Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (Wii U Virtual Console) Review
The original tech demo for Yoshi’s Story that appeared prior to the Game Boy Advance’s official release was generally greeted with enthusiasm by those who managed to see it both in person and now online. Combining this with the Mario titles shown on the console, it was quite obvious (at the time, of course) that these games were doing a great job at pushing the Game Boy Advance hardware to their limits.
But outside of the technical merits of the console itself, one aspect of Nintendo’s Mario titles were that they were always great in terms of game design. Given Nintendo’s consistently good record for games that aspire to these qualities, there’s no reason to believe that, back in it’s day, Yoshi’s Island wouldn’t have lived up to the hype. Obviously, the game met all expectations and perhaps even exceeded some. But it’s now 2014. We’ve had Yoshi’s New Island, which was met with a somewhat cold reception, and now we have the Virtual Console release of Yoshi’s Island. It’s the Game Boy Advance version, of course, but how does it play on the Wii U?
Yoshi’s Island opens with a rather typical Nintendo storyline, where players find themselves controlling a group of Yoshi. Each Yoshi has one simple task – to transport an up and coming Baby Mario from level to level to save his brother, who Mario was separated from after a bumpy ride aboard the Stork. The story is pretty unoriginal and to this day is, more or less, a “save the person” storyline but it does a good job at plodding the player along.
Obviously, playing as Yoshi is quite a benefit to Baby Mario as he’s much more agile than the struggling infant and brings a few new combat and movement abilities to the table. Yoshi can ground pound, flattening the most persistent of enemies as well as certain pieces of the environment. He can eat enemies to produce eggs, and use said eggs as projectiles to not only defeat enemies, but sold puzzles. The egg targeting system is just as precise as you remember it (more so than Yoshi’s New Island, which didn’t really allow for twitch movements) and really provides a level of uniqueness to Yoshi’s Islands combat system, if you can call it that.
The inclusion of eggs as a battle mechanic really helps give the combat a unique feel. Boss battles require players to line up shots, ricochet items, or not use eggs at all. There’s heap of unique enemies and there’s heaps of unique battles in Yoshi’s Island, and it’s what makes Yoshi’s Island so fun to play so many years on – nostalgia or not.
Yoshi’s most intriguing (not to mention somewhat unique) skill is to morph into a variety of different vehicles to tackle his environment. Helicopters provide greater heights for the little dinosaur, or a mechanical mole may provide the option for Yoshi to go underground. These morphing abilities really give variety to the game’s platforming and encourage players to think not only horizontally, but vertically as well. Their implementation in Yoshi’s Island is also markedly better than in Yoshi’s New Island, as they aren’t segregated away into their own levels but rather successfully assimilated into already existing ones. Needless to say, the inclusion of vehicles still feels quite fresh, and gives the game an original and dynamic feel that separates it from other Super Mario titles.
Yoshi’s Island takes place across six different worlds, which are all split into eight levels. While you’ll be faced by challenged, the game never overwhelms the player as the difficulty curve runs across an equal and fair gradient. Of course, being a platformer, there’s heaps of collectibles to look for as well, and it’s always worth searching them out as they not only give the player extra temporary abilities as well as extra lives. Even better – collecting them all opens up secret levels to play through as well. Those who don’t want to collect everything will probably finish the game in between seven and nine hours, while those who want to find absolutely everything could easily squeeze twelve to fifteen hours out of it. So, considering the asking price, Yoshi’s Island still holds its ground well despite essentially being nineteen years old at the time of writing.
As per usual with Nintendo’s treatment of their legacy titles, the virtual console rendition of Yoshi’s Island is benefitted by extra features. The usual features are included here – the game is playable using the Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote and Classic Controller. Those who want to take the experience out of the lounge room can even play the game solely on the GamePad with Off-TV support. If these control options aren’t enough for you, there’s even fully customisable control schemes too – so there’s no doubt something for everyone. I’m also happy to report the game looks great on both the GamePad and the TV, that terrible Ambassador Game version with all it’s graphical issues and blurring can now be a memory.
The usual visual buffs are here too – with a smoothing effect and resolution tweaks helping to make the game looks its absolute best – and it certainly succeeds in this regard. Save states are included here too, but might give players less of a challenge but if you do that, the onus is on you rather than the game itself. Finally, the game also has Miiverse support – so you can share thoughts and screenshots online as well as watch to see how other generations react to the game (y cant island crawl?).
Yoshi’s Island took it’s time to come to the Game Boy Advance following its release on SNES, and has taken and even longer time to make its way to one of Nintendo’s virtual console services (officially). Thankfully, it survives the transition well and everything you remember from the previous games is intact – the tight controls and the cute and compelling visuals and soundtrack help to cement the game as one of the better platformers available on the market. It felt like it had the makings of a classic all those years ago, and appears to have passed the test of time.