Yoshi's New Island Review

By Shawn Collier on April 7, 2014

Back during the NES and SNES era, when you bought a Nintendo game you knew you were in for a polished and entertaining experience well worth your money. Starting with New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS, which was rehashed three different times using the same formula, it's been clear that Nintendo has slipped from that enviable position they once used to hold. So when Nintendo announced Yoshi's "New" Island, there were warning signs everywhere - turns out that was for good reason.

For those who played the original SNES entry, one thing that was clear about the game was that every detailed was fine tuned to the slightest degree. So when you have a new game in the series it needs to be up to the same high standards, which wasn't the case here. To a newcomer it might not seem all that bad, but older players will know instantly it's a faux-facsimile.

It really comes down to the fine details, as for the most part developer Arzest (formed from the ashes of now-defunct developer Artoon which developed the Nintendo DS sequel to the original) makes things seem from the exterior that everything is as you remembered it. The story is pretty much the same as the original, you control different colored Yoshis in each stage with a mid-boss and a stage-boss in each level. You have to collect the same five flowers, 20 red coins and 30 small stars. All of the enemies you remember are back along with some new ones and you can still gobble up enemies to convert them into eggs, which can be used to hit switches and other enemies. And you even have the vehicle transformations from the original present with surprisingly proficient motion controls.

That nostalgia is only skin-deep, however. The SNES entry had a unique art style for the time that mix hand-drawn artwork with the classic Nintendo character charm that couldn't help but bring a smile to your face. Yoshi's New Island tries to replicate this with a mix of pastels, oils, watercolors and inks. Like the rest of the game, though, it's a facade. It's not entirely flat as the Nintendo 3DS' 3D effects do have some use in the game, but it feels lifeless. One could argue it was done for the 3D effect, but if this was the end result they should have excluded the half-hearted cheapened 3D visuals for a pure 2D experience.

The music is held up to the same sub-par standards as the graphics. Surprisingly considering Kazumi Totaka helmed this soundtrack, as listening to it you would think it was another outsourcing job by Nintendo. A far cry from his work in the original and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, the tracks are mostly variations of the mediocre main theme found in the trailers and various little jingles. In the original each stage has its own unique theme, but in Yoshi's New Island the repetitive overuse of the same few themes at times forced me to tune out the music as it bored me. It's miles away from the infamous "Athletic" theme found in the original SNES title.

While the original wasn't the hardest of platformers, it did have controls and level design that meshed well with its laid back design. In this "new" title, Yoshi feels much more floaty and the levels overuse the typical "hide an collectible in a hidden wall or up in the sky" mechanic that the New Super Mario Bros. games used to a fault. More unique foes and levels do exist later in the game, but having to slog through the dreck before it isn't what most would call fun. Boss battles are just over-sized versions of the smaller enemies instead of the unique enemies and interesting twists on the enemies you had been fighting up in the stage's levels. I distinctly remember the moon boss battle in the original and there's nothing at all like that here.

The only really "new" things here which was already featured in the trailers are the giant eggs in which you gobble up a giant shy guy and aim it as it rolls around the level and a star which lets Yoshi run on walls on auto-speed. Both feel like gimmicks in place of proper level design and don't feel integrated into the game design.

Final Thoughts

Nintendo really made an effort to mention that Takashi Tezuka (the original SNES version's producer) was overseeing the game, and it's clear that Nintendo did that solely to assuage fans from what they could see was a cash-grab at best. The only thing "new" about this game is that it's another reminder that Nintendo's infamous seal of quality is fading. Even if you were a huge fan of the original it's best to leave the series in your memories lest you taint them with this "new" twist.

The controls handle well, albeit a bit too floaty.
No obviously noticeable glitches.
There's at least some new additions
The music is an ear worm in a bad way.
Stages employ too many gimmicks in place of proper level design.
Not up at all to the Nintendo standard one expects.
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