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Yoshi’s New Island – Can It Be a Worthy Sequel?
Now that Yoshi’s New Island on the 3DS has an official release date of March 14 in North America, I want to give my thoughts on what I’ve seen of it.
The original Yoshi’s Island is commonly regarded as one of the Super NES’s best games. It’s routinely seen as one of the better Mario titles and offered up a unique sequel to Super Mario World.
Yoshi’s Island did so much right – it was a great blend of platforming and two-dimensional shooting. The levels were well designed and the egg throwing mechanic was wonderful, especially since throwing eggs can accomplish so much. The music, while limited, was fun and playful. And the graphics are still gorgeous – the backgrounds are hand drawn and colorful, while the sprite work and animation is fantastic.
Fast forward almost 19 years, and we’ve got a sequel on the 3DS coming out soon. There was an earlier sequel on the DS in 2006, which I’ll touch on as well. For now, I want to focus on Yoshi’s New Island and my impressions. Let’s use this trailer to take a peek.
First thing I notice in this trailer, surprisingly, isn’t the graphics. It’s actually the music, which sounds more like Yoshi’s Story than Yoshi’s Island. While it is just being played over the trailer, it’s a good bet they’ll be using that style of music throughout. That’s fine, if not a little disappointing after mentioning how good the music from Yoshi’s Island was.
Now I’ll talk about the graphics. The backgrounds are the best part, since they do remind me of those from the original game. They look blurry and less well defined, but they’re doing okay. The decision to use three-dimensional models over sprites kills me. They don’t have any charm, and to be honest, they look out of place. At least Yoshi’s Island DS used sprites, even if they weren’t as well drawn as those in Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s New Island could use sprites and it wouldn’t look any bit dated for it – the 3DS would allow for some amazing sprites.
As far as gameplay goes, it looks comparable to the previous games in the series. There’s egg throwing, sure – there’s even giant egg throwing, which looks gimmicky from its use in the trailer. Part of the fun of Yoshi’s Island was discovering how to collect the red coins and flowers needed for 100 per cent completion. These giant eggs look like the solution to arbitrary situations – ones where the only possible outcome is to throw a giant egg.
Speaking of throwing, my next concern is the aiming cursor. Compared to Yoshi’s Island, it seems slow. Egg shots are an incredibly important part of the game, and a skilled player wants to be able to do them in a hurry. Even a novice doesn’t want to wait for a slow cursor to reach the needed angle.
I hope that the speed of the cursor is adjustable, or doesn’t end up as slow as it looks. This element of the gameplay could make or break it – too slow, and you risk having a game that isn’t fun and clearly aimed for beginners.
That isn’t to say that it looks bad, no. I know that I sound negative, but I blame it on just how much I like the original Yoshi’s Island. I remember a friend’s birthday party where I spent more time playing it than actually celebrating his birthday (I was a bit of a selfish kid, especially when video games were concerned). I feel more positive about this game than I ended up feeling about Yoshi’s Island DS.
In three words, I’ll sum up my problem with Yoshi’s Island DS. Too many babies. If you’ve never played the game, which was developed by Artoon (who, strangely enough, went defunct in 2010 and reemerged as Arzest – who, as luck would have it, are developing Yoshi’s New Island), I’ll explain what those three words mean.
Yoshi’s Island DS had five different babies that could be used, each with their own way of influencing Yoshi’s abilities. I never felt like they added anything to the game, rather, they burdened it with several different gimmicks such as the use of Baby Wario’s magnet to pull specific blocks, or Baby Peach’s umbrella. Many levels in the game required the use of the right baby at the right time to progress or get 100 per cent completion.
Yoshi’s Island had a perfect formula that didn’t need gimmicks to make interesting levels – it was the result of good level design, over and over again. I’m hoping Yoshi’s New Island will fall into the latter category, even though I haven’t seen much to suggest it’ll be on the level of Yoshi’s Island.
But hey, if all else fails, maybe Yarn Yoshi will end up being the game to play. Or Nintendo and Arzest can make my fears meaningless and make Yoshi’s New Island a game that its predecessor can be proud of.