Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yoshi's Island (Super NES, 1995)

Nintendo was in an interesting position in 1995. With the Sega Genesis more or less vanquished, Nintendo could have easily phoned things in that year... However, they were faced with new threats in the form of the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation. These spiffy new 32-bit systems threatened to make the Super NES look old and outdated. With the N64 a year away, Nintendo had to do something to keep their fans from jumping ship and spending their money on the competition - something plenty of them did regardless. They did their best to stave off the enemy at the gates by continuing their parade of high-quality games throughout 1995, with titles like Chrono Trigger, Donkey Kong Country 2, and this one... the aptly-named Yoshi's Island.

The not-phoning-in begins with Nintendo perpetuating the myth that babies are delivered by stork. However, it's entirely plausible that Shigeru Miyamoto isn't actually aware of how babies are created.

I mean, look at this man! He's adorable!

The nefarious magikoopa, Kamek, swoops in and attempts to kidnap Baby Mario and Baby Luigi (ah yes, this is a prequel to the Mario games). This would be the ultimate ascendancy of the always-intriguing magikoopa into the realm of "primary villain".

Unfortunately for Kamek... he only got Baby Luigi. And now, he's about to find out, that Baby Mario's vengeance is a dish best served via ice-cold bottle. Rated PG.

Baby Mario plummets to the land far below, and his fall is broken by the buoyant Yoshi. If this game came out today, the entitled babies that make up a substantial portion of the gamer community on the internet would be complaining about how the physics are unrealistic. "This is ridiculous! He fell out of the sky!" they would say while devouring a bag of Doritos™ before giving the game a 1 out of 10 on their favorite message board and going back to levelling up their warlock.

Luckily, Baby Mario has PSYCHIC POWERS~! that tell him where his brother is. Why did Kamek kidnap Baby Luigi in the first place? Why not kidnap Baby Toadstool? I can only conclude that this is when Baby Bowser was going through a bi-curious phase.

The intro stage has music that I really like a lot, but unfortunately this music never repeats for the rest of the game. There's something about this music that reminds me of waking up in the morning. As for the intro stage itself, it's short and full of tutorial messages. That's right, it's 1995 and the era of the tutorial message has begun. LET ME PLAY THE GAME!

The graphics in this game are unique and fun to look at, to say the least. Pirahna Plants make numerous appearances (and are more ferocious than ever) to let you know that yes, this is a Mario game. Even though he's lugging a baby around, it's pretty cool that Yoshi basically has his own game here.

This game has a compelling collect-a-thon component to it. Each level has 20 red coins and 5 flowers to find, and doing this along with finishing each level near-flawlessly (which nets you stars) will give you a high score. The highest is 100. While many games have things like this to keep you playing, this one does it right. Getting 100s in every level will reward you with new, secret levels, which you can then go for 100 in. However, achieving 100% in the entirety of this game is VERY HARD. I've never done it in the three or so times I've played through the game, and I never will. It's well beyond the scope of my patience. That said, the fact that the game has so much extra content is pretty cool. People who absolutely love Yoshi's Island can spend dozens of hours in it.

Pretty much everything in this game absolutely exudes effort. Here we see the traditional "revolving fire chain" deal, in this case consisting of lots of spikes. However, look closer and you'll see a couple of vicious little gnomes turning a wheel inside to keep the trap going. The designers could have EASILY just had a regular revolving spike trap here, and most lesser games would have. But they didn't, they added little details. The whole game is like this. In our modern era of cash-ins, laziness, and game companies making as little effort as possible in their ports, going back and looking at a game like this is amazing.

This game has one downside, and it's a big one. When you get hit, Baby Mario floats away in a bubble. You have less than 10 seconds to grab him before you lose a life. It's an interesting take on things, very unique. The problem is that while he's floating away, Mario emits THE MOST OBNOXIOUS NOISE I HAVE EVER HEARD IN A GAME. This makes the game very awkward to play around other people who don't know what it is and are trying to do something else without having their ears assaulted every so often. Even playing by oneself, it's obnoxious. While Donkey Kong Country has an amazing soundtrack that WILL give you numerous ear-gasms, Yoshi's Island is actually better played on mute with the DK Jams in your boombox. Yeah, we didn't have iPods in 1995! As for the music in this game? Some of it is pretty good, but for the most part nothing is unmissable. It's too bad. Music has never been a strong point in any Mario game, though.

All of the bosses in this game are massively oversized versions of regular enemies, magically beefed up by Kamek.

This guy is the first one, and as you might expect it's an easy fight. You throw eggs at him until his pants fall down. Yeah, it's just like a typical day at an American high school. Stop bullying, Yoshi!

Perhaps most memorable level in this game is late in World 1. "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" features the debut of Fuzzy, a flying puff-ball. As the stage title implies, if you bump into one of these things, Yoshi goes on a drunken acid-trip where he stumbles around amidst a warping, colorful world. A friend of mine concluded that Fuzzy was a flying ball of cocaine. I thought it was probably a flying ball of heroin. We were 12.

Next boss: a gigantic breast implant, that I can only conclude escaped from a lovely lady. Somewhere, Stephanie McMahon is throwing a FIT.

The overworld screen shows you your score for the levels, which is pretty cool. I like the folder motif, and the way this has a bit of a school vibe to it. In a roundabout way, Yoshi's Island makes getting high grades on your schoolwork look REALLY COOL.

The iconic Koopa doesn't show up until a good part of the way through this game. Same with the Goomba, a rarity in Yoshi's Island. The enemies in the game seem to be more skewed towards the Shyguys, which is kind of funny since they originated with Super Mario Bros 2... which wasn't even a Mario game in Japan.

The music may be lacking, but the graphics in this game are a joy to look at. I'd put these graphics above anything from the 32-bit systems in 1995, which tended to consist of a lot of muddy 3D. Yep, the game industry went 3D before the systems could really handle it, for the most part.

Another interesting foe. I'm not sure what these things are, but a friend of mine insisted that they were "flying condoms" back in 1995. Yep, same friend who thought Fuzzy was made out of cocaine. He was awesome. I think we might have played through this whole game together, but I can't remember.

Boos are usually a big threat in Mario games since they can't be destroyed, but in this game defeating them is a simple matter of bouncing an egg off a wall.

Yoshi rides Log (which is big, heavy, and wood) across lava. Occasionally a wave might roll by, bouncing Log into the air. The physics in this game are great.

Behold: Biggest Boo is living large.

The gang is all here, including Lakitu of the Borg. While this guy is often a thorn in my side, in this game he's simple to defeat.

You can also go all Grand Theft Auto and carjack his cloud. Too bad he only shows up in a couple stages, because cloud-riding is AWESOME.

This game is full of creativity. This arrow sphere moves in the direction it points, and it slowly spins when Yoshi isn't standing on it. This means you can make small hops to correct your trajectory.

Another very easy boss is the Potted Ghost. Contrary to the drug themes of this game (and Mario in general), he isn't actually high. ...that'd be a later boss. This is a rare boss that isn't a beef-up of a smaller regular foe... at least, as far as I can remember. You win by pushing him off the platform, Crocomire-style.

WHOAAAAA. This... this is the scene from the box art of the game!

YEAAAAH! I like when games have a scene from the actual game for the box-art. Though if this game came out today, people on the internet would go "That stage has the BLUE Yoshi, not the green Yoshi. Can't this game get anything right?" while reading Reddit posts about how stupid girls are and levelling up their warlock.

Some stages turn you into a specialized form, like a train or a helicopter, to get through an area. So creative. ...wait a minute, what the hell is with that narrow Shyguy? Is that the Slender Man in disguise?

Yoshi takes to the jungles of 'Nam and battles refugees from Patapon.

The next boss is a stoned frog. This part is interesting because instead of Kamek enlargening your foe, he SHRINKS Yoshi! Wonder why he doesn't do both at once. Our hero would be screwed! It would be like when Gokou fought Great Ape Vegeta in Dragonball Z.

The frog eats Yoshi (he clearly had the munchies) and the "battle" takes place inside of his stomach. It's probably the easiest boss in the game, since all you do is throw eggs upward over and over.

Yoshi is burped out and returns to normal size, and the frog is hilariously tragically dead.

Summing up a bit now, here's another boss. The giant pirahna plant is a favorite among players of this game, and finishes up the water-filled 'Nam world. Yeah, World 3 is water-themed, just like Super Mario Bros 3.

Goombas...are VERY RARE in this game. They seem more determined than ever to stop our heroes. It's hard not to like the little guys as they go on their slow march to their inevitable doom.

I lose my first life just over halfway through the game. Did the Goomba do that? Nope. It was a close battle, but I somehow squeaked by. If you don't save Baby Mario before the timer expires, Kamek's goons swoop in and haul him away. In an NES game, this would probably be an absolute game over.

...here, not so much.

It's KOOPA KHAOS as our hero battles a small army of Koopas. ...if this were a Donkey Kong Country level, I have no doubt that it would be called Koopa Khaos.

In this level, you inflate a giant balloon, then ride it across the level. THIS GAME IS SO INVENTIVE

Nearly every level has something new and impressive to see. Here's the biggest Chomp in Mario history.

Not sure what this boss is supposed to be. Kirby's evil white half-brother?

The next boss is Hookbill Koopa... the only Koopa boss in this game besides Bowser, and cool just for that.

Victory is a matter of TIPPING HIM OVER with thrown eggs. It's a great battle.

The fifth world is sort of snow-themed, and it involves high-speed skiing. No, really. There are no dull moments in this game.

This boss is interesting, because you have to fire eggs to make a depression in his exterior deep enough to hit the heart. He rapidly regenerates. Again, it's sorta like the Crocomire fight in Super Metroid.

Raphael the Raven is another super-memorable boss fight. It's impressive how the background actually TURNS as you run around this tiny globe (which is, I presume, the moon).

Seriously, how rad is this?

The sixth and final world is fire-themed, naturally. Or as themed as any worlds in this game get. While most Mario games have eight worlds, I think this one can get away with only having six. Each world has eight stages, more than most Mario games do, so it balances out in the end. Also, the sheer creativity and amount of stuff going on in each stage makes the game seem longer. Between this and Donkey Kong Country, it's almost like six worlds was becoming the new standard at this point in time.

Yoshi does battle with another massive breast implant here. And somewhere, Stephanie McMahon is absolutely FURIOUS.

The second-to-last boss in the game...is extremely easy. As a kid I thought this was a difficult fight, now I have no idea why. Fire a couple of eggs to take out the floor in the middle, then wait for him to fall into the lava on his own. Fight over.

That was easy. Too bad his skeleton doesn't roar up out of the lava before falling to pieces. ...why do I keep thinking about Crocomire?

This is it, the final stage. The epic culmination of the game. "This game looks like it's for BABIES" said cool guys on the internet when reached for comment, while ranting to their mother about Star Wars Episode 7 daring to exist. She isn't listening, and only the nearby stack of empty pizza boxes can hear them as they level up their warlock.

Yoshi soars to Bowser's Castle via helicopter as Kamek makes several swipes at him. Kamek is basically your foe for the whole final level.

There are multiple paths through the level. I was lucky enough to get the one with almost nothing in it.

The final fight with Kamek is in this auto-scrolling hallway. He can be tricky to get past here, but then again it's the last hallway in the game so it better be tricky.

After Kamek fails to stop our heroes, Bowser awakes... and it's the fearsome Baby Bowser.


Win, and Kamek turns Baby Bowser into... well, a much larger Bowser. He's so big that when he stomps the ground, METEORS FALL OUT OF THE SKY.

Bowser slowly charges towards the foreground during this battle. Also, the meteors take out pieces of the ground, and things get scary in a hurry. This is, hands-down, the most difficult part of the entire game.

Luckily, it is accompanied by THE MOST RAD-TO-THE-MAX TUNE EVER.


I win in the nick of time as Bowser closed in for the kill. This took several attempts. It was rough.

With that, Luigi is saved! Unfortunately, The Stork was dead.

...wait, no, the Stork wasn't dead. With that, he can finish making his delivery to their awful parents, trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage in a mushroom world gone mad.

And that's it. We'll see this duo all grown up in the Mario series, which skipped past puberty and their awkward teenage years.

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  1. DKC's visuals haven't aged well, but this game stands up to anything today.

  2. Yo, this was incredible. The look, the creativity, the cuteness, the lovingly detailed anything is so hard to find.
    The crying sound is too loud, though.
    I wonder if Kamek wanted to get Bowser some playmates.