|Yoshi’s New Island
|March 14, 2014
|Nintendo 3DS (2DS)
I cover Nintendo Directs for the site so often that, when a game is first announced, I remember my first reaction vividly. Take Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem or what would become The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, for instance. I was absolutely through the roof with hype. In the case of Yoshi’s New Island, though, my reaction was simply, “…Oh.” Everything about the game, from its announcement trailer to the various bits that Nintendo dripped out over time leading to E3—it did nothing to grab me. I ended up playing a demo at E3, which many of you already know. That…didn’t really grab me, either. I recall advising “a word of caution” when it came to picking up Yoshi’s New Island, because things seemed rather unimpressive.
It’s not as though I’m unfamiliar with Yoshi’s Island. I’ve experienced a huge chunk of the original (I can’t tell you for certain if I’ve beaten it—it was quite some time ago), and I bought and completed Yoshi’s Island DS when it was released in 2006. Yoshi’s New Island just seemed like Yoshi’s Island DS with that…different approach to graphics that various Nintendo titles seem to be taking lately (see: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team or Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity). It takes the styles we’re used to seeing and…gives them a bit of a twist to suit fresh environments.
Now that I’ve completed the game (and spent about 17 and a half hours with it in total), I can stop talking about what things seemed like. Without further ado, here’s how things are:
I’m going to open by discussing the game’s presentation. The reactions across the Internet, from what I saw after the Nintendo Direct and beyond, were typical. A handful enjoyed the artistry seen in the game’s first trailer, some were indifferent, and a vocal majority more or less said, “What the hell did they do to Yoshi’s Island?” To begin this review on a positive note: anyone upset about the game’s graphics should probably give them a chance, and see the game in action. I, too, was underwhelmed by the trailer(s), and kind of felt like the style was “too much” of something. But, after venturing through the game’s six worlds, I can honestly say the graphics suit Yoshi’s New Island. Environments start off rather plain, but as you advance farther and farther in the game, the art style does more to captivate. If you’re taken aback by things at first, I daresay you’ll be used to, if not actually enjoy, what you’re seeing by the end.
I just wish I could say the same for the game’s soundtrack. Games like Fire Emblem: Awakening and Kid Icarus: Uprising have proven to the world that the Nintendo 3DS is an absolutely amazing platform to test the potential of music in games. Yoshi’s New Island falls woefully short of the superior musical precedence set by the games that came before it. While the few I’ve mentioned boast a bazillion tracks with unique appeal, you’d be lucky to hear more than ten unique pieces of music in Yoshi’s New Island. They take the same melody you hear in the trailers, and play it in every world at least once, sometimes in multiple levels. The music, while accommodating the game’s “relaxing” appeal and suiting the colorful, rich environments, feels incredibly plain at the end of the day. You might even find the kazoos and other…odd instrument choices every now and then, kind of…jarring.
Stimulating visual and audio effects could have worked together to make Yoshi’s New Island a little more memorable, but, since the soundtrack is rather awful, and the visuals take some getting used to, I think a vast majority will be underwhelmed by the game’s presentation. Still, it truly does have its redeeming qualities. I suppose the World Map theme does grow on you. More and more instruments are added to the theme as you get further along the map. Nice little touches every now and then are always good.
One last thing before moving onto more meaty matters: the game’s story is non-existent. In the…complex, labyrinthine Yoshi’s Island timeline, this game takes place between the Super Nintendo original and its DS sequel. Stork delivers Babies Luigi and Mario to the wrong house. Kamek snatches Baby Luigi (again). Mario lands on a new island with more cute dinosaurs to find and rescue his brother. It’s not as often-told as “Oops, Princess Peach got snatched again”, but trust me—you’ve seen all of this before. It’s not just forgettable…it’s barely worth mentioning. Even Kamek’s dialogue is just a drag.
Here comes the part where I’m going to win a small handful of you and lose the majority of you: I’ll get into gameplay next. I think it’s important to discuss what makes this Yoshi’s Island entry unique, so I’ll get right into that bit first, and…well…right into the game’s biggest headache, to be honest.
Those of you experienced with Yoshi’s Island know that Yoshi can transform into various vehicles. Said transformations add yet another layer to gameplay rich with exploration elements and (in the case of the Super Nintendo version, at least) some of the most celebrated platforming seen on a Nintendo platform. In the case of Yoshi’s New Island…well…they went and made the transformations gyroscopic-controlled. Yoshi can become a mine cart, hot air balloon, submarine, helicopter and more (many seen below). You control the transformed Yoshi through small bits of various levels, all of which are timed (and often require you to grab clocks in order to increase your time).
What I’m about to say doesn’t come from some vendetta against motion-controls. I actually thought the gyroscopic shooting in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was handled expertly, and the motion controls present in Star Fox 64 3D were…passable, at least. But wow do I wish Arzest gave players the option to forgo motion controls in favor of the joystick. The mine cart and hot air balloon control well, because the small sequences designed around them are simple enough to navigate based on their properties.
But the helicopter and submarine, in particular, are executed horribly due to the finesse required to grab everything you can in a sequence and…still get the clock for extra time. Thankfully, the game doesn’t punish you in any way for failing to reach the goal of a transformation segment in time. It just boots you out back at the door you came in from, with all the coins/flowers you collected in the sequence. No hassle there. The only hassle is in (some of) the motion controls themselves. This is by far my biggest complaint, and one of the only things that truly frustrated me about Yoshi’s New Island.
Onto another new gameplay feature: those big eggs…dubbed by Nintendo as “the eggdozers.” Swallow big enemy. Create big egg. Destroy everything. They’re super-fun to wield. And, in the case of the metal eggdozer, they allow Yoshi to navigate water, and add a decent level of depth to later levels. Some of those flowers and coins are a real pain to obtain when the object is to release the metal eggdozer and have Yoshi float up to it with proper timing. While I consider the gyroscopic transformations to be a huge misstep for the game in the grand scheme of things, the big eggs are a positive—definitely something to have fun with.