|Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island|
North American cover art
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island[a] is a 1995 platform game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. To reunite baby Mario with his brother Luigi, who has been kidnapped by Kamek, the player controls Yoshi, a friendly dinosaur, through 48 levels while carrying Baby Mario. As a Super Mario series platformer, Yoshi runs and jumps to reach the end of the level while solving puzzles and collecting items. In a style new to the series, the game has a hand-drawn aesthetic and is the first to have Yoshi as its main character. The game introduces his signature abilities to flutter jump and produce eggs from swallowed enemies.
The game is well-known for its unique artstyle, which heavily contrasted with the pre-rendered artstyle of contemporary games popularized by Donkey Kong Country. After four years of development, Yoshi's Island released in Japan in August 1995, and worldwide two months later. Some of its special effects were powered by a new Super FX2 microchip. The game was rereleased for the Game Boy Advance with few changes in 2002. This version was ported to the Nintendo 3DS in 2011 and the Wii U Virtual Console in 2014.
Yoshi's Island received "instant" and "universal acclaim", according to IGN and review aggregator Metacritic, and sold over four million copies. Reviewers praised the art, sound, level design, and gameplay, and posited Yoshi's Island as a masterpiece and one of the greatest video games of all time. The game brought newfound renown to both Yoshi as a character and Miyamoto's artistic and directorial career. The distinct art style and Yoshi's signature characteristics established in Yoshi's Island would carry throughout a series of cameos, spin-offs, and sequels, including the 1997 Yoshi's Story, 2006 Yoshi's Island DS, 2014 Yoshi's New Island, and 2019's Yoshi's Crafted World. It was the last 2D game in the Super Mario series released on a home console until New Super Mario Bros. Wii over a decade later.
Yoshi's Island is a 2D side-scrolling platform game. Its story begins as a Magikoopa of the Koopalings attacks a stork delivering baby brothers Mario and Luigi. They succeed in kidnapping Baby Luigi, but Baby Mario falls out of the sky and onto the back of Yoshi, the titular friendly dinosaur and player-character of the single-player game. While the player controlled Mario and rode Yoshi in previous series games, in Yoshi's Island, the player controls one of many Yoshis, which take turns traveling through 48 levels across six worlds to rescue Baby Luigi and reunite the brothers. In the Super Mario series platform game tradition, the player controls Yoshi with a two-button run and jump control scheme. The player navigates between platforms and atop some foes en route to the end of the increasingly difficult levels. Yoshi also collects coins to earn extra lives and retains his long tongue from Super Mario World. The game centers more on "puzzle-solving and item-collecting" than other platformers, with hidden flowers and red coins to find. Levels include mines, ski jumps, and "the requisite fiery dungeons". Every fourth level (two in each world) is a boss fight against a large version of a previous foe.
In a style new to the series, the game has a coloring book aesthetic with "scribbled crayon" backgrounds, and Yoshi vocalizes with its every action. Expanding on his "trademark tongue" ability to swallow enemies, Yoshi, as the focus of the game, was given a new move set: the ability to "flutter jump", throw eggs, and transform. The flutter jump gives Yoshi a secondary boost when the player holds the jump button. It became his new "trademark move", similar to that of Luigi in Super Mario Bros. 2. Yoshi can also pound the ground from mid-air to bury objects or break through soft earth. The dinosaur's long tongue grabs enemies at a distance. Swallowed enemies can either be spat as projectiles immediately or stored for later use as an egg. The player individually aims and fires the eggs at obstacles via a new targeting system. The eggs also bounce off of surfaces in the environment. Up to six eggs can be stored this way, and will trail behind the character. Yoshi can also eat certain items for power-up abilities. For instance, watermelons let Yoshi shoot seeds from his mouth like a machine gun, and fire enemies turn his mouth into a flamethrower. Other power-ups transform Yoshi into vehicles including cars, drills, helicopters, and submarines. A star power-up makes Baby Mario invulnerable and extra fast.
While Yoshi is "virtually invincible", if hit by an enemy, Baby Mario will float off his back in a bubble while a timer counts down to zero. When the timer expires, Koopas arrive to take Baby Mario and Yoshi loses a life. The player can replenish the timer by collecting small stars and power-ups. However, Yoshi can also lose a life instantly if he comes into contact with obstacles such as pits, spikes, lava, and thorns. Similar to Super Mario World, the player can hold a power-up in reserve, such as a "+10 star" (which adds ten seconds to the Baby Mario timer) or a "magnifying glass" (which reveals all hidden red coins in a level). These power-ups are acquired in several minigames. At the end of each level, the Yoshi relays Baby Mario to the successive Yoshi. If the player perfects all eight levels in each world by finishing with all flowers, red coins, and full 30 seconds on the timer, two hidden levels will unlock. There are three save slots on the cartridge.
The Game Boy Advance version adds an exclusive bonus level for each world with 100% level completion. It also includes four-player support via link cable, but only to play Mario Bros., a pack-in feature also included on the other Super Mario Advance games.
Shigeru Miyamoto in Next Generation, September 1995
After the release of Super Mario World, the character of Yoshi gained popularity and starred in puzzle game spin-offs such as Yoshi and Yoshi's Cookie. At this time, Super Mario World character designer Shigefumi Hino was approached by Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto and asked to develop an original project. Hino felt that they had already explored every possible avenue with 2D Mario platformers (the 3D Super Mario 64 being in its preliminary stages at this point). After brainstorming, he landed on the idea of using Yoshi as the main character of a platforming game, with the goal of being more accessible than previous games in the Mario series.
Yoshi's Island was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Development was spearheaded by Hino and Takashi Tezuka, with Miyamoto serving as producer. Newly-hired artist Hisashi Nogami conceived the game's unique marker-drawn artstyle. The graphics were achieved by drawing them by hand, digitally scanning them, and then approximating them pixel-by-pixel.
Donkey Kong Country released partway into development and resulted in the computer-generated artstyle becoming the norm for late-generation Super Nintendo games, but it was too late for the graphic designers to incorporate such a style into the game; instead, they pushed the hand-drawn artstyle even further as a way to "fight back". As a compromise, the game's introductory and ending cutscenes feature a pre-rendered style, contrasting with the rest of the game. According to Miyamoto, Yoshi's Island was in development for four years, which let the team add "lots of magic tricks". The game cartridge used an extra microchip to support the game's rotation, scaling and other sprite-changing special effects. Yoshi's Island was designed to use the Super FX chip, but when Nintendo stopped supporting the chip, the game became the first to use Argonaut Games's Super FX2 microchip. The chip powered scenes including a drawbridge falling into the foreground, rotation effects like rolling and enlarged rather than reanimated enemies, and a psychedelic effect in a level when Yoshi touches a floating fungus.
Yoshi's Island was released first in Japan in August 1995, and two months later in North America and Europe. At the time of release, the Super Nintendo was in its twilight as a console in anticipation of the Nintendo 64, to be released the following year.
Yoshi's Island was rereleased for the Game Boy Advance as Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 in North America on September 23, 2002. In the game's preview at E3 2002, IGN named Yoshi's Island "Best Platformer" on a handheld console. The Game Boy Advance version is a direct port of the original, apart from a change to use the Yoshi voice from a later Yoshi game and an extra six bonus levels. The visible area was also reduced to fit the handheld's smaller screen. The new cartridge did not need an extra microchip to support the original's special effects.
The Game Boy Advance version was ported to the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U via Nintendo's digital Virtual Console platform. The port retains the cropped screen of the handheld version and the pack-in Mario Bros. game, though the multiplayer is disabled. The 3DS version was released on December 16, 2011, as an exclusive reward for early adopters of the Nintendo 3DS. It did not receive a wider release. The Yoshi's Island port for the Wii U was released worldwide on April 24, 2014. At E3 2010, Nintendo demoed "classic" 2D games such as Yoshi's Island as remastered 3D games with a "pop-up book feel". The SNES version was included as a part of the Super NES Classic Edition microconsole in 2017, and is also available in the SNES online app for the Nintendo Switch as part of the paid online service.
Yoshi's Island received "instant" and "universal acclaim", according to an IGN retrospective and video game review aggregator Metacritic, respectively. At the time of its 1995 release, Matt Taylor of Diehard GameFan thought Yoshi's Island could be "possibly the best platform game of all time". Nintendo Power too said that the game was "one of the biggest, most beautiful games ever made". Next Generation was also most impressed by the game's "size and playability". Diehard GameFan's three reviewers gave the game a near perfect score. To wit, Nicholas Dean Des Barres said it was "one of the handful of truly perfect games ever produced", and lamented that the magazine had given Donkey Kong Country, which he felt was a lackluster game in comparison, the extra single point for a perfect score. Casey Loe removed that one point for Baby Mario's "annoying screech". Nintendo Power and Nintendo Life too found Baby Mario's crying sounds annoying. Reviewing the Super Nintendo release over a decade later, Kaes Delgrego of Nintendo Life said the crying and some easy boss battles, while both minor, were the game's only shortcomings. Delgrego credited Yoshi's Island with perfecting the genre, calling it "perhaps the greatest platformer of all time". The game has sold over four million copies.
Both contemporaneous and retrospective reviewers praised the art, level design, and gameplay, which became legacies of the game. Some called it "charm". Delgrego of Nintendo Life would stop mid-game just to watch what enemies would do. Martin Watts of the same publication called it "an absolute pleasure on the eyes and unlike any other SNES game". Others praised the control scheme, technical effects, and sound design. Nintendo Life's Delgrego felt "goosebumps and tingles" during the ending theme, and marked the soundtrack's range from the lighthearted intro to the "epic grandeur of the final boss battle".
Edge praised the game's balance of challenge and accessibility. The magazine thought that the new power-ups of Yoshi's Island gave its gameplay and level design great range, and that the powers were significant additions to the series on par with the suits of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Yoshi's own debut in Super Mario World. Diehard GameFan's Taylor wrote that there was enough gameplay innovation to make him cry and listed his favorites as the Baby Mario cape invincibility power-up, the machine gun-style seed spitting, and the snowball hill level. Nintendo Life's Watts called the egg stockpiling mechanic as "clever" for the way it encourages experimentation with the environment as well as tempered wastefulness. Edge thought of Yoshi's Island as a "fusion of technology and creativity, each enhancing the other". The magazine considered the game's special effects expertly integrated into the gameplay, and described the developer's handicraft as having an "attention to detail that few games can match".
Reviewing the Game Boy Advance release in 2002, Craig Harris of IGN wrote that Yoshi's Island was "the best damn platformer ever developed". While acknowledging the game's roots in the Super Mario series, he said the game created enough gameplay ideas to constitute its own franchise. IGN's Lucas M. Thomas wrote that the game's story was also interesting as the origin story for the Mario brothers. Harris felt that the FX2 sprite-changing effects gave the game "life" and that the Game Boy Advance cartridge could handle the effects just as well. He added that Yoshi's morphing abilities and sound effects were designed well. Levi Buchanan of IGN said the game struck the right balance of tutorial by trial and error. IGN's Harris also noted a few Game Boy Advance-specific issues: framerate drop in areas where a lot is happening onscreen, camera panning problems due to the screen's lower resolution, and a "poor" implementation of the "dizzy" special effect on the handheld release. Critics wrote that the "coloring book"-style graphics held up well. IGN's Harris felt it was the best of the Super Mario Advance games. Of the similar version for the Wii U, Watts of Nintendo Life also noticed the framerate issues and problems resulting from the screen's closer crop, which were "not enough to ruin the game, but ... noticeable". Edge felt that game's only disappointment was the linearity of its overworld following the exploratory Super Mario World and that the sequel would "inevitably ... have less impact".
Multiple retrospective critics declared Yoshi's Island a "masterpiece". IGN recalled it as "one of the most loved SNES adventures of all time". Yoshi's Island brought newfound renown to both Yoshi as a character and Shigeru Miyamoto's artistic and directorial career. IGN's Lucas M. Thomas wrote that game marked where Yoshi "came into his own" and developed many of his definitive characteristics: the "signature" flutter jump, and ability to throw eggs and transform shape. IGN's Harris noted that the designers gave Yoshi a "cute" voice to accompany its move set and remains a hallmark feature of the character. Baby Mario, who debuted in the game, went on to feature in a number of sports-related games. Series producer Takashi Tezuka said he consciously continued "the handicraft feel" of the original throughout the series, which later included yarn and similar variations. Official Nintendo Magazine called the art style "a bold step ... that paid off handsomely". Delgrego of Nintendo Life wrote that the game marked a new era of art in video games that prioritized creativity over graphics technology.
Delgrego continued that the game's countdown-based life was a "revolutionary" mechanic that would later become ubiquitous in games like the Halo series. Martin Watts also of Nintendo Life considered Super Mario 64 to be a more momentous event in gaming history, but felt that Yoshi's Island was the "most significant" event in the "Mario Bros. timeline". In a retrospective, IGN wrote that Super Nintendo console owners widely embraced the game alongside Donkey Kong Country.
IGN's Jared Petty wrote that Yoshi's Island bested "the test of time far better than many of its contemporaries". Levi Buchanan of IGN thought Nintendo took a risk with Yoshi's Island by making Mario passive and giving Yoshi new abilities. Christian Donlan of 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die wrote that the game was a testament to the Mario team's "staggering confidence" in its development ability. He said the game was "perhaps the most imaginative platformer" of its time. Yoshi's Island ranked 22nd on Official Nintendo Magazine's 2009 top 100 Nintendo games as a "bone fide classic", 15th on IGN's 2014 top 125 Nintendo games of all time, and second on USgamer's 2015 best Mario platformers list.
Sequels and spin-offs
Yoshi's Island led to a strong year for Yoshi as a character. IGN's Thomas added that the hand-drawn style of Yoshi's Island made the computer-generated Donkey Kong Country appear outdated, though both games sold well, and Rareware included a Yoshi cameo in their sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, released that same year. Yoshi's Island graphics and characters were also incorporated into the 1996 Super Nintendo tile puzzle game Tetris Attack.
Following Yoshi's Island's success, Nintendo developed Yoshi's Story, a 1998 platformer for the Nintendo 64, which "disappointed" audiences and deflated "massive ... anticipation" with fetch quests and the 3D style Miyamoto eschewed in its predecessor. The Nintendo 64 game expanded on Yoshi's character voice as introduced in Yoshi's Island, but also "dumbed down Yoshi's character". Nintendo created two Yoshi's Island spin-off games: the tilt sensor-controlled Yoshi Topsy Turvy (2004, Game Boy Advance), which was developed by Artoon and critically panned, and the Nintendo-developed minigame Yoshi Touch & Go (2005, Nintendo DS). The 1995 original release received a direct sequel in 2006: Yoshi's Island DS, also developed by Artoon. Titled Yoshi's Island 2 until just before it shipped, the game retained the core concept of transporting baby Nintendo characters, and added babies Princess Peach, Bowser, and Donkey Kong, each with an individual special ability. Yoshi had a similar move set to Yoshi's Island and added dash and float abilities, but was more passive a character compared to the babies on his back.
About seven years later, series producer Takashi Tezuka decided enough time had passed to make another direct sequel, Yoshi's New Island (2013, Nintendo 3DS). It was developed by former Artoon employees at their new company, Arzest. As in the original, Yoshi carries Baby Mario and throws eggs. The game adds the ability to swallow big foes, which become big eggs that can destroy big obstacles. Yoshi's Island DS developer Arzest assisted in its development. In 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die (2010), Christian Donlan wrote that despite the "streamlined" Yoshi's Story and "brilliant" Yoshi's Touch and Go, "the original was never bettered and never truly advanced upon". In Eurogamer's 2015 preview of Yoshi's Woolly World, Tom Phillips wrote that it had "been 20 years since the last truly great Yoshi's Island". The next console release of a Mario 2D side-scroller, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, was released 14 years later.
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