Video Game Thoughts: Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3

Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 was a 1995 platformer game by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System that I played on the Game Boy Advance. I wanted to play the Super Nintendo version of the game, but for some reason Nintendo didn’t have that one for sale on the Wii U eShop. I settled for the Game Boy Advance version. The only bad thing about this was the smaller screen made some levels harder, with enemies or other important objects cutoff and hard to see in certain situations.

I played this game right after Super Mario World, having bought it at the same time. Super Mario World ended up not having as many new things in it as I thought it would have, but Yoshi’s Island really delivered. Even though they call this game Super Mario World 2, it played completely differently from a Mario game. In fact, Nintendo made a whole new series of Yoshi platformers based on the success of this game.

Mario and Luigi were now just babies, totally helpless. A stork was delivering the newborns to their parents when the evil magician, Kamek, attempted to kidnap them. He successfully nabbed baby Luigi, but baby Mario fell through the sky. He fell onto the back of a Yoshi dinosaur, seemingly uninjured. After consulting with the other Yoshis, they all decided to reunite baby Mario with his brother, baby Luigi, before returning them to their parents.

I was initially really frustrated with Yoshi’s Island because the controls were different. Both Super Mario World and the Donkey Kong Country games used the Y button for the special abilities and B button for jumping, but my Game Boy Advance version of Yoshi’s Island had B button for special abilities and A button for jumping. It got better after modifying the controls to what I was used to, but the game still felt too hard. I was dying left and right. That’s when I realized my mistake.

I was playing Yoshi’s Island in a race to the finish like Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario World. Both of those games were fast-paced. The player was meant to go as fast as they could. Super Mario World even had a time limit for each level. Yoshi’s Island was not that kind of game. There was no time limit. Nintendo wanted players to take their time exploring the levels. Once I slowed down, the game became much more reasonable. I was avoiding enemies more and gaining more extra lives. I started having a lot of fun.

Yoshi returned from Super Mario World, but he was no longer just a mount. He was the hero. He could still grab things with his tongue, but now he also jumped higher and could flutter his feet to hover for a few seconds. Yoshi couldn’t gain height with the flutter jump, but he could jump a long ways horizontally by continually mashing the jump button. His tongue ability was improved as well. Most enemies could be swallowed and hatched into eggs. Yoshi could then throw these eggs to defeat enemies or activate switches. The eggs could also bounce off most surfaces to hit objects around corners or walls. Egg-throwing was a really cool mechanic. It was really rewarding to master these new abilities.

Yoshi’s Island became pure fun after adjusting the controls and learning the new abilities. Every level had something new to discover. One of the biggest sources of fun is when games challenge my mind with new problems to solve. Every level had some new problem to solve that was different than the previous levels. The exploring was great fun too. One of my favorite things in games is exploring the game environments, and Yoshi’s Island gave me the time to do this. I loved the new art style too. There was a time when all I cared about was realistic graphics, but I am far past that point. Everything in this game looked like it was hand drawn by a kid scribbling on paper, but it was really beautiful. There were a few annoyances in Yoshi’s Island though.

Instead of having a detailed overworld like Super Mario World (and most Mario games), Yoshi’s Island just had one long linear path to follow. Completing a level unlocked the next level, one after another, until the player finished the game. I missed the multiple paths that other Mario games have. I had the same complaint with Super Mario Galaxy 2. The levels were amazing, but I didn’t like how they made a decision beforehand to create X levels per world. I prefer that the game world feels more natural.

Another annoyance was how long it took Yoshi to recover after being hit by an enemy. In Mario games when Mario was hit, he would shrink down or lose his power-up, but the game paused during this little animation. Once the transformation finished, the game continued. The player was able to react and maybe correct their movement or jumping. In Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi couldn’t die, but he was stunned a long time when hit. Even worse was the fact that the game kept going while he was stunned. Sometimes I got stuck in a cycle of Yoshi being hit again and again, stunned the whole time. In many situations, being hit was an instant kill, as Yoshi was knocked down a bottomless pit. This was too unforgiving.

I really liked the new failure mechanic. It was tied to Yoshi losing baby Mario. When hit, baby Mario would go in a bubble and start floating away. Once Yoshi came to again, the player had to run into baby Mario or grab him with his tongue to continue. There was no “health bar”, but a seconds counter. It started at 10 and could go up to 30 from picking up special items. When Yoshi was hit, baby Mario floated for the remaining seconds in the counter. When the counter hit zero, flying monsters kidnapped baby Mario, causing Yoshi to fail in his mission (lose a life). Yoshi could still die from falling in a bottomless pit, but the seconds counter was a cool new mechanic to manage. This brings up the checkpoint system though.

In most Mario games, each level has a checkpoint about halfway through. If the player loses a life, they get to continue from the checkpoint instead of having to start the level over from the beginning. Yoshi’s Island had much bigger levels, most of them containing more than one checkpoint, but I still felt the checkpoints were too sparse. Yoshi’s Island levels involved a lot of exploration. It was very easy to explore several rooms only to die and have to redo all that exploration. What started out as fun exploration became a chore, retracing my steps and redoing everything I had done. If I failed at that same point again, I had to do all that a third time and so on. Sometimes it was just too tedious. The game rewarded exploration, but losing a life was a heavy time punishment. I think Yoshi’s Island was probably a pretty generous game compared to other games in the mid-’90s, but it could be a little too tedious compared to modern games.

Luckily, I was playing this game through the Wii U’s Virtual Console. I could put a save point wherever and whenever I wanted. It basically allowed me to have a checkpoint before any hard part of the game. I could redo just that hard part, never having to redo all the easy stuff before it. I only had to remember to create my save points often. Sometimes I forgot and got stuck with the tedium again.

Overall, I really enjoyed Yoshi’s Island. It played very different from any other platformer game I’ve played. I don’t know how the other Yoshi platforming games compare. This is the only one I’ve played. I plan to get the new Yoshi’s Woolly World though. I have been anticipating that game since I saw the first trailer in 2013. It looks to have a lot of the same gameplay with a whole new art style and many new game mechanics specific to that art style. I am very excited.

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