In Yoshi’s New Island, the latest entry on the Yoshi Series, developers Arzest fail to create new emotions on the hearts of seasoned players, but it’s whimsical music, and lovely art style will definitely catch the eyes of newcomers.
Editor’s Note: I remember when I first played Yoshi’s Island. I even remember the first level I played back in 1996, and it was such a great experience. Hopefully this game will be as welcoming to new players as it was to me 18 years ago.
Let’s get this out of the way... Yoshi’s New Island is not Yoshi’s Island from the SNES, as a matter of fact just like New Super Mario Bros the game should be labeled as a collection of levels who pay homage to the original release from 1995, and somehow fail, not as blatantly as NSMB. But what does this all mean for the aficionados of Yoshi and Mario’s first foray into the universe of the Mushroom Kingdom?
What can I say, running through plains, hills, and volcanoes requires great control over your two feet, and Yoshi manages to flutter jump and cross these gaps just like the future hero he carries on its back, shooting eggs feels satisfying, the way Yoshi brakes feels just right, and the same can be say about its jumps; I’m pretty sure that without Yoshi’s tuition Mario wouldn’t be saving princesses every year.
Let the first world serve as an introduction stage, and all the basics from the game will be covered in the first set of eight levels. Once you beat the first Big Baddie and progress to a new area, the game assumes you already know what you’re doing and stops hand holding you through the levels. It is super satisfying making it through a level unscratched, with all the red coins and flowers, if you manage to find them all.
The main theme, I shall name it: Yoshi’s New Island Overworld Theme, serves as the staple song for the game and every single piece of music for the rest of the levels derives and/or is inspired by this theme, you’ve probably heard it before since it was the music that played during the trailers.
It is a limited method to create a soundtrack but the composers found a way to make the most of it, using basic instruments and different styles, under the supervision of Kazumi Totaka the game’s music oozes a sense of playfulness akin to Yoshi’s Story with hints of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.
Back when Nintendo released the transformation trailers for Yoshi’s New Island, I thought to myself, why are you forcing the gyroscope into the game? It’s not as precise as standard controls, I hated when it was incorporated into Mario & Luigi Dream Team, but to my surprise the implementation on Yoshi’s New Island it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
Of the new implementations my favorite one was the Metal Eggdozer, under normal circumstances Yoshi can’t explore underwater sections but thanks to this metal beast he can go under water and discover new areas, sadly it’s only used like two or three times during the main quest, and thus a whole new world of underwater exploration goes to waste.
Now there’s nothing wrong with the levels in the game, but there’s also nothing worth noting out about them, during the course of the 48+ levels in the main quest you will traverse through the usual set of levels, plains and hills, jungles, caves, snowy mountains and icy cliffs, and last but not least a volcano. The problem with the game rest in the Developers Arzest reluctance to throw something new, they don’t stray too far from the original’s formula.
Although lovely and the fact that every little asset in the game looks like it was hand drawn with Crayola crayons, the animations are charming and most enemies will make you think twice if you should digest them into eggs, some bland backgrounds detract from the immersion, it is not always the case but when it happens it sticks out like a sore thumb.
So how come the music fall under two different categories? Well sometimes the game composer, Masayoshi Ishi, will pierce your ears when he tries to recreate the sound of toddlers handling a set of instruments for the first time; whistles, kazoos, trumpets, and xylophones played in syncopation and awkward measures, that even amateurs ears will notice there’s something wrong in the arrangements.
The game plays it safe from the first level until the last level, there were moments especially during the second half of the game where it picked up and it felt like a genuine experience, but those moments were too few, even the last fight against Baby Bowser will feel like you’ve been there before, the game tries changing the formula with the Giant Eggdozer and the Metal Eggdozer, but even with the inclusion of these two new mechanics the developing team shied away from incorporating them in a more creative fashion. The adventure suffers from resembling too much the game that started it all, and for their lack of originality the overall experience falters.
Let me break your heart... there are no Fuzzies that will make you go dizzy. Picture it: no funny looking Yoshi stumbling through perils and platforms; actually a handful of old enemies didn’t make their way back into this game, but worse than that is the lack of new enemies to spice the gameplay up a notch.
By no means is Yoshi’s New Island a bad game. Even when this game fails to deliver something new... the basic mechanics are so good, and the level design is so tight (especially on the second half of the game) there’s no way you won’t enjoy your adventure while visiting Egg Island! It’s a great game but compared to all the similar games released in the last year, Yoshi’s New Island is the weakest among them.
The moment the credits rolled my heart warmed up a little, put my criticism of the game to a side, and said “Thanks Nintendo and Arzest, thanks for letting me revisit Yoshi’s Island, a familiar trip into a familiar land, even if nothing changed in these last 18 years I still love this land” that humbling moment reminded me of all the things we take for granted, be it about life or video games.