i’ve never really been that fond of yoshi, mostly because i found him to be pretty useless in super mario world. i hadn’t been that excited by that game in general when i played it a couple of years ago for the first time, but i figured that its sequel super mario world 2: yoshi’s island, would have about as much similarity to its predecessor as wario land: super mario land 3 had to its predecessor (super mario land 2). so i was keeping an open mind about this, my first game with yoshi in a starring role. (although to be unnecessarily exact, i had played the US tetris attack which starred yoshi and other characters from SMW2).
it turns out i was somewhat wrong about SMW2 being completely different from SMW. it’s true almost all of the surface of the game is completely different. one of the central game mechanics that’s new and radically different in SMW2 is that yoshi (actually a whole slew of ’em in different colors) is always carrying baby mario around and has to retrieve him whenever yoshi gets hit and baby mario gets knocked off. having to retrieve baby mario gets a little tiresome (especially when accompanied by mario’s yelling), but it does give the game a different feel which is appreciated. (although come to think of it, having to retrieve baby mario is rather like getting knocked off of yoshi and having to chase after him in SMW, although i would argue that that wasn’t really central to that game.) yoshi’s ability to swallow enemies and lay eggs and then throw them is also brand new, and he (i.e. they) also has various unique powerups in the guise of some special fruits he can swallow that give him extra firepower, as well as a few somewhat random transformations. the art style, which was intended to have a crayon-like, “storybook” aesthetic, also contributes to the game’s completely unique feel.
but what actually surprised me was that, aside from all of those many surface changes, much of the game’s platforming reminded me of SMW, only way better. and not only that, but the variety in the stages felt improved to such a degree that it reminded me of SMB3, extremely high praise indeed. SMB3 is chockfull of surprises, and although SMW2 starts off a bit slow (the first two worlds, of six, don’t have much character) and had me feeling like i was going through the motions of playing through yet another platformer, pretty soon the game had surprises around every corner and had me completely hooked. the enemies are well designed and oftentimes funny (and i definitely appreciated the return of SMB2‘s shy guy to center stage), and i especially enjoyed the admirable number of boss battles. none of them were particularly hard, but all of them were entertaining and fun. i was also surprised that elements i’d first seen in new super mario bros. for the DS actually had their origins in this game.
in terms of difficulty SMW2 wasn’t that hard to complete, although in lieu of the alternate routes of SMW instead the designers added tons of useless things to collect and find in every level (namely stars that increase your baby mario timer, red coins, and flowers). item collection does expand a platformer’s gameplay a lot, and the levels are definitely designed well enough that finding all the items isn’t mindless and dull, but finding 45 items in every level was a bit overkill for me. at some point i’ll probably go back and work my way through all the levels again to find all the items, but for now i’ve added it to my list of all-time greats and moved on to my next challenge … and conquest, hahahahaha! i’ve gotten to be a fan of yoshi (and baby mario), though, and am looking forward to trying out yoshi’s story on the N64, even though it hasn’t really gotten great reviews, as well as his other adventures.