Feature Article

Yoshi's New (Old) Island

Back to the island.

Yoshi's New Island is familiar territory for Nintendo's favorite prehistoric mascot. Of course, reviving a classic franchise without altering its formula is a very Nintendo thing to do nowadays, and on one hand, I can understand why some people criticize this habit, citing perceived laziness or a lack of creativity. On the other hand, Nintendo knows its audience better than most. I played the original Yoshi's Island, and going into Yoshi's New Island, I felt the same cynicism that I expressed for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds before actually playing it. Once again, I'm forced to eat my words. Yoshi's New Island is incredibly familiar, and that's why I like it so much.

At the start of Yoshi's New Island, babies Mario and Luigi are separated while en route for stork delivery, with Luigi falling into the evil Magikoopa Kamek's hands, and Mario plummeting onto Yoshi Island. Immediately after landing, Mario starts crawling confidently, and the onlooking Yoshis decide they ought to help him out. It resembles the story from the first game, but this didn't bother me because Yoshi's Island is a gameplay-driven experience.

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Jumping into the actual game, I was immediately familiar with the controls that were mapped to the 3DS, but you have the option to reconfigure them in a fairly significant way, beyond swapping the A and B buttons. Outside of platforming, one of the most crucial mechanics in the Yoshi's Island series is the art of throwing eggs to kill enemies and interact with objects. In past games, you would hold the throw button and watch Yoshi's aiming reticle cycle back and forth, forcing you to time your shot at just the right moment. That system still exists, should you choose to use it, but you also have the ability to use the 3DS's gyroscope for precision aiming, negating the auto-cycling aim altogether. You don't need to rotate your 3DS very far, because the gyro-aim is sensitive enough to respond to the smallest movement, thankfully, without feeling too temperamental.

One of the biggest additions to the series in Yoshi's New Island is mega eggdozers--gigantic eggs that can smash through obstacles, revealing secrets and earning Yoshi 1-ups in the process. You can throw mega eggdozers blindly, but completionists will want to explore their immediate surroundings and plan carefully, because a few degrees of difference in trajectory can have a big effect on the outcome of an eggdozer toss. Throw it, and it may unveil a few collectibles, but throw it at an angle, and it may begin a series of ricocheted movements, netting greater destruction and rewards in the process.

Don't let the cute flowers fool you! Death lurks around every corner.
Don't let the cute flowers fool you! Death lurks around every corner.

Vehicles also make a return in Yoshi's New Island, including the Yoshified helicopter and a new minecart. These mini bonus stages challenge you to reach the finish line before a timer runs out, and if you succeed, you'll be handsomely rewarded. Fail, and you simply get booted back to the main stage without suffering any penalties. This is good, primarily because you're required to use gyroscope controls during these levels, and it doesn't work nearly as well when aiming egg projectiles. You have to rotate the 3DS much farther to get a result, thus requiring the system to disable 3D. Even though these are optional bonus stages, I can't imagine why Nintendo forces gyroscope controls during these moments, because it's certainly a hindrance.

Apart from these troublesome bonus stages, Yoshi's New Island controls really well. I played five levels from the first half of the game, and it was never particularly difficult, but it was fun. The familiar visual style and catchy soundtrack captivated me just as the original Yoshi's Island did almost 20 years ago, and if you can believe it, the new sound Mario makes when he falls off Yoshi no longer makes you cringe uncontrollably. Don't go into Yoshi's New Island expecting a renovation of the series. Go into it expecting a new adventure in a familiar world, and if you do, there's a good chance you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

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Peter Brown

Peter used to work at GameSpot. Now he just lurks at GameSpot.

Yoshi's New Island

Yoshi's New Island

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