Review: Yoshi’s New Island for Nintendo 3DS
Well, the name isn’t entirely inaccurate.
To get one thing clear, right up front: Yoshi’s New Island is a good game. However, and perhaps ironically, it’s much of what makes it a good game that manages to drag it down somewhat, particularly if this isn’t your first romp with Baby Mario on your back.
Put simply, Yoshi’s New Island tries to be like the original Yoshi’s Island, and largely manages to succeed… to a fault. The slavish adherence to the original is apparent almost as soon as you see the story.
I realize that I might be only one of a handful of people in the world who actually care about any sort of story or narrative a Mario game (and, by extension, a Yoshi game) has. I don’t require anything particularly deep, though the occasional The Thousand Year Door and Super Mario Galaxy is nice in that regard. Still, I enjoy world building and seeing the characters I love, despite or perhaps even in spite of their lack of growth as characters, find their way through new places, situations, and ordeals.
I understand Nintendo’s desire to put gameplay first, and I’m good with that– I don’t want “Mario Gear Solid” or “Mario: Other M” with tons of lengthy cutscenes. I also understand Nintendo’s wanting to adhere to Mario and company’s iconic stature, but at the same time, just imagine if every Mickey Mouse cartoon was “Steamboat Willie.” Maybe a tweak here or there, but the same basic cartoon. Even Mickey has gone on numerous different adventures, especially in newspaper comic strips. Scrooge McDuck, Donald, and the trio of Huey, Dewey, and Louie have also had numerous, wondrous adventures over the years, many of them beloved and revered the world over, and all without changing the core of the characters.
But then we come back to Mario. New Super Mario Bros. 2 was so bad here that it practically didn’t even have any sort of story– the very setup made everything that followed feel routine and by the numbers (albeit with some fun new and returning gameplay mechanics). And Yoshi’s New Island? I can’t decide whether what they’ve done here is as bad or worse.
To recap Yoshi’s Island for the Super NES and Game Boy Advance, a stork is delivering Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their parents when the Magikoopa, Kamek, attacks with his Toadies and tries kidnapping the two tykes. He snags Luigi, while Baby Mario falls down to the island below– Yoshi’s Island. There, the tribe of Yoshis discover Baby Mario and that he seems to have a link with his missing brother, and so allow him to lead them to a family reunion. They reach the castle of Baby Bowser, fight the tyrannical toddler, and rescue the stork and Baby Luigi, sending them on to meet their parents. “Heroes are born!!”, and so ends a classic tale from a classic and beloved game.
That brings us to Yoshi’s New Island. It picks up right where the first game ended (meaning it precedes Yoshi’s Island DS), and… psyche! The stork screwed up! Those weren’t the Baby Mario Bros. parents at all! The classic ending to the classic game was just a sham all along!
By this point, one might be curious just where they’re going with this. The answer is that they basically flipped the tape over (Note to self: Find better, more contemporary analogy) and started all over again. Quite literally, for the most part, as the story plays out in almost exactly the same way as the beginning to the original game, possibly down to the wording (I’ve not made a direct comparison, but it sounded really familiar), with the exception of a few embellishments like “again” and such.
At least they’re on a new island this time, so that’s something. You can’t say the title isn’t accurate, at any rate.
I’m not going to spoil the ending, but I will say that much of it plays out in much the same way as the beginning– that is, feeling lifted directly from the original game. They do change up the first part of the fight with Baby Bowser, but sadly, it’s not nearly as interesting as the encounter in the original game. The second part, on the other hand, is almost identical as well, save for incorporating this game’s new Mega Eggdozer, which only changes things slightly.
However, the game does pull a bit of a (somewhat) unexpected twist after that. Again, I won’t spoil it, but I will say that it really seems to go nowhere. It seems cool at first, but then you’re left wondering if they didn’t just the bookends of the game so similar just so they could pull that out and say “psyche!” again.
In this regard, the game feels rather unfulfilling. Someone who has never played the original game will probably get more out of it, but otherwise it kind of feels like the whole thing is a bit contrived and the story is just running to stand still. It’s almost like watching a rerun, or rather, one of those “enhanced” versions of an old show which try to add new flair for a new audience. Fans familiar with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers “reversioning” or the Transformers: Generation 2 cartoon should know just what I’m talking about here.
Moving past the almost shameful narrative, the game is summed up pretty well in how Yoshi moves in this game as compared to the original. That is, it’s close, but not quite there. I gave the original– or at least, the Game Boy Advance version (thank you, Nintendo 3DS Ambassador promotion) a bit of a go for comparison’s sake, and noticed that this game’s Yoshi’s felt maybe just slightly different, maybe a tad slower to get moving than the original.
More noticeable, though, is the egg toss. In the original, activating it would start a moving reticule which began with a low aim and arced upward, then back until you either threw the egg or locked the reticule in place. If necessary, you could immediately throw the egg at a low angle right after activating it. Here, on the other hand, you cannot; Yoshi won’t make the toss at the initial low angle, and you have to wait for the reticule to make its way up and come back down before you can go for that low toss. It’s arguably a small thing, but still noticeable to someone well versed in the original game.
At least, that’s the case with the traditional egg-throwing controls. Yoshi’s New Island incorporates the Nintendo 3DS’s gyroscope for various tilt-based controls, among which is an option for throwing eggs based on the angle the system is held at. I’m pleased to say that this works quite well, and doesn’t require extreme movement of the system to do. The result is a fast and surprisingly accurate way to aim your egg tosses. The only downsides to this method are that it’s not the most ideal solution if you’re having to move while preparing an egg toss (say, while jumping over a pit), and if the calibration gets out of whack, readjusting it is not a simple matter. On the bright side, you can change the style of egg tossing along with other options at nearly any time from the pause menu.
Tilt controls aren’t strictly optional, however. Yoshi’s New Island brings back the Yoshis’ vehicular transformations, and they require use of the gyroscope in tandem with the Nintendo 3DS’s face buttons to get around. As for how they work in practice, they’re kind of so-so, but it depends on the vehicle as well. I enjoyed some, like the minecart, bobsled, and jackhammer; others, like the returning helicopter and submarine, felt sluggish and required me to turn the system sideways to get through– not very good for the 3D effect or using the face buttons at the same time, I have to say. Something with a “less is more” approach like the egg aiming would have been preferable.
Unfortunately, the way the vehicles are incorporated– while not bad– doesn’t feel like they were implemented as well as in the original. Transforming into a helicopter to enter Baby Bowser’s castle in the original while dodging Kamek’s attacks was awesome, but here, they usually feel more like filler, or sideshow attractions.
Just like the original game, Egg Island is divided up into six worlds with eight areas apiece, not including the bonus levels you unlock by collecting all the gold tokens in each world (more on those later). Every fourth level is a fortress, but this time, Kamek challenges you himself in a variety of ways in each mid-world fortress. These battles are fun, and it’s nice to give a personal smackdown to the meddling Magikoopa.
Meanwhile, each world’s end boss is a distinct entity, and while some are enhanced versions of regular enemies seen in the original Yoshi’s Island and some of the rather few new foes found in this game, none of these battles are retreads (except the final one, as mentioned). Unfortunately, while solid, they generally aren’t as inspired as such classic encounters as the fights with Raphael the Raven, Prince Froggy, or Roger the Potted Ghost from the original.
The level designs are great, and while most concepts are retreads of ideas seen in Yoshi’s Island, there are a few new ones. Inexplicably, the ever-popular “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy” level and its namesake foes (the sole members of the “Dudim Phreykunoutonthis” enemy class, for you trivia buffs out there) are completely absent, though one supposes it might be easy enough to figure out why.
Conversely, some of the more interesting concepts are seldom seen over the course of the game. One level has a series of side-challenges wherein a Shy Guy impersonates Yoshi and mimics his every move; your goal is to trick him into moving over a bed of spikes, thus allowing you to claim your prize. These portions were some of the freshest and most fun parts of the game, and it was a shame to see them relegated to such a small portion.
One of the bigger (literally) advertised attractions in the game is the inclusion of the Mega Eggdozers. By eating a giant Shy Guy or hitting giant egg blocks, your Yoshi will get a giant egg that can be thrown, tearing across the landscape and causing all sorts of fun destruction and earning you extra lives. Eating a giant Metal Shy Guy gets you a giant Metal Eggdozer, which can’t be thrown; instead, it’s so heavy that it has to be rolled. Interestingly, despite not actually being attached to Yoshi, it not only weighs down his jumps, but allows him to go underwater instead of floating as he normally would.
Some have compared these giant destructive eggs to the Mega Mushrooms of the New Super Mario Bros. games, but I think that’s an ill-fitting comparison. Eggdozers feel more like setpieces, in that you can generally only get and use them in certain places to achieve a desired effect. Mega Mushrooms, on the other hand, could at least be taken with you (if you got them from a Toad House, anyway), allowing for more fun experimentation in levels which normally wouldn’t have them, or against bosses.