New has never felt this old.
Nintendo has always been the masters of recycling and repolishing older franchises. While Nintendo has made a pretty penny from its Virtual Console resales, the truly remarkable titles often involve a full makeover either aesthetically or through gameplay improvements. From Super Mario Bros. Deluxe and Metroid: Zero Mission to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and The Wind Waker HD, magical things happen when classic games are brought to life by modern inspiration and technology.
With the 3DS picking up more and more steam and Nintendo continuing its trend of successful series reboots, it’s only natural to be excited about a Yoshi’s Island remake; After the great success of Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon,Donkey Kong Country Returns, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Nintendo’s latest stab at a franchise reboot seems destined to follow suit. Yoshi’s New Island takes a page out of the Link Between Worlds’ book and attempts to create something akin to a spiritual successor to the original game. Can it live up to the billing of the original title and provide enough new content to create its own identity?
Let’s get back to what makes a great reboot. Games such as Zero Mission and Ocarina of Time 3D bring classic games back through a full aesthetic remake and control improvement. On the other hand, A Link Between Worlds was able to create a spiritual successor that may actually be better than the original game by creating a wonderfully paced, fully renovated, entirely new game, wrapped in a format that feels familiar. Thus, the real way to succeed in the remake/reboot market is to provide remastered original content or to find a way to improve on it (much easier said than done).
From the moment I began playing Yoshi’s New Island, I already felt as if the game was trying a little too hard to relive the charm of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. The title screen and opening sequence greets you with a serenade of Yoshi’s that, in an attempt to sound quirky, left a dissonant, horrifying first impression on my ears (nothing of the likes of the wonderful original athletic theme). The music continues to underwhelm throughout the experience and pales in comparison to some of the more iconic Mario themes.
From the beginning, you’ll notice the same usual gameplay hint boxes to teach you the mechanics of controlling Yoshi and everything feels familiar enough in terms of movement. As usual, Yoshi can flutter jump, ground pound, swallow baddies to create eggs and toss them at your foes. Everything about the game feels similar to the original game. Unfortunately, though, where Yoshi’s Island: DS actually experimented with gameplay style by providing different babies to ride on Yoshi’s back (creating further complexity to puzzle mechanics), Yoshi’s New Island takes a step back and really only experiments through the different vehicles Yoshi can become during the game’s many asides (which are more often than not a short lived, linear experience).
Early in my experience with the game, it was clear that Yoshi’s New Island was taking inspiration from its predecessor but never doing anything to create a memorable experience that warrants being played. Compared to the recent Zelda 3DS masterpiece, this feels more like a cheapened version of the original where A Link Between Worlds not only celebrates its predecessor but serves as a standalone title that sits right beside it in terms of its worthiness. Where I would rather spend my time replaying Yoshi’s Island over diving into this newish content, A Link Between Worlds demands being played through its completely different gameplay, content, and style.
Yoshi’s New Island suffers not only from a lack of identity but also suffers from an overall lack of inspiration. Levels start out slow and never really pick up. If you’re into collecting the many coins and flowers throughout the levels, the game feels even slower in pacing, and downright frustrating at times. I remember having to quit my first session with the game after only playing 3 levels because of a frustrating red coin that was far too difficult to attain. The issue was not a lack of skill by the player but rather a lack of control in aiming a large egg up and banking it off the wall to hit the coin. If the egg bounces off of 3 walls, the egg breaks and you’ll be forced to eat another large shy guy and then come back to the spot to collect the coin. I think it took me over 10 tries before I finally got the coin (on my second play through) and if you’re a completionist like me, the game will continue to frustrate you with moments like these.
As the game progresses, the level design never really stands out like other great recent platformers (such as Donkey Kong Country Returns or Super Mario 3D Land/World). Toward the end, a few of the levels start to separate themselves but along the way, there isn’t a lot to keep you hooked on your journey. Yoshi’s New Island also includes a multiplayer mode that feels a little like filler as players compete to flutter jump the furthest or create the largest number of eggs.
Gameplay aside, Yoshi’s New Island does present a hand-drawn look that feels different and is visually pleasing on the eyes. This crayon look feels in a similar vein to some of the recent artistic platformers such as Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Unfortunately, though, the 3D is both minimally emphasized and underwhelming at times. All-in-all, the style coupled with minimal 3D use makes me wonder if a similar game could have been produced on the previous generation of Nintendo handhelds, Nintendo DS.