Retro Scope: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Sam takes a look back on Yoshi’s first– and greatest– adventure.

By Sam Stewart. Posted 03/13/2014 09:00 8 Comments     ShareThis

When the developers at Nintendo decided to make a sequel to the smash hit Super Mario World, they must have known they had a challenge on their hands. How do you improve upon one of the most perfectly realized 2D platformers of all time? They would face this same dilemma years later when working on Super Mario Galaxy 2. For that game they decided to expand on the original’s ideas to make something bigger and better than the predecessor. In Super Mario World 2’s case, they decided to make a new game altogether, with an old friend in the lead role. A new art style, new physics, and new mechanics came together to give Mario’s best bud Yoshi his greatest adventure ever, and show that sometimes reinventing your game is the best way to create a classic.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island opens with one of the most interesting bits of story in the entire Mario series. A stork is carrying the newborn Mario bros. to their parents when Kamek attempts to kidnap them. He successfully abducts Baby Luigi, but fails to grab Baby Mario, who plummets to earth, landing on an island directly below them. Luckily for Mario, he lands safely on the back of a familiar green dinosaur, a Yoshi who takes his unexpected passenger to the other Yoshis. The dinos decide to rescue Luigi and the stork, setting off for Bowser’s castle with Mario in tow. So, does this mean that the Mario brothers have parents? It would seem so, though this is still the only mention of them I can think of. Apparently Yoshi’s New Island will reveal more about Mama and Papa Mario, but I won’t spoil any of that here. Suffice it to say that if you care about the story of the Mario family, you should grab the new game this Friday.

But the story isn’t nearly the most important part of Yoshi’s Island. The real joy in this game comes from hopping your way across the island, leading Yoshi through colorful meadows filled with smiling flowers and unassuming Shy Guys. With the happy-go-lucky music playing in the background, it’s hard not to have a smile on your face as you trek through the early worlds. Just because the world looks inviting, however, doesn’t mean it always is. There are plenty of enemies, such as Piranha Plants and Koopa Troopas, to get in your way, but luckily you can dispatch them with a well placed egg shot. The egg shots are a trademark of the Yoshi’s Island series and one of its biggest innovations to the traditional Mario mechanics. By eating an enemy you can turn it into an egg, which can be fired as a projectile to do a variety of things, such as hitting switches and defeating other enemies. The game’s other well known addition is Yoshi’s flutter jump ability, which has gone on to make appearances in Super Smash Bros. and Super Mario Galaxy 2. By frantically kicking his legs, Yoshi can stay in the air for a few moments longer, perfect for lining up a jump or getting past an enemy. These are the mechanics that set Yoshi’s Island apart from more traditional Mario games, and once you master them you will be firing egg shots while running, easily sniping any enemy that dares face you.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island Screenshot

But be warned that there are plenty of enemies awaiting, which is no surprise given the game’s sprawling levels. Rather than using Super Mario World’s more linear level style, the areas in Yoshi’s Island are big, with plenty of secrets hidden both above and below the starting path. Levels usually transition to a few different areas, especially in the case of the labyrinthine caves. The game will challenge your brain as well as your platforming skills, sometimes forcing you to not only beat enemies but solve platforming puzzles as well. The enemy variety is daunting, ranging from Lakitus and Goombas to Chain Chomps and Bandits. One of the game’s most charming features is its bosses, every one of which is a normal enemy that Kamek has super sized with his magic. The only exception is the one time he decides to shrink Yoshi instead, leading to a memorable battle in a frog’s stomach.

I know I already briefly mentioned the music, but it would be wrong of me to leave it at that. Yoshi’s Island undoubtedly has some of the best music in the Mario series. The opening levels are filled with heartwarming tracks that will certainly coerce you into humming along, but even in caves and castles the music perfectly matches the tone. The cavern music is a perfect mix of creepy and inspiring, giving me a sense of exploration, and the castles are filled with sometimes haunting, sometimes taunting tones that give the perfect unwelcome feeling. But none of them compare to Yoshi’s Island’s best track, the Athletic theme. It’s only used a few times in the game, but every time it lets its presence be known with an attention grabbing intro and catchy big band instrumentals. It’s the song I always look forward to when I play Yoshi’s Island, and I’m never disappointed.

These things are the big features that make Yoshi’s Island so great, but there are plenty of smaller details that make the game special as well. The way Baby Mario looks at Yoshi when he ducks, following suit a second later by pulling down his oversized hat. The way Yoshi’s eyes grow big when he accidentally runs into a fuzzy, causing the world around him to sway. The stars that, when picked up, cause Baby Mario to jump off Yoshi’s back and go for a run up and down walls, all while donning his yellow cape. Being able to kill one of the bosses early by hitting it before a cutscene starts (an intended possibility by the way). The short scene at the end of every level showing the current Yoshi passing Baby Mario to the next so he can continue his journey. All of the details, both big and small, come together to make Yoshi’s Island the great game that it is. It’s a Mario spin-off that in some ways surpasses its source material, and I hope that Yoshi’s New Island can manage to do it again.

8 Responses to “Retro Scope: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

  • 276 points
    Nicolas Vestre says...

    No game has ever made me feel as awesome as Yoshi’s Island does. Despite playing numerous 2D platformers over the years, I can’t help but put this one at the top. Absolutely everything about the game appeals to me.

    A quote from the game that I really like:

    “We, the Mario team poured our hearts and souls into creating this game for your entertainment. It is full of secrets. Enjoy!”

    I’ve never tried defeating that boss in one hit, but I’ll give it a shot sometime soon. :)

    It makes me so sad that Yoshi’s Island hasn’t been brought to the Virtual Console. Come on! It’s been over seven years! The Game Boy Advance port is excellent, but I’d like to hear the music from the SNES version, as well as see the real effects from touching Fuzzy and getting dizzy.

  • 1288 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    Totally agree with Nicolas, I Wang to play this on.VC. it’s a really beautiful title, too. One of the best on SNES.

  • 1288 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    Good lord-WANT to play! Lolol.

  • 24 points
    Angela Marrujo Fornaca says...

    When is Yoshi’s Island gonna come out on VC… :'(

  • 745 points
    OG75 says...

    Angela Marrujo says: “When is Yoshi’s Island gonna come out on VC.”

    Back in February, Satoru Iwata announced that “Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3” will be coming to WiiU’s virtual console in April (along with Metroid Fusion and Mario & Luigi: Super Star Saga.)

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the superior SNES version.

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