Nine Years After Yoshi's Story
October 17, 2007
Once upon a time there was a little Super NES game called Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, and its bright colors and fantasmic art style were joyous and fun. Then, one day, there came word of a spectacular sequel called Yoshi's Island 64. The villagers rejoiced, as one of the best games of the 16-bit era was getting a 64-bit update. But then the dark times came, and by the time the game renamed Yoshi's Story arrived in stores, the villagers were less than impressed. The nearly fifty levels of the original game had been chopped to a mere twenty-four, and players only had to complete six of them to win the game. Moreover, completing a level no longer involved reaching a goal point, but instead required Yoshi to eat thirty pieces of abundantly placed fruit. Throw in a heavily decreased difficulty level, a cloyingly dumbed-down storyline, and a chorus of singing dinosaurs that can't carry a tune, and, well, you can see how the villagers were not pleased. Most of them turned their back on the Yoshis and the $60 game pak in which they lived.
Ask most of the villagers who lived during the late 1990s to pick their favorite Nintendo 64 game and I bet that few will defend Yoshi's Story the way others would defend something like Super Mario 64. For a long time I was one of the villagers dismayed in the Yoshis, but nine years after the game's original release I'm starting to come around. Yoshi's Story is available on the Wii's Virtual Console now, and even though the game floundered for $60 in 1998, it's surprisingly enjoyable for $10 in 2007.
I rented Yoshi's Story twice when it first came out so many years ago. I wanted to believe that the magic of Yoshi's Island was buried somewhere in the new adventure, but I never found it. I'd play for a weekend, finish the game several times with different combinations of levels, and return it to the video store believing that I'd made the right choice in not purchasing the game. There was no substance to the adventure. It was all sugary slick and sappy sweet. There's nothing wrong with those qualities (some of my favorite games are absurdly adorable), but there just wasn't a solid gameplay experience underneath it all.
Now that I've had the chance to revisit the game on the Virtual Console I've come to realize that I'd been approaching Yoshi's Story from the wrong angle all this time. It's not a true legitimate sequel to Yoshi's Island at all. It's not meant to stand on its own. In fact, it plays much better now as a short diversion away from larger Wii adventures. Have you just eaten a full plate of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption? Then bail out of Samus's world and jump into Yoshi's Story for a level or two of dessert. That's right, it turns out that Yoshi's Story is one of Nintendo's newly beloved casual games meant to be eaten in little snacky bites instead of as a large single meal. Looking back on it all I think I should have realized this sooner. After all, eating a lot of sugar in one sitting will make you sick.
Still, I wish I could get those tone deaf singing dinosaurs to shut the hell up.