Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Reviewed by Stan Stepanic, Posted on 2006-03-20


Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 1995 Also On: None

I tend to enjoy all of the games I have, even the awful ones, though I never review them as though they were good. Of the games I own that are actually good, it's tough to say which titles are better than others. One game has always stood out to me, throughout the past eighteen years, as simply the greatest video game ever made for any system. I've played it so many times I have it nearly memorized, and never have a problem sitting down to give it a go. It's by far the most creative, most involved, most challenging and most perfect game I've ever seen. It's a true example of artistry in video game programming and provides everything necessary to be perfect. This game has no flaws. If you haven't heard of it before, let me tell you, it's Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island.

Yoshi's Island is a graphical masterpiece. Created using Nintendo's Super FX2 chip, this game features some of the most incredible effects for any Super Nintendo game ever made. It's simply amazing how much they managed to milk out of the system to create this title. Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto decided on an impressionistic approach to create an atmosphere suggesting childhood, most specifically something resembling a nursery, for the most part. It has this overall "crayon" and "marker" look to its design and there are even references to works such as Van Gogh's "Starry Night" if you pay attention. The backgrounds and environments are vivid, alive and wonderfully arranged. Perfect. Character animations are smooth without any faults whatsoever, and there isn't even any graphical slowdown at any point in the game, in spite of the giant bosses and some larger characters you'll come across as you play.

The sound was also aimed at creating this "childish" feel, fitting perfectly with the graphical elements. Atmospheres are generated through perfect arrangements that suggest the castles, caves, mountains and so forth that you wander about; couldn't have been better. The sound effects fit nicely as well, no problems whatsoever. The major themes even repeat to some extent, but not haphazardly and it creates a wonderful sense of consistency throughout. The final boss theme is excellent, changing the direction of the game and making it more driving, fitting perfectly with this particular segment.

Yoshi's Island has the greatest organization I've ever seen. Not only does it look good and sound good, but, thank the gods, it plays well too. You can never say too much about this category because without it, you have nothing. You could have a great game with no music whatsoever, but you absolutely have to have quality in the actual game itself. This title is set up differently than its predecessor, marking a major turning point in the history of the Mario series. Later games, such as Paper Mario, certainly drew off of the experimentation found here. Basically, Kamek, an evil koopa who tends to Baby Bowser, has stolen Luigi thinking he captured both Mario babies from the stork before they were delivered to their parents. Mario is left behind and falls down to an island of Yoshis, who are determined to find where he wants to go, since baby Mario seems to be signaling them to travel somewhere. From this, you go through six main levels with eight stages each in addition to six secret stages if you can perfect your game (one per level). If you unlock them, you also unlock bonus rounds to use for extra items during gameplay.

So that's the basic rundown on how it's organized. Yoshi's Island is much different than its predecessors. In this game, you play as a different Yoshi on each level and can be hit an infinite number of times. The difference is that, when you are hit, Baby Mario gets knocked off and you have a time limit that appears on the screen that runs down unless you jump into him or use your tongue to bring him back. That's really the only way you can die other than falling into holes, getting crushed by a moving screen, falling into lava, spikes and so forth. In addition, your Yoshis can carry up to six eggs with them. You use these to access different items, areas, capture certain objects, and otherwise play the entire game. There's an interesting aiming button to use to make your aim more accurate, as well as several different power-ups you can access during gameplay by entering the item screen when you press Pause.

Technically, you can just run through the game and not really worry about any of the goals, but without getting them completed perfectly, you can never access the secret levels. To get a perfect, you have to have 30 Stars (these are used for the Baby Mario timer if he's knocked off), 20 Red Coins (special coins hidden among the regular yellow ones) and 5 Flowers. By collecting all of these, you get a perfect score in whatever level you're in. Get all perfects, and the two special spaces on each level map are accessed.

Don't think it's easy though, as the game progresses these items are hidden quite well and in strange locations where you have to perform a variety of different tasks, such as morphing into a cute little helicopter to fly about or into a toy train to run along a set of chalk-line tracks. The Stars can be grabbed by rebounding eggs and hitting enemies, but they're also sometimes located in these flower things you have to toss eggs in, as well as other locations. Essentially, you don't want to get hit through the entire level, otherwise you won't have 30 Stars. To make this a bit easier, there are Star Icons you can gather in bonus rounds that, when used, will increase your Star level 10 or 20 depending on the icon you have. These cannot be used during boss segments, so you tend to need to be really good at this game in order to get a perfect score.

Other than this you have different enemies, with tons of variety, huge, well-animated bosses that require you to figure out their secret weak point in order to defeat them and so many different obstacles and areas to discover it's just incredible. This game is really packed with different things to do, it's simply amazing. The final boss is excellent, setting apart the rest of the game.

In addition, the difficulty curve is set just right, starting out around a medium and progressing to incredibly hard, though you're mainly going to find the more difficult levels being the secret stages. Some of these require precise timing in order to get a perfect score, such as a skiing level where you have to jump at the right moments with the right speed to collect everything. This is certainly a game you'll be playing for awhile, and with an automatic save feature already in place, you need not worry about starting all over again the following day. Up to three games can be saved, and for each one that you complete perfectly, including the secret levels once you unlock them, you get a set of stars. I'm not sure what happens when you get three perfect games, but I'm thinking something's hidden in there.

Yoshi's Island is one of the most creative games I've ever seen. It was really unique for its day and even today is an interesting title to sit down with. It was certainly one of the earliest titles to begin experimenting with video game design and is much unlike anything ever released for the SNES. In addition, you can see definite influences on many games that came after. It's simply perfect, you can't get more creative than this, there's so much going on here and so much innovation there's simply no way to say it's not creative.

Out of all the systems and games I own, I have to say this is my favorite game of all time. I come back to play it now and then and even go through phases where I'll sit down with it for hours and days at a time. Plus, if you run through it without doing so hot, you can easily access each level individually to get a perfect score, so the replay value is through the roof in this title. It's a wonderful and required addition to any game library. Even if you don't own an SNES, get one just to play this game. It's the only game you'll need for it. As far as game length Yoshi's Island is just right. If you tried to beat this in a single go you'd be playing it at least twenty-four hours, if not seventy-two, so don't even bother. You're looking at at least a week or two of steady play here, just right. Not too long and not too short for this kind of title, making it great for occasional gaming here and there instead of all at once. Regardless, if you're sick, it's not like it isn't a blast to play through it as much as you can.

In conclusion, I'd have to say Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is one of the most innovative and entertaining video games ever created. It broke barriers and set up new ground standing as a title every serious gamer should experience some time in their lifetime. The programmers were willing to take a chance with design and conception and ended up with pure perfection. It's one of the few games I can safely say made history, though this history is sadly ignored at times and often ridiculed by less intelligent gamers among us. The only unfortunate aspect of this title is that it tends to be rare in the wild and when it does appear on auction sites it tends to fetch fairly high amounts of money. Regardless, it's worth it, and trust me there's a reason it can cost a few extra dollars.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 10
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 10
Written by Stan Review Guide

Reviewed by Stan Stepanic