Super Mario World launched with the Super Nintendo and I think it is only fitting that its sequel was able to be one of the final first-party titles to be released on the system. It really doesn’t have too much in common with Super Mario World (other than being a 2D platformer with both Mario and Yoshi the stars of the game) but it still was a damn good final statement to help signal the end of the system’s life. Yoshi’s Island was filled with polish, passion, and admiration from a team that squeezed every drop of power out of the Super Nintendo while also snagging some extra juice from a ‘Super FX’ chip. With every jump, flutter, and cry from Mario this is reflected in this weird and wonderful journey of the masterpiece that is Yoshi’s Island.
Nintendo may not have created the platforming genre but they certainly refined it while helping to reinvent and inject new ideas and life into it with every game they release for the genre and Yoshi’s Island is no different. Super Mario World may have been another 2D Mario game but it brought a lot of new things into the mix with the launch of Nintendo’s shiny new system. Mario played just as beautifully as he looked and that’s no understatement. New play styles were introduced with his new moves that made exploring new environments and tackling the newest enemies and hazards even more of a blast than Sega’s blast processing. It would have been simple, safe, and almost equally effective for Nintendo to just create a direct sequel to the critically acclaimed and beloved Super Mario World but they took things in a different direction, which has made the name ‘Super Mario World 2′ puzzling for fans. Yoshi’s Island couldn’t look, play, sound, or feel more different than the previous entry in the series and I love it for all these reasons and so much more.
The game opens with Baby Mario needing to be saved from the Yoshis that live on the island. Not only does Mario need to be taken to safety but he also desperately needs help to save his brother Luigi from the evil Kamek. Playing as Yoshi may seem less crazy looking back on it but when Yoshi’s Island released it was as weird as it was exciting. We had only just met Yoshi in the last 2D Mario and now we’re getting to play as an entire island of them level-by-level?! It was like fan fiction but directly from Miyamoto himself! It’s a simple enough story, different enough to be interesting but like other entries in the long-running Mario franchise, the real reason you’re playing is for the gameplay.
Yoshi’s Island is still a 2D platformer but Yoshi has some new moves that made it really invigorating to experience for the first time and that are still fun over 20 years later. Yoshi can flutter at the end of jumps which helps him reach a just out of reach ledge or platform or bounce through the air out of an enemy’s reach or a hole leading into certain death. It’s a simple mechanic but it really opened up what was possible just like wall jumping did in later entries in the Mario franchise. Yoshi can also shoot eggs at enemies, stomp on the ground with a loud thud, duck, and capture enemies in his mouth before either turning them into an egg or launching them in disgust to their demise. Oh yeah! Yoshi has tons of tricks and they’re only rivaled by the level design that refuses to stop trying out new ideas until the final 48th level.
Across nearly 50 different levels you’ll experience all kinds of unique situations and in classic Nintendo fashion these new concepts are introduced slowly and early in levels and worlds before quickly being combined in ways you may see coming and in some ways you never could have imagined. From fiery lava to soaring heights with scrolling screens to wacky boss fights, it’s all here and it’s exciting until the credits, unfortunately, show up. There are also plenty of optional objectives, like special items and secrets, that can be enjoyed if you’re looking for more than just the standard ‘Get-to-the-End-of-the-Level’ completion. And if that wasn’t enough then there are puzzles in many levels too! This game is so jam-packed that you’ll wish you had some peanut butter and a loaf of bread to go with it!
The presentation is absolutely unreal and that sentence cannot be stressed enough. The graphics and music are absolutely stunning in this game. Nintendo did not pull any punches in making this game as beautiful and as unique in its design as they possibly could! Miyamoto was not a fan of Donkey Kong Country’s more “realistic” design and sought to counter it with the likes of graphics that looked drawn and by kids no less! It really adds to the imagination and wonder. I like to think that maybe this is how Baby Mario sees the world around him. Maybe the enemies and the world they inhabit don’t look quite as nonsensical or as animated as we are led to believe but are merely seeing it as Baby Mario does. The music is just as unique and beautiful. It’s atmospheric. It’s bouncy. It’s catchy. It’s all over the place and it successfully achieves immersion while masterfully aiding in strengthening all that the graphics do in getting us lost in this wild and wonderful world.
Yoshi’s Island can be enjoyed across many different Nintendo systems. The original release may have been on the Super Nintendo but it can also be played on the Virtual Console on the Wii U, on the Game Boy Advance, and even on recently released (and delicious) SNES Classic Edition. I love everything about this game and am confident that anyone who enjoys a solid platformer will too! Even if platformers aren’t usually your thing, there’s a reason this is one of the most beloved entries in one of the longest running franchises in the industry! The only thing that can be a bit annoying is the sound of Baby Mario crying but hey, if you get good then you won’t have to worry about it!