Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Look to the Past: Games of the Years 1995 - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island


Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

The sequel for the lauded and wholly awesome Super Mario World took a drastic turn in a bold new direction. In Super Mario World 2, Mario was-- get this-- a baby. Not only that, but you couldn't even control the de-moustached plumber; you instead took full and constant control over the lovable Yoshis, charged with the protection of the infant Mario. Being the selfless dinosaurs that they are, the Yoshis didn't care about getting killed themselves so much as keeping Mario safe. Taking a hit would send the howling infant into the air via a floating bubble, which provided for a number of tense moments that has the player scrambling about in a frenzy trying to reclaim his lost prize. Adding to the drama was a stricter time limit, encouraging players to collect as many clock-prolonging stars as possible. There were a lot of unique ideas at play here, including wacky transformations (more or less a Yoshi version of Mario's suits), swallowing enemies for use as egg-based projectile weapons, and my personal favorite: Super Baby Mario. This magical power-up allowed the tiny, helpless baby to don a cape and dash through the level at extremely high speeds, all the while being perfectly invulnerable! That's very rad.

I think Yoshi is oblivious to how pretty his surroundings are.

Just as striking as the gameplay changes were the visuals: Yoshi's Island was probably the most artistic and beautiful game of its time. A crayon-inspired style colored the fun and imaginative world in which there be Yoshis. Thick outlines and a pallete of pastel paints gave life to this wonderful-looking game, making everything a pleasure to look at. Pseudo-3D elements and excellent animation mingled with the inspired design to cheer-worthy effects. Using a clever music box song for its theme, the tunes of Yoshi's Island were tear-provokingly lovely, happily jaunty, and ultra rocking, proving once again how crazy-brilliant Koji Kondo is. Despite its vivid look and inventive gameplay, Yoshi's Island ultimately failed to match its near-perfect predecessor, but that really says more about the top-tier quality of Super Mario World than any weakness of this game. It's a worthy winner of 1995's awards, even against other excellent platformers like Donkey Kong Country 2 and Ristar. Granted, I never played Kirby's Super Star Saga or Chrono Trigger, so don't start yelling at me concerning their respective awesomeness. Yoshi's Island is a joy to watch in motion and to play, and serves as a testament to the consistently amazing games Nintendo puts out.

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