LOS ANGELES--Way back when, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System launched together with Super Mario World, a definitive platformer that showed off not just what the SNES was capable of but also Nintendo's remarkable creativity with the Mario series. Much later in the system's lifecycle came the sequel, Yoshi's Island. Super Mario World first introduced Mario's little green dinosaur sidekick, and Yoshi's Island was all about his adventure to help safely transport Baby Mario through dangerous (yet cute and colorful) levels. Despite how the original Yoshi's Island is more than a decade old, its gameplay evidently hasn't gone out of style, judging by the direction Nintendo's new sequel is taking. Fans of classic platformers will surely be thrilled that Yoshi's Island 2, despite offering some new twists to the formula, is sticking to its roots. From what we played at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the game already seems polished, vibrant, and interesting.
This is a side-scrolling 2D platformer just like its predecessor, and the same underlying mechanics apply. Yoshi is ferrying a baby Mario on his back. Yoshi's a tough little guy who can't be killed by enemies running into him, but they'll knock the baby off of Yoshi's back. The baby then floats around crying in a protective bubble, and unless you recover the baby in a set amount of time, you lose a life. Yoshi's basic powers involve grabbing enemies with his tongue and spitting them out like projectiles, or swallowing them up and turning them into eggs, which can then be thrown. He can also jump fairly high and is capable of floating for short periods of time by flailing his legs wildly. All this stuff should be instantly familiar to Yoshi's Island players, even if they haven't played the game for years.
What's most noticeably new in Yoshi's Island 2 is the ability to switch babies. By standing on these bus-stop-style locations strewn about the levels, you'll see a stork swoop in with a care package: a baby Princess Peach or a baby Donkey Kong, perhaps others. You just jump up and Mario is replaced with a new bundle of joy. Each of these different characters has certain unique characteristics, though Yoshi, of course, is still going to have to do most of the work. We noticed that Princess Peach carries a parasol, which she'll open up when you press and hold the jump button. By catching air currents, Peach can send herself and Yoshi flying to previously unreachable areas. Meanwhile, Donkey Kong is predictably a tougher type, even in baby form. He and Yoshi are capable of performing a powerful shoulder charge.
Multicolored Yoshis are in the game, much like in the SNES title. They presumably have their own unique special abilities, combinable with the different babies. The levels themselves feature the chalk-drawing, cartoonlike style that made the original game look so fantastic for its time. Most of the visuals seem brand-new here, though clearly similar to the SNES classic. The most distinctive level we played through was called Gilbert the Gooey's Fortress and seemed to be some sort of Shy Guy sweat shop...you remember those little mask-wearing bad guys, right? They can be seen in the background fitting themselves for their outfits, while dangerous lava pools and precariously placed spinning platforms make the going difficult for Yoshi and his precious cargo.
Yoshi's Island 2 is one of many Nintendo DS games on display at E3 2006, but it stands out as one of the prettiest-looking. The game seems like an unapologetic throwback to the glory days of 2D platformers. We didn't see any real use of the DS touch screen, for instance, and the game's two screens are used simply to give the levels a greater sense of scale, such as when Yoshi jumps on a trampoline and goes flying from the bottom screen up to the top. The game already controls well. We're looking forward to bringing you more details soon.