Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Original Release Date: 1995
I have a confession to make; I’m actually not that big of a fan of the Mario games. This may come as a surprise, as I have stated that I have had fun with many of the Mario titles, and I’ve scored them rather high. But while I can recognize the quality of Mario, it’s not a series that I’m personally that attached to.
So honestly, I wasn’t expecting much going into Yoshi’s Island. I’d heard that many consider it to be one of the greatest 2D platformers ever made, but I’d heard the same thing about Super Mario Bros 3, and wound up finding that game rather underwhelming. And I thought that something similar was likely to happen with Yoshi’s Island. After all, it stars a green dinosaur escorting a baby Mario, with a rather childish aesthetic permeating the game’s environments. How could this be one of the greats?
Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised. More than that, I had my expectations completely flipped on their heads. Not only do I understand why people say that Yoshi’s Island is one of the best platformers ever made, it’s the most pure fun I’ve had with a game from the SNES so far.
The gameplay retains the same basic elements from the Mario games, such as jumping across platforms, avoiding enemies, and reaching the end of each level. But it goes above and beyond what the Mario games did in several ways.
First of all, it eliminates the minor exploration of Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World in favor of a more streamlined and straightforward approach to the world map. Some may see this as a negative, but I think it makes the game neater and less cluttered. A platformer should be about overcoming the various challenges the game puts before the player, not finding areas off the beaten path. If I wanted that, I’d go play something like Super Metroid.
With the ability to swallow enemies, turn them into eggs, and toss those eggs around, there are now many new ways of overcoming problems, and gives Yoshi a much more diverse move-set then Mario. The game takes excellent advantage of these abilities, and manages to use them with a great deal of variety without compromising the elegant simplicity Mario games are known for. As a result, the challenges the game provides are wonderfully varied and engaging. The game never starts to feel repetitive, which is an impressive feat, considering that all of the previous Mario games all started to feel a bit repetitive after a while.
The damage system is also much better than in the traditional Mario games. While you died in one hit in the old Mario games, in Yoshi’s Island you simply lose hold of baby Mario, and have to get him back before the timer runs out. This is a greatly appreciated change, as it gives the player a penalty for mistakes while also giving them a chance to rectify their mistake instead of just automatically booting them back to the last checkpoint.
On a side note, baby Mario’s crying isn’t that annoying. Yeah, it’s a little irritating, but people really seem to blow that one aspect of the game out of proportion. It’s like the people who complain about Navi from Ocarina of Time being the most annoying partner ever, when she’s really not that bad.
The aesthetic is also very well done, and has the same kind of timeless, endearing quality as the cell shaded graphics from Wind Waker. This, combined with excellent sound design and incredibly memorable and delightful music tracks, makes playing through the game a constant joy.
While all of the bosses are just enlarged versions of normal enemies, they still manage to be incredibly creative and fun, and are much more memorable than Koopa Kid #390, or however many they’re up to at this point.
There are a few minor issues. The inclusion of a lives system is an unfortunate archaic design choice. It’s almost entirely pointless for most of the game, as you’re unlikely to run out of lives, and only seems to be there to make the last stretch of the game more frustrating than it needs to be.
Another problem is the rather arbitrary obstacles that are one hit kills. Most of the objects that hurt Yoshi in the game will result in him losing his hold on baby Mario, which is perfectly fine. Then there are bottomless pits, which will result in an instant death, which is also fine. But then there are a handful of objects, such as lava and spikes that also result in instant death. This seems needlessly punishing, as most of the obstacles in the game give the player a chance to recover, and withholding that option for any obstacle other than bottomless pits seems rather draconic.
In the end, however, the flaws don’t really matter. The game is excellently crafted, and is borderline perfect. It took the traditional Mario framework, but then did something different and unique with it. The end result is hands down my favorite Mario game, and a game that should most definitely be looked at.
How well it holds up 4/4
Personal enjoyment 5/5
Overall quality 10/10
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