Tomorrow a whole NEW generation of gamers will get to take their own adventure through Yoshi’s tropical paradise thanks to Yoshi’s New Island for the Nintendo 3DS. While we’ll have a lot more coverage of the game (including a full review) later in the week, I figured this was a perfect opportunity for Time Warp Thursday to take a look back at the game that started it all and made Yoshi so much than a sidekick. I’m talking about Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, of course.
When I was a kid and first picked up this game, you can understand my confusion. It was called Super Mario World 2, yet had almost nothing in common with the SNES launch title. In this sequel-but-prequel (sprequel?), Baby Mario and Baby Luigi are separated from their guardian stork by the nefarious Kamek. While Baby Mario lands on Yoshi’s Island, Baby Luigi is whisked off into the enemy’s fortress. Together, the Yoshis decide to reunite the brothers and free them from Kamek’s grasp.
Even the gameplay got a major revamp in this game. Instead of Mario’s trademarked jumping and running mechanics, we are introduced to Yoshi’s flutter jump and his magical ability to turn (most) enemies into eggs that can in turn be launched at other enemies/objects. These new abilities would go on to define Yoshi as a character, not only in the game’s sequels, Yoshi’s Story and Yoshi’s Island DS, but also in titles like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros.
At its core, though, Yoshi’s Island is still a 2D platformer, and a pretty darn good one at that. Thanks to its forbearer’s standard of excellence in the genre as well as some pretty creative twists, the game managed to carve its own identity in a time period absolutely bristling with top-notch platformers. New elements like hidden collectibles in each level and vehicle transformations helped the game stand out among more (standard) platformers of the time.
But if we’re talking about “standing out”, of course we have to talk about the game’s radical art style. Nintendo was putting pressure on the development team of Yoshi’s Island to “make it look like Donkey Kong Country” which was, at the time, tearing up the charts thanks to its groundbreaking CGI graphics. But Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo’s famous game designer and creator of Mario, Zelda, DK and more) had other plans.
He decided to instead go in the opposite direction and created a game that looked like it was straight out of a child’s coloring book. This radical new look was met with internal skepticism at Nintendo, but was an instant hit with gamers and helped Yoshi’s Island stand out that much more. Add character animations that brought the world to life and a soundtrack that remains one of the best ever (seriously, go listen to the “Big Boss” theme right now), and you have one of the most “artistically” solid SNES games ever.
While the game is still a blast to pick up and play today, it does seem to have lost a bit of its replayability, especially when compared to its “prequel” Super Mario World. This can partly be blamed for the complete lack of multiplayer (which would have been great) as well as the more linear level design. That being said, having to collect 20 Red Coins, 5 Flowers, and 30 Stars per level was a big challenge and helped give the game some legs.
A few years after the original released, Nintendo released an updated version for the Game Boy Advance – a version that will soon be finding its way to your Wii U thanks to the Virtual Console, and a version that should be on everyone’s radar. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island may have very little of the “Super Mario World” left in it, but it is just as deserving to be considered one of the greatest 2D platformers of all time.
This retro review is based on Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, which was originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System on October 4th 1995.