I’m not even sure where to begin with this one.
If you had the Super Nintendo, you had Super Mario World. There was no question about it… Super Mario World was the very definition of a killer app. Opinions vary when it comes to the best Mario game, but generally, it’s going to be either Super Mario Bros. 3, or Super Mario World. And it’s easy to see why… despite being a launch title for the SNES, the game was anything but rushed. With fantastic, colorful graphics, unforgettable music courtesy of the legendary Koji Kondo, and an enormous amount of stages and content, Super Mario World remained one of the best and most popular games on the console throughout it’s entire lifespan. So naturally, a sequel was in order.
But Yoshi’s Island was anything but a direct sequel. Despite the full title being Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, the game is more of a spin-off than anything. In fact, it’s actually a prequel to the Mario series as a whole. And what a spin-off it is… Yoshi’s Island is beast all it’s own, standing out from every Mario game before it, and stands on its own as not only one of the best games on the SNES, but one of the best games of all time.
Now, I’m not going to get too in depth, because I’m assuming you’ve all played Yoshi’s Island at some point. If not, shame on you. The title screen alone sets the mood for the game to come, with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and steel drums playing in the background.
The plot of the game is that the stork carrying baby Mario and Luigi to their parents was captured by Kamek; Mario falls to the ground below, but is saved by the Yoshis. They embark on a quest to save young Luigi, carrying Mario along with them, as he can sense his brother’s location.
Now, on to the game itself. First of all, it’s gorgeous. The graphics have a hand-drawn look to them, offering a distinct contrast to the more digital look of its predecessor. The gameplay is also completely unlike anything else up to that point. Yoshi has a number of abilities at his disposal. Firstly, there’s his tongue, which he uses to eat enemies and turn them into eggs. Next of course are the eggs, which can be thrown to attack enemies or pop bubbles. He also has a ground pound and hover jump, as well as being able to defeat many of the smaller enemies just by jumping on them.
If Yoshi is hit, he loses Mario, who then floats around in a bubble while making the worst sound of all time. You need to get him back before the timer hits zero, or Kamek’s minions take him away and you lose. So, while annoying, his crying certainly gives you a sense of urgency.
There are collectibles galore throughout the stages, with arguably the most important being the flowers. Each stage has five flowers in it; some in plain site, others hidden. Each flower you get gives you a chance of playing a bonus stage after you beat a level. These bonus stages are extremely helpful, from giving you extra lives to giving you useful items to aid your journey.
Each stage seems to introduce something new, and the game never gets boring. Sometimes you’ll have to transform into a vehicle to proceed, or sometimes you’ll have to navigate a treacherous series of platforms while the stage scrolls nonstop. No two stages feel the same, and the challenge always seems fair… if you die, it’s completely your fault.
There are 6 areas total, with 8 stages per area, in addition to two secret/bonus stages. The fourth and eighth level of each area are boss stages.
The boss stages are, of course, typically a castle of some sort. Still, they all feel completely different, and each one challenges you in a different way. Some are all about platforming, while others focus more on puzzles and problem solving… a rarity in a platform game like this.
With the exception of the final bosses, each boss is a giant version of a common enemy, enchanted by Kamek’s magic. Again, no two bosses fight the same… they start out easy in the first area, but trust me, they get a lot more challenging.
The first area also contains one of the most memorable stages in the entire game: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy. Basically, the stage is full of adorable little white puffballs. They don’t hurt you, but if you touch one… hoo boy. Yoshi starts tripping balls, causing everything to distort. I can only assume that Fuzzy is made of LSD, so kudos to Nintendo for tackling the tough subject of drug abuse.
When you beat the last boss of an area, you get a key, unlocking the next area. And really, that’s all I can say about Yoshi’s Island. If I go into too much detail, I’d be here all day… plus, you really should have played the game for yourself by now, so if you don’t know all of this already, I hope you get scurvy.
Though a spin-off, the game spawned sequels and spin-offs of it’s own; Yoshi’s Story a spiritual successor, and Yoshi’s Island DS a direct sequel. While fine games in their own right, neither lived up to the majesty that was Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. There were other games too, such as Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation and Yoshi Touch & Go, but… ugh. Just thinking about those makes my dick soft.
But all hope is not lost! A new Yoshi game is currently in production for the Wii U. While little is known about it as of yet, it looks… interesting, to say the least. I’ll hold off judgement until more is known about it, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
But for now, Yoshi’s Island retains its throne as king of the Yoshi games… and perhaps even king of the Mario games, depending on your point of view.