levels, Baby Mario will put on a cape and perform special feats to help the Yoshis on their way. The controls are easy to learn and really responsive, meaning that pulling off all these moves and controlling Yoshi is a breeze.
Unlike most games, Yoshis are unable to die through normal means – if you get hit by an enemy (of which there are many different kinds in the game), it will knock Baby Mario off of Yoshis back. At this point, a timer appears on the screen and you must collect Baby Mario (who floats about in a bubble) before this hits zero and you lose a life. The default time is 10 seconds (so if you have 1 second to spare, it will count back up to 10), but you can extend the time by collecting stars or hitting middle rings throughout the level, up to a maximum of 30 seconds. Whilst you’ll normally be able to get Mario before the time is up, some sections of levels make it nearly impossible to get him without super-speedy reactions, causing you to lose a life. Falling into fire or spikes does mean instant death, but provided you’ve been boosting your time and are careful with your jumping, none of this should really happen too often or ruin your game.
The large number of stages mean that there’s a huge amount of variety which never leaves you feeling bored. There are two boss fights per world (middle and end stages), which consist of fighting regular enemies that have been supersized by Kamek’s magical abilities – most are fairly straightforward to defeat, but they’re a huge amount of fun. There are also a number of special stages which you can unlock by gaining high scores on the levels (gained through collecting special items etc), giving the game a large amount of replay value.
This is really where Yoshi’s Island stands out.When most other games were striving for ever-increasing realism, this game threw it all out of the window in favour of something that looks like it was drawn with a set of crayons and felt-tipped pens. However, it looks stunning. The game uses the Super FX chip (previously seen in games such as Star Fox/Starwing) to create lush worlds which are full of colour and detail, and to use parallax scrolling to great effect. In some levels both the background and foreground is used, such as where an enemy can jump from one to the other or where you have to defeat a boss who’s in the background.
As far as sound is concerned, Yoshi’s Island is great. The background music fits the game really well, making a nice accompaniment to the gameplay and fitting the look of the levels without ever become too heavy or serious and spoiling your playthrough. All the sound effects are also very well done, with no static noises to be found anywhere. The only thing that could annoy after a while is the crying of Baby Mario, but it’s really only a little niggle and nothing that could ruin your enjoyment of the game.
With beautiful levels, tight gameplay and a single player story that’s an absolute blast to play through, Yoshi’s Island is a masterpiece of gaming. This is one of those games which should be experienced by every gamer, not just Nintendo fans. An unmissable classic.