E3 2002Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 impressions

The third installment in the Super Mario Advance series is a conversion of the Super NES classic, Yoshi's Island. Impressions inside.

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The third installment in Nintendo's Super Mario Advance series is not a port of the best-selling NES game, Super Mario Bros. 3, but of the late-era SNES classic, Yoshi's Island. The full title of this new GBA platformer is Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3. The game will ship September 30 and include a four-player version of the original Mario Bros., just like the other Super Mario Advance titles.

For the uninitiated, Yoshi's Island is a platform game that features Nintendo's beloved Mario character, but not in the lead role. Many years prior to adult Mario's battle with King Koopa, a baby Mario finds himself stranded on a tropical island as a result of a freak stork accident. The island turns out to be full of the happy dinosaurlike Yoshis, who decide to reunite Mario with his family. Unfortunately, Kamek, Baby Bowser, and hordes of young koopa monsters are also on the island and trying to capture Mario for their own nefarious aims.

The translation of the above plot into the gameplay of Yoshi's Island relegates Mario into a supporting role. Throughout each of the game's 54 levels, you play as a Yoshi with Mario atop its back. You can run, jump, float, stomp, and eat monsters, just like the Yoshi in Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, but now, Mario's welfare also impacts the adventure. If you run into a koopa, land on some spikes, or incur any similar kinds of damage, Mario will fly off Yoshi's back and float away inside a bubble. If the timer on the bubble reaches zero, you lose a life.

Although Yoshi's Island doesn't feature the typical run-and-jump gameplay of past Super Mario Bros. games, the level design and power-ups offer a greater amount of variety than the typical adventure platform game. For example, Yoshi can swallow enemies and lay eggs, which you can later shoot at other enemies or use to trigger switches. Some areas have invincibility stars that let Mario carry Yoshi for a limited period of time--up the sides of tunnels and even across ceilings. There are points later in the game when Yoshi adopts helicopter and tunneling abilities. The list goes on. In contrast with the two previous Super Mario Advance games, the level designs and power-ups within Yoshi's Island give it a distinct puzzle twist.

The same colorful jungles and caves that are common to most Super Mario games are present in Yoshi's Island. If you're familiar with the pipes, hidden caves, floating clouds, coin blocks, and ladderlike vine plants associated with the Super Mario Bros. universe, you'll be right at home with Yoshi's Island.

Where Yoshi's Island differs from the pack is in how its visuals are presented. All of the structures, items, and enemies in the game are outlined by thick black lines, which give it a distinct cartoon feel. Indeed, Yoshi's Island was cel-shaded before the technique had a name. Rough comic-book-style shading deepens the game's overall cute look, and there are a lot of scaling and rotation effects that tax the GBA's capabilities and attempt to impress the player.

Those who played the original SNES version to death won't find much new in this one, since the game already had a number of alternate routes and collecting elements. For those who truly adore Yoshi's Island, however, or who haven't yet played the most graphically impressive game in the series, Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3 may be worth an addition to the fall shopping list.

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