Monthly Archives: September 2019

Yoshi’s Island Review – a Tale of Distrust

With Nintendo having released their SNES online service recently, I noticed Yoshi’s Island in the 20 selected games for launch. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. But they also have some cool features with this service. Namely rewinding and save states.

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It had been a few years since I last touched Yoshi’s Island. It came out for Super Nintendo in 1995. I didn’t have it then, but finally got a chance to a few years ago. And the game is… interesting to say the least. I definitely think it’s a good game. Maybe a great one.

Or at least, it could have been. And that’s what my review is going to be about. While it is a beloved game, there are some aspects to it that make me not ever want to play it again.

I want to get straight to the point, so I’m not going to explain every detail about the game. Like it’s great music, all the sorts of features and abilities. Just about every normal review of the game will tell you about that. I’m going to focus on why I have a such a distaste and some of the aspects that ruin the game for me.

100%. That’s the reason this game falls a part. I’m going to talk about how you go about getting completion and what happens if you just ignore it. Cause I have a problem with both.

YI (just to abbreviate Yoshi’s Island) is very frustrating to complete. There are 6 worlds, 8 levels in each, along with an extra stage for all of them if you complete all 8 stages for said worlds. A total of 54 stages. 12 of those stages have bosses.

In each stage you MUST:

Get 5 Flowers, 20 Red Coins, and have 30 Stars when you reach the goal.

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That’s quite a lot to find and collect. All of these are scattered through the stages, often hidden or requiring some form of skill to acquire. And this can become nightmarish to deal with, especially with no way to track which collectibles you’ve gotten. If you don’t know where everything is (which can take playing through the stages many times) then it’s easy to lose track. There are a few that are straight forward. But even those are not exempt from being chaotic.

Let’s get stars out of the way. You need 30, and Yoshi will start with 10. When Yoshi is hit, he’ll lose Baby Mario who’ll go crying off (which is quite annoying) and you’ll have to catch him as a timer (your Star count) ticks down. If at 0, you lose him and a life. But get him again and those numbers will regenerate slowly to 10.

To get more Stars, you’ll need to collect them through flying clouds, Check Point Rings, or hitting enemies with Red Eggs. Hitting with the eggs drops 2, and you can bounce eggs off walls to change the color to red. This means you have a way to get more, but it’s not that simple. That’s only provided you have a way to get more eggs and a good way to bounce eggs off walls to catch them. If you can’t, then it’s no good.

Now if you 100% the first world of the game, you’ll get free access to a Bonus Game and have a way to infinitely farm Star Items that’ll increase your count by 10 or 20 with the press of a button. Now you never have to worry about your star count ever again, unless it’s a Boss fight because you count use items in those.

This… I don’t like. I feel needing to be at max health at the end of a stage as a requirement is asking for too much of the player. Especially in some stages where they barely give you enough to get on by. Not to mention, the farming for items makes it completely pointless. Why even bother making that part of completion? I’d understand if it were for something else that was small, like if you have full stars at the end you get a 1up or something neat. But why lump it in with the 20 Red Coins and 5 Flowers? You’re already demanding we find a ton of items. And even then, it’s for access to one extra stage that also needs to be completed.

Next is Flowers. These are fine, because they are always stationary and there are only 5. What makes them a pain is not being able to track them. They hadn’t invented it yet, but in later games (Kirby, Mario, and even newer Yoshi titles) whenever you got a significant item, it would show it, as well as which of them you got in that stage. If you had to get 5 collectibles and you got the 4th one, then it would show that the 4th spot was filled out. So then you knew that the 3 before it hadn’t been filled, meaning there were 3 other ones you could have gotten before this one.

This wasn’t the case here. You had no idea which Flower you just got. It could be the 1st one… could be the 3rd! You just don’t know. And if you’re bad at remembering what you’ve collected already (or somehow got the Flower by hitting it off screen) then you don’t have a good way to know how many you had total. The only way to know is when getting the 5th Flower, it’ll make a 1up appear. The Goal will have up to 5 Flowers on it too, showing you how many you have or missed.

This wouldn’t be too bad if the stages were all straight forward. But they are mostly wide open spaces with all sorts of secret paths or hidden spots. This makes it hard to track down what you didn’t inspect before. You just have to guess and go over places with a fine comb. Though Flowers are a bit more significant, so you can expect to find them in more special spots…

…Unlike the Red Coins. There are 20 of these, which is quite demanding for a collectible type. And they are like yellow coins, but slightly more red. It can be difficult to see them if you don’t have the greatest vision OR impossible to tell apart if you’re playing the GBA version where all red coins were made to be identical to yellow ones. They do spin in a different direction, but I never found myself noticing that too well, except in really obvious instances when next to lots of other coins.

These can be hidden in more obscure areas since they’re so bountiful. Some can be quite easy to grab… But, these are the worst part of doing 100%. Why? SEVERAL REASONS.

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First, are the Fly Guys who carry them. Some float about, requiring you hit them and take the coin. But some don’t stay. In fact, they quickly show up…. then fly away, and do not come back. They’re gone with the coin forever. If you failed, you must now die and reset to the last check point. Or if you cant (which happens in some instances), you must redo the entire stage. Some of these will also appear above pits and if the coin drops into that… bye bye!

The other big reason is the games limitations. For whatever reason, they decided to make the game utilize more sprites than it can handle at times and instead of slowing it down, DESPAWN objects. You guessed it, this include Red Coins. I’d mention flowers but that doesn’t happen, though I believe it’s possible in a few instances.

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This only happened to me a few times, but it’s most prevalent in 3-Extra due to all the Monkeys that spit watermelon seeds, each seed being its own sprite that makes things despawn! So be sure you take things super slow, or you might despawn objects. You can always go off screen after clearing stuff to respawn them (if you even can)… unless they are Fly Guys! They won’t ever come back.

Oh and again on Fly Guys, the worst part about those is getting close enough to activate them right when you’re in the middle of doing other things. Like fending off against a spitting Piranha Plant, and now you have to rush by it to get the coin or lose. Even worst, in World 4 I had to play a stage 3 times because it turned out there was a Fly Guy in a spot that spawns him just briefly when I’m close due to me jumping… and I had no idea he existed because he was outside of my view. It wasn’t until I inspected that particular area without triggering him unknowingly that I found him. FUN.

Okay but, so what? Right? So what if you don’t get it all? Just get the others later-

Nope. Have to get EVERYTHING. All of it in one go. Can’t finish it then pick up the left overs. All those 5 flowers, 19 coins and 30 stars you have at the end of a stage? Doesn’t count if that one last coin is missing! Try again! Go back and hunt for everything which can take 10-20 minutes depending on how much you remember!

And that’s all they really needed to do to make this game feasible. If you kept everything you already had after beating a stage, it would make getting what you missed a lot more tolerable. You’d still have some segments that are a pain (Fly Guys), but at least if you missed a few, you can focus on getting to them and grabbing those coins instead of everything else. Doesn’t help when it’s a slap in the face after getting so much, only to be a few things short. You might as well have wasted your time trying.

And there are a lot of things to the game that makes the process to get these more tedious. It’s a sense of Distrust.

Ah! There’s a door. I bet it leads to a secret. Wait! This is a one way door? Oh no, I might have missed something!

Ah! A cloud! I bet it has stars or a Flower. Wait! It’s making a stair case over that entrance I had no idea about! Now it’s blocked off forever unless I reset!

To give credit, this doesn’t happen too often, but it’s enough (along with many other scenarios) that this when in combination with lack of tracking items, makes me always paranoid. Did I get that item? Is this a place I can get back too? Doesn’t this lead to a secret? Or is it the right way to go? What if all these eggs and enemies despawn something? What if there’s a Fly Guy I didn’t know about coming up? Is there a secret under all these breakable spikes? What will this cloud give me? Did I get all the coins here?

When you know what you’re doing and what you need to do, then the game is quite fun. Unless it has to do with getting collectibles that you need to grab quickly (Fly Guys), which can suck sometimes. But I’m constantly worrying a lot of the time if I have everything or not. When I do have an idea, I can mostly relax.

All this game needed were a few changes.

  1. Keep Collectibles you’ve earned.
  2. Mark which doors/pipes are one way or not
  3. Make special clouds (like ones that form stairs and platforms) more obvious.
  4. Make sure Fly Guys reappear if you off screen them.
  5. Make sure important collectibles don’t despawn (have other items despawn first or just… don’t have an area with a million objects).
  6. Don’t make Star Count important to getting the Extra Stages.
  7. Keep Track of which Flowers you’ve collected.

The good news is that in a future game, Yoshi’s Woolly World, almost all these changes are made! The only one they don’t do is the cloud one. I recall a few times where a cloud made a staircase or something actually blocked a collectible in it too. But that game, in my opinion, is superior to YI in about every way.

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And that’s why I dislike Yoshi’s Island. 100% is a very nasty process to contend with.

But what about avoiding that? Can’t you just play the game without having to 100%? And yes, you can. I decided a few years ago to play through Yoshi’s Island without 100%ing it. Just play it casually.

I thought it be relaxing, but I felt bored more than anything. The game felt like it was made for you to go through and get all these collectibles. That’s where the challenge even comes from. If you just go from start to goal, it’s a complete joke. Plus you have regenerating health! Only in a few areas might you come close to death in the whole game. Now that you don’t have to collect anything, you just go straight on through and avoid most of the danger.

And Yoshi’s abilities makes anything else a breeze too. Using multiple flutter jumps helps with getting over just about everything. You rarely need to fight anything. What’s even the point of doing so? You’re just wasting your time. You’re not gaining anything at this point. 1ups are bountiful. I guess there are some items, like melons, that could be cool but you’re already avoiding most enemies. Plus they’ll disappear soon anyways.

I ended up getting to world 3 and just felt dumb for even trying. And it made me sad that I didn’t want to play any more. That’s just how I felt. But I think it just has to do with the level design being so catered to 100%. The game is at such an odds with itself. Casual run is dull, 100% isn’t dull but very frustrating. All with very great gameplay and ideas that feel wasted because of this.

In Woolly World you only need to get the 5 Flowers to get the Extra Stages. Not Health or Buttons or Yarn. Just those. And the Yarn gets you extra types of Yoshi’s to play as! There are multiple objectives with different rewards you can focus on, which makes it a far more cozy experience. I don’t get this with YI.

I’ll never 100% YI again. I’ve done it twice now. And even so, for the SNES online one, I only did it with rewind because I didn’t want to pull my hair out. And even with it, I almost did a few times! I still had to go through a stage 3 times even with those abilities to help. That shows how frustrating that experience is.

If you want to play Yoshi’s Island, PLEASE. Buy Woolly World. It’s on 3DS and Wii U…. So basically buy it on 3DS. And what about Crafted World? Eh, not bad but… Woolly is the superior game. Scratch that, don’t get Crafted if you can help it. At least that’s my suggestion if you want a challenge. Plus you have to do a ton of back tracking in that game for 100%. And the music is… (Gets Yoshi’s New Island flashbacks)… Yup.

So remember devs, when making a game, understand that there’s a trust between you and the player. Give them things to help them out a bit. If there’s a one way door, try to indicate that. Don’t waste their time. Help prepare them for what’s up ahead, give them ways to learn and understand aspects of your game so they can anticipate things better.

YI lacked a few of these things, and resulted in me disliking it. It’s never a good sign when you can’t trust the game that you’re playing!