Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is a 1995 platform video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Acting as a prequel to Super Mario World, the game casts players as Yoshi as he escorts Baby Mario through 48 levels in order to reunite him with his brother Luigi, who had been kidnapped by Baby Bowser's minions. 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, produce eggs from swallowed enemies, and transform into vehicles. It also features 2D graphics with Linear transformations (similar to Super Mario World).
The game's hand-drawn aesthetic—a style new to the series—descends from producer and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto's distaste for the computer pre-rendered graphics of the game's contemporary Donkey Kong Country. Yoshi's Island was released in Japan in August 5, 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 under the title Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3. Nintendo later released this version via the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console.
Yoshi's Island received "instant" and "universal acclaim", according to IGN and review aggregator Metacritic, and sold over four million copies. Both contemporaneous and retrospective reviewers offered lavish praise for the game's aesthetics, sound, level design, and gameplay, and posited Yoshi's Island as a masterpiece and the best platformer 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 1998 Yoshi's Story, 2006 Yoshi's Island DS, 2014 Yoshi's New Island, and 2015 Yoshi's Woolly World. The next Mario 2D platform game for home consoles was New Super Mario Bros. Wii, released 14 years later.
Yoshi's Island is a two-dimensional side-scrolling platformer in which players help friendly dinosaurs known as Yoshis escort Baby Mario safely through 48 levels across six worlds in order to rescue his brother Luigi, who had been kidnapped by an evil Magikoopa named Kamek.
Each level casts players as a different colored Yoshi, who must escort Baby Mario on his back and reach the end of the level, where he is passed on to the next Yoshi. Similar to Super Mario World, Yoshi can use his tongue to ensnare enemies and put them into his mouth. When something is in his mouth, Yoshi can either spit it out as an attack, or swallow it to turn it into an egg. These eggs can then be thrown at an angle, even bouncing off walls, to attack enemies or reach far away or hard to reach items. Yoshi can carry up to six eggs at a time, with some colored eggs spawning items once they hit something. Yoshi can also eat watermelons that let him spit out seeds, or flaming enemies that let him spit out fire. Yoshi is also able to perform a flutter jump, in which he can kick his legs in mid-air to gain extra height or hover over long distances, and a ground pound, a downward attack that can hammer down on enemies and stumps.
The goal of each level is to protect Baby Mario, who rides on Yoshi's back. If Yoshi is hit by an enemy or obstacle, Baby Mario will float off into a bubble and a timer will start counting down. If the player fails to recover Baby Mario before the counter reaches zero, Baby Mario will be taken away by Koopas and Yoshi will lose a life. The timer can recover up to ten seconds, and Yoshi can collect stars to increase the amount of time on the counter. However, if Yoshi falls into a bottomless pit, gets crushed, or comes into contact with spikes or lava, he will automatically lose a life. In some areas, players can collect a Starman that transforms Baby Mario into Super Baby Mario. During these areas, players take control of Baby Mario who, for a short period, is invincible, can run on walls and ceilings, and can float using his cape. Additionally, some areas transform Yoshi into various vehicles, such as a helicopter or digger, allowing him to reach otherwise inaccessible areas for a short amount of time.
Each of the game's worlds feature eight main levels, with a boss appearing at the end of every fourth and eighth level. Hidden throughout each of these levels are five Flowers and twenty Red Coins, the latter of which are hidden behind specific coins in each level. Collecting Flowers adds flowers to the gate at the end of each level (not including boss levels). If the player manages to land on an open flower after jumping through the end gate, they can play a bonus game during which they can earn extra lives or bonus items that can be activated from the pause menu, such as additional stars or maginifying glasses that reveal the location of hidden Red Coins. At the end of each level, players receive a score based on how many Flowers and Red Coins they found, as well as how many stars they have remaining, with a maximum score of 100 awarded for finding all Flowers and Red Coins and ending the level with 30 stars. Completing all levels in a world with a score of 100 unlocks two additional levels for that world.
Development and re-release
While Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto worked on Super Mario World, he thought to make Yoshi the series' "next hero" since the game designer did not like the other Yoshi games, including Yoshi's Safari and Yoshi's Cookie, and thought he could make something more authentic. When he first brought the game to Nintendo marketing, they declined the game for having Mario-style graphics rather than the vogue, computer pre-rendered graphics of Donkey Kong Country. In comparison, they felt that his game lacked the power to impress. Incensed and opposed to the style, Miyamoto instead further escalated his cartoonish visuals into a hand-drawn, crayon style. Nintendo's marketing department accepted this revision. Miyamoto later recalled feeling that the marketing department wanted "better hardware and more beautiful graphics instead of ... art". Around the time of his rejection, Miyamoto allegedly said that "Donkey Kong Country proves that players will put up with mediocre gameplay as long as the art is good". However, he later clarified his remarks, stating that "recently some rumour got out that I didn't really like that game? I just want to clarify that that's not the case, because I was very involved in that. And even emailing almost daily with Tim Stamper right up until the end."
Yoshi's Island was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. According to Miyamoto, who served as a producer, 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 NES was in its twilight as a console in anticipation of Nintendo's upcoming console to be released the following year, 1996. 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 few changes. The developers used the Yoshi voice from a subsequent series game, cropped the original display to fit the handheld's smaller screen, and added exclusive bonus levels. Like the other Super Mario Advance rereleases, the handheld version includes the 1983 game Mario Bros. with support for up to four players via link cable. The new cartridge did not need an extra microchip to support the original's special effects.
The Game Boy Advance version of the game was released on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U via Nintendo's digital Virtual Console platform. The port retains the handheld version's cropped screen and pack-in Mario Bros. game, though its multiplayer mode 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 Wii U version was released worldwide on April 24, 2014. At E3 2010, Nintendo demoed "classic" 2D titles such as Yoshi's Island as remastered 3D games with a "pop-up book feel".
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", and elsewhere in the same issue referred to it as "the high-water mark of 2D gameplay ... a fifth-generation project and the fruits of over 10 years of labor and experience" (referencing the amount of time Nintendo had been making Mario games). 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. Major Mike of GamePro called it "a work of art." He lauded the "almost perfect" control, the variety of techniques, the graphical variety, and the "abundance of hidden items and concealed rooms", and unlike other reviewers, he found Baby Mario's cries for help to be very affecting. He concluded that Yoshi's Island "is one of the last of a dying breed: a 16-bit game that shows real heart and creativity." Reviewing the Super NES 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 charged 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 offered lavish praise for the game's aesthetics, 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 both the console's best platformer as well as "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" in comparison.
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. Baby Mario, who debuted in the game, went on to have his own career in a number of sports-related titles. 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 NES 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 2nd 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 NES 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, Donkey Kong, and Wario, 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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