i’ve been meaning to get into the yoshi series more after having played and loved super mario world 2: yoshi’s island. next up was yoshi’s story for N64. whether it was intentionally designed to be so or not i don’t know, but the game feels like an early case of nintendo trying to balance casual vs. hardcore gameplay even way back in 1997, and as with similar, more-recent efforts this attempt was unjustly maligned and misunderstood.
the game has a completely unique premise in that it’s incredibly simple to reach the end of a single playthrough since you just have to find 30 pieces of fruit for yoshi to eat to progress and fruit is plentiful. at a minimum on a single playthrough you’d encounter only 6 levels and two bosses, which includes the final boss. after this initially baffling experience i realized that the game is actually quite clever in its setup: each “page” (i.e. world) contains 4 levels of increasing difficulty, but on a single playthrough you only play one of the four. to unlock all the stages in the next page you have to hunt down hearts that are hidden in the current stage. so already the difficulty of the game is completely up to you since you can choose to play the harder stages (which also means choosing to hunt for all the hearts).
the main challenge of the game is clearly not just in finishing the game, then, or actually even playing through all the levels. the real challenge of the game is to skip all the easy-to-find fruit in favor of yoshi’s favorite fruit, melons, in order to achieve a high score. hunting down all 30 melons in each stage is certainly time consuming, although this is a case where the game’s “challenge” is more about painstakingly searching every corner of a stage (often by stopping to use yoshi’s “sniff-sniff” ability) as opposed to feats requiring actual platforming prowess. this type of monotonous gameplay isn’t particularly engaging, but there are enough more-worthwhile challenges to keep one reasonably engaged. it’s somewhat hard to get too excited about the quest for a high score in a platformer such as this, but putting the attention on the collection aspect gives the game more of a focus.
it’s easy to see why people who didn’t delve into the game at all would dismiss it too quickly, but even after playing through every stage, many several times, my enjoyment with the game didn’t rise to the levels one would expect from a nintendo platformer. yoshi’s abilities are a nice expansion on his/its SMW2 skills (minus the whining baby, fortunately), and there are some nice references to that title, including the awesome huffin’ puffins. there are definitely moments of brilliance, many quite original, scattered throughout as well; highlights include a helpful white shy guy, hidden black yoshis and white yoshis, and levels in which you roll through a hamster wheel and ride on a dragon. but those moments aren’t quite plentiful enough, even with all the new enemies introduced (not many of which, it seems, have continued on, which is a shame as some of them are memorable). the pop-up book art style didn’t grab me, although it’s interesting to compare it to the recent wii release kirby’s epic yarn, which also has an arts ‘n crafts aesthetic. the game has some mini-games scattered throughout that require complete mastery for completing the “melon quest”, and this and other perfection-requiring objectives are a definite nuisance. the game is also notable for introducing yoshi’s love-it-or-hate-it voice (courtesy of composer kazumi totaka), and also including totaka’s song.
all in all this is an enjoyable enough platformer that, while certainly not an all-time great especially by nintendo’s lofty standards, is definitely underrated, especially considering the fact that it’s a throwback to 2-d platforming at a time when 3-d platforming was becoming the new norm. yoshi’s next two outings were similarly experimental, so it’ll be interesting to see how his/its series shapes up.
choose your own yoshi’s story links:
– for a typically damning review, see the review at nintendolife.com, although it’s interesting to note that in the comments readers seem to share my opinion that the reviewer is overly harsh. for a more-complimentary review, see nintendojo’s review.
– mariowiki.com’s page is a great resource and includes a complete guide to all the enemies
– the game has gotten some smash bros. recognition, including a stage in the first smash bros. game and a stage in melee, along with palette swaps in brawl to match the colors of the 6 yoshis featured in this game.
– here’s a FAQ from gamefaqs that lists the locations of all the melons, and reveals what the secret message hidden in the game’s 24 stages is, which is “YOU ARE YOSHI’S GREAT PARTNER”, haha.
– entry at wikipedia