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Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – SNES

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – SNES

Yoshi's_Island_(Super_Mario_World_2)_box_artPlatform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Developer: Nintendo EAD (Entertainment and Analysis Division)

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date (NA): October 4th, 1995

Genre: Platformer

Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10

Reviewed By: The Watchman

At a glance, Yoshi’s Island looks cute. Maybe painfully cute. However, once you dig deeper you realize that this was one of the gutsiest titles that Nintendo ever released.

1995 was a linchpin year for the gaming industry. Donkey Kong Country, which was released on the SNES the previous year, was a graphical revolution for the aging hardware, proving that the SNES was capable of handling advanced Silicone Graphics rendering. This instantly made the traditional hand-drawn sprite look dated in comparison, and ’95 would see Rare and Nintendo teaming up to deliver both Donkey Kong Country 2 and Killer instinct, both using the same rendering techniques in the same year.

1995 also saw the release of the Sony PlayStation, which as we all know was a monumental point in gaming history, representing a move away from 2D gaming as a whole.

So here comes Yoshi’s Island; a game without fancy SGI looks. A game without bleeding-edge 3D visuals. Instead, Nintendo opted to create a game that was more akin to a child’s coloring book. Everything had this unique hand-drawn look to it. In many ways, this game was the first cell-shaded game, and it was met with some controversy.

Yoshi's flutter jump allows him to float for a few moments

Yoshi’s flutter jump allows him to float for a few moments

Nintendo’s radicalism didn’t stop with the visuals. Yoshi’s Island was billed as the prequel to Super Mario World, yet Mario was not playable at all. Nintendo decided to make this an origin story, making Mario an infant and putting the player in exclusive control of Yoshi. But the changes didn’t stop there. Bold new gameplay concepts were introduced, which made this game feel very different from Super Mario World. Yes, it was still a 2D platformer. Yes, you still got to bounce on the heads of enemies, but that was about it for the similarities.

The main hook of the game was that Yoshi could eat his enemies and convert them to eggs, which followed him around as the player navigated the levels. These eggs could be thrown at different targets or used to solve puzzles. It’s really hard to describe how essential this change was to the overall experience. I guess the best way to describe it would be the change in dynamic that took place from the original Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 2 with the ability to pick and throw different objects. It had a completely different feel to it. Yoshi is able to aim his egg throws, which adds an element of strategy to the mix, and since you were limited to a supply of six, you probably didn’t want to just toss ’em around haphazardly, although the designers did a good job of making sure you had access to either more eggs or more enemies to swallow up into eggs.

Also, since Mario is a baby, he is unable to defend himself. If Yoshi gets touched by an enemy, Mario starts floating up in a bubble and a timer begins it’s decent towards zero. Once you reach zero, Mario is taken away and you lose a life. Each level begins with ten seconds on the timer, however, more seconds are added if Yoshi collects little stars, maxing out at 30 seconds per level.

The other huge gameplay change was the objective of the level design itself. The object in any platformer, of course, is to complete the level. Yoshi’s Island helped change that. Yes, you were still trying to reach the goal at the end of the level, however, you are graded at the end of each stage based on the number of items you collected. To get a perfect score, you had to have your countdown timer maxed at 30, you had to have collected 5 Flowers, and you had to have found 20 red coins. This was an amazing revelation because it forced you to really explore the huge level to its max in order to get a perfect score. Encouraging that type of exploration in a 2D platformer is quite a feat and added a tremendous amount of challenge to the game. Sure, you could just ignore it and focus on getting to the end of every stage, but that would be robbing yourself of the sheer brilliance of the game design and experience. Receiving a perfect score on each stage opened up bonus levels, which were even harder than the normal stages.35754-Super_Mario_World_2_-_Yoshi's_Island_(USA)_[Hack_by_Golden_Yoshi_v1.0]_(~SMW2+2_-_Yoshi's_Island)-4

Another key aspect of the game was the impressive variety. There were bonus stages scattered throughout each stage, allowing you the opportunity to earn different items or extra lives. You could transform Yoshi into different vehicles like a train or helicopter during some of the stages. The bonus rounds themselves had a ton of variety, ranging from simple memory games to trying to input a series of button presses as quickly as you can while passing an ever-expanding water balloon between you and a bad guy. The designers took great care in making sure things stayed interesting and compelling enough to keep playing. It stands as an example of how to keep game design fresh and engaging and I wish modern designers did a better job of incorporating those concepts into present-day designs. (I’m looking at you, Knack.)

I can’t think of anything that this game does not do well. The graphics, although controversial for their lack of then modern aesthetics, have held up well and still look great 19 years later. The music is jolly in the typical Nintendo fashion and has stuck with me for all this time. The gameplay is still smooth as ever, with the completionist aspects ratcheting the challenge exponentially. It stands as an example of the timeless power of good game design and an ideal towards which modern developers can strive.

sma32

Yoshi’s Island is an absolute gem. It was a bold release by Nintendo, who foreshadowed later controversies such as the cell shading of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The concepts in Yoshi’s Island also helped influenced later titles in the Mario series. It was also a graceful 16-bit swan song from Shigeru Miyamoto and the EAD team as they would soon move on to development of Super Mario 64.

It’s not just one of the greatest SNES games of all time, nor is it merely one of the greatest platform games of all time. No, this title is simply one of the greatest games ever released period. No SNES collection is complete without it.

Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10

Written by The Watchman

The Watchman


The Watchman is a journeyman gamer who has seen and played a good chunk of gaming history.
He’s also an actor, a reporter, a pro wrestling connoisseur, and some say he’s a cat whisperer.
If you have any questions or just want to drop me a line, hit me up at thewatchman@nerdbacon.com
Or follow me on Twitter @DavetheWatchman
You can also game with me!
Look me up on Xbox Live @ DJKhadoken
Or on PlayStation Network @ Eaglevision_dl

 
 

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7 Comments

  1. Pingback: Yoshi's New Island - 3DS - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. Pingback: Yoshi's Story - N64 - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  3. Dude great review, I have attempted to start this game like a hundred times, I am definitely going to do it for real, next time. Thanks

     
  4. Thanks man! Yes indeed, this was just superb in every way. I decided to download a rom for the N64 sequel; Yoshi’s Story and try that out since i never played it while it was out… Oh man. Doesn’t come close to the original..

     
    • Flagostomos says:

      That game… yeah don’t even bother with it lol. The DS version is okay as far as sequels go and the 3DS sequel is looking to be even worse. It’s too bad they can’t replicate the amazingess of this game 🙁

       
    • I reviewed Yoshi’s Story a while back. It seemed almost pointless initially but once I figured out how it was really intended to be played it sounded like a cool idea. I still haven’t gone back and played it much armed with my current knowledge though.

       
  5. Flagostomos says:

    I absolutely love this game. I’m currently learning this for speed running. Great review man!

     

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