Nintendo has never made a game in the exact same style as Super Mario World. It doesn’t seem like it ever will … so it’s weird that it keeps trying to do that with Yoshi’s Island.
The company is releasing the old-school platformer Yoshi’s New Island for 3DS today. It looks and plays almost exactly like its Super Nintendo predecessor, only it uses 3D graphics instead of the hand-drawn visuals we saw back in 1995. This isn’t the first sequel to the original Yoshi’s Island. Nintendo released Yoshi’s Story for Nintendo 64 in 1998, which was more of a followup, and Yoshi’s Island DS, a direct sequel, in 2006.
While gamers love the original SNES release, the rest of the Yoshi platformers don’t quite hold the same place in the hearts of most fans. The question for Yoshi’s New Island, then, is whether it can reach the heights set by the first game.
What you’ll like
It’s mostly just more Yoshi’s Island
It says “new” in the title, but the focus here is on the old.
Yoshi’s New Island is out to capture the original’s feel. It succeeds, which makes for a solid platformer.
As usual, the dinosaur must take care of a baby Mario. To do this, players must run and jump to avoid deadly obstacles. They must also use Yoshi’s tongue to swallow enemies and turn them into eggs. Players can then use those as projectiles to take on enemies and sometimes even solve puzzles.
It was fun 19 years ago, and it’s still fun now.
The levels are also set up just as they were in Yoshi’s Island. You must grab 20 red coins, 5 flowers, and 30 stars to finish 100 percent of a stage. Enemies include old favorites like penguins, Shy Guys, and skiing snowmen. The presentation is even the same with menus that look like chalkboards.
This all combines to make for a familiar and comfortable experience that fans of the original will appreciate.
Collecting everything is always difficult
The goal of any given stage is to get to the end. This is a simple task, and it often makes for a pretty easy game. If you go for the collectibles, however, every level is a challenge.
The aforementioned red coins, flowers, and stars are not gimmes. Sometimes they are well hidden. Other times they require precise platforming.
Getting 30 stars, for example, means finding 20 in the stage (you start with 10) and finishing without getting hit because you lose one star for every second that baby Mario is crying. This means that you have competing interests among the three collectible items. You need to explore and take risks, but if you do, you have a better chance of taking damage.
This is not like New Super Mario Bros. where if you try, you can get the three star coins on your first try. I was always trying, and I only got 100 percent on two stages.
For one particularly tough item, I had to move in close to a flying enemy to coax him to attack me. Instead of killing it, I had to wait for it to complete its pattern and fly up and to the left so that I could perfectly time a jump onto its head to reach a high platform.
It’s that kind of challenge that makes the whole game so rewarding.
What you won’t like
It’s like a cover band
Yes, Yoshi’s New Island looks and plays very much like the original, but that is kind of its own problem. Longtime fans will notice things that aren’t quite the same or aren’t quite as good.
It’s like seeing a wax statue of someone you love. Because it looks so close to the real thing, the slightest discrepancy is that much more noticeable. That’s not to suggest that Nintendo shouldn’t change things up, but that’s not what is happening here. Everything else feels so familiar that the differences feel more like mistakes.
These don’t include the controls or the visuals. It’s smaller than that, and I’ll admit that it will only affect other people who love the SNES original.
It’s things like the end goal looking the same but not functioning like it used to. It’s the absence of the bonus minigames. It’s the music.
The tunes in Yoshi’s New Island sound like dream versions of the original in that they are close to the real thing but something is off.
Everything just feels like a slightly skewed dream version of Yoshi’s Island.
Motion-controlled bonus levels
The 3DS, like Nintendo’s Wii, can sense motion, and Yoshi’s New Island takes advantage of that to disappointing effect.
While Yoshi is a dinosaur, he can transform into a variety of vehicles. This is also like the original game, but this time around you control the Yoshi helicopter or submarine by tilting your handheld. Occasional stages will have bonus rooms that turn the dinosaur into something else.
This doesn’t really add anything. It breaks up the flow and forces you to sit up so the motion sensors don’t get confused, which is a pain in the ass if you’re trying to play while laying on the couch.
Nintendo didn’t do Yoshi’s New Island any favors by adhering so closely to the game that spawned this Mario subseries. For Yoshi’s Island fans, New might feel odd. Despite that, solid gameplay and diabolically well-hidden collectibles have me sticking around.
It’s not as good as the original game. It’s merely solid, and it is also evidence that Nintendo should probably stop trying to recapture the 19-year-old magic.
Yoshi’s New Island is available on 3DS now. Nintendo provided GamesBeat with a downloadable review copy for the purpose of this review.