Sunday, June 16, 2013

Yoshi Touch & Go (DS) Review

Written: June 11th-16th, 2013
Alternate Title: Catch! Touch! Yoshi! [ O ]
Year: 2005 | Developed and Published by: Nintendo

Bad news, everyone, this is going to be another single color review, so no various colors this time around; also, no screenshots since I'm hesitant to attempt Nintendo DS screencaptures (I already know 3DS games don't look quite as good on my camera, so that's not going to happen either).  =(  Now with that out of the way, let's start this appropriately summer-themed video game review!

Entertainment media is a funny thing: there are several cases in a series when the first entry does so well and has attained the highest possible score that chances of matching or surpassing it were very low.  Take Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic Jaws, for example, which has entertained, captivated, and genuinely thrilled audiences for many years, coveting the rare overall 100% score at the Rotten Tomatoes website; its success was so great that not even its three sequels managed to improve upon it (in fact, the series got worse and worse with each sequel, with the fourth entry Jaws: The Revenge averaging at 0%; that's quite a paradox there).  Another example is the PIXAR/Disney Toy Story movies, the first two of which were received so well (receiving practically zero negative reviews) and matched scores that many were curious if Toy Story 3 could possibly achieve the same high standards as its two predecessors; it was close by a tiny margin, but I still thought it was a great movie.  For a last example there were the first two The Godfather movies by Francis Ford Coppola which garnered some of the highest of appraisal that when The Godfather Part III came along audiences felt it to be an underwhelming entry.  Hey, I had to find something, I can't just start by sharing two examples before commencing talk about the game.

That trait does not necessarily apply to every series, but it usually seems to be case when the first title receives unanimous praise.  The same rings true for specific video game series, including the first Yoshi title:
That's not it!!!
There we go, here is an all-time classic!  =)
After having made his debut in Super Mario World pretty much everyone has since fallen in love with our green reptilian friend Yoshi.  He also got to star in a few puzzle and spin-off games, made cameo appearances in some famous titles, and was a racer in Super Mario Kart.  After years and years of spreading happiness and joy Nintendo decided to start a Yoshi line-up of games starting with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the SNES.  It's done so well since its heyday that it's become a huge hit, and deservingly so, since in my opinion it is one of the best games that were ever made for the SNES.  It was super fun, the stage designs were fun to navigate, the amount of creativity and charm was astonishing, the gameplay offered something new and fresh in every world, the final boss fight was epic, and above all, it had a lot of replay value.  =)

It was even ported to the Game Boy Advance as Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island back in 2002, and as far as I'm concerned it's one of the few SNES-to-GBA transitions that I find to be good (albeit with some added voice clips for Yoshi, screen being cropped some, not to mention that the sound samples are not quite as potent as in the SNES; things I usually cannot stand), and the great thing about it is that it doesn't unnecessarily add new things to collect unlike the other Super Mario Advance (S)NES-to-GBA titles; it's just like the original (and just so everyone knows, yes, the "Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy" stage is on the handheld; do not believe anyone that tells you otherwise, because I have noticed a few users online that have done so).  I know, an SNES turned GBA conversion that I actually like, that's a rarity!  In fact, there's another one, but I'll mention it later.

Yes, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was adored by many that it became a true classic (even a cult classic), being ranked some of the highest of scores.  So obviously the inevitable iterations that would follow had a lot to achieve in order to equate the praise of the original.  No such luck yet: the first sequel, Nintendo's Yoshi's Story on the Nintendo 64, tried to capture the spirit of its predecessor and preserved the 2D gameplay and visual style (with some 3D in the mix), but it didn't quite do so well with others; in fact, a lot of gamers deemed it to be one of Yoshi's lowest (if not the lowest) points of his career.  *hhhhhhssssss*  Not a good way to continue a franchise, and it was only the second game.  Obviously the series would try to make up for that one unfortunate shortcoming, and they succeeded... sort of.  =/

In 2004 a company called Artoon developed a title for the Game Boy Advance that used similar hardware to WarioWare: Twisted! in that parts of the gameplay are attributed to tilting and moving the system, but it tried to also keep the 2D platforming elements as well: the game was Yoshi Topsy-Turvy (or Yoshi's Universal Gravitation to some).  While it did better than the previous Yoshi title, it ended up getting average to mixed reactions from many.  Two years later the same developer would try to make a direct continuation of sorts to Nintendo's Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island in the form of Yoshi's Island DS for the Nintendo DS.  And... let's just say it could've been a lot better; it received about equal reaction as the last one, only several critics and fans of the original weren't quite as favorable towards it. And having played it myself, it's very understandable why; it was not a satisfying sequel.  Though to be honest: in my opinion I felt Yoshi's Island DS to be in the same trope as ActRaiser 2, in that as a standalone it's good but as a follow-up it's a disappointment.  But before that game there was another Yoshi title that emerged on the DS, done by Nintendo themselves named Yoshi Touch & Go.  And it was the very first Nintendo DS game I've ever played.  =)

But unlike Yoshi's Island DS which served as a sequel, Yoshi Touch & Go was a spin-off to the original.  A spin-off to the original that shares a rather similar plotline: a stork soars in the sky as it carries two baby brothers inside bundled blankets tied in its beak.  And you all the know the drill if you've played the first title; Kamek has swiftly flown past the stork (causing it to react) in hopes of capturing both babies (for some reason) but only managed to snag one while the other fell down to an island full of Yoshis.  Will they manage to safely procure Mario (and his brother Luigi) to the Stork in one piece?  Oh, who am I kidding, we all know the answer to that!  =D  But it's going to take some work to get there.

The thing about Yoshi Touch & Go is that its controls are exclusively linked to the stylus, which means that the characters will be moving automatically and that you'll need to use your stylus to carefully guide them.  As much as I'm not too into games that use the stylus (with a few exceptions of course), I don't exactly mind it for this case.  The game starts off as Baby Mario falls down the sky until he somehow has three balloons strapped to his back (convenience, I love it).  After that the little tyke will slowly float down, so you'll have to use your stylus to create some clouds to make him slide on them; on the way down there a lot of enemies, and should all your balloons pop you'll be captured by Kamek.  In the sky are various coins and enemies, and what's neat about them is that if you draw a small circle around them it will turn into a bubble with the coins on them (the enemies will turn into coins), which you can drag and throw up above to where Baby Mario is for points.  Once you reach the bottom Yoshi will save him and agree to find the stork, save Baby Luigi, or run away from Kamek.  And that's where the fun really begins!  Another aspect of the controls is that if you wish to dispose of the clouds, all you have to do is blow them away.  Yes, you can blow them by blowing in the DS mic (I'm not certain how many DS games actually implemented that feature, but feel free to enlighten me).

The rest of the game involves Yoshi carefully treading on the area as you carefully guide and maneuver him to make sure he doesn't make contact with the enemy and also to make sure he doesn't fall.  Think of it as the original Yoshi's Island only it's automatically scrolling and requires hefty usage of the stylus, and there are no random transformations.  Now the great thing about the game is that you can see the action and surroundings on both screens, so at least you'll get a chance to know what's above you.  Now that's a nice touch.  Like the previous section you can draw clouds to walk on, draw circles on the coins and enemies and then drag them to the main character, and blow on the mic to dissipate the clouds.  And since Yoshi spends the remainder of the game in the bottom screen as opposed to the upper screen like Baby Mario, you can tap him with the stylus to make him jump (and flutter jump).  By just tapping in a certain spot Yoshi will throw the egg in that direction; however your amount of eggs is scarcely limited, so you should only use them sparely.  Fortunately more eggs can be regained should you swallow an enemy or eat a fruit (how many eggs you produce depends on the fruit).  In the options you have the choice to either have Yoshi run to the right, or you can have him run to the left; it's the best of both worlds, direction-wise.  =)  ...  Okay, moving on!

The visual style has for the most part been retained from the 1995 SNES classic, right down to the uniquely painted and drawn backgrounds and foregrounds, and they look spot on; plus it's a very colorful-looking game.  Several of the backdrops you may stumble across are forests and mountains, and what's cool is how as you move further the different planes will move in different intervals, therefore creating a feeling of depth in the atmospheric sense (something the subsequent Yoshi's Island DS sorely lacked in my opinion).  In the Baby Mario section it starts off as night but by the time you reach Yoshi at the bottom it turns to day, which is a rather neat transition.  And speaking of transition, check out the scenery as you keep treading on as Yoshi: look at how the warm colors of day slowly but gradually segue to the cold colors of night, and vice versa.  That detail alone gives it a real sense of atmosphere, and it reminds me of moments when it happened in the first two Breath of Fire games and especially in Drakkhen.  Irrelevant genres, I know, but the point of the matter is that I believe that it really adds a lot!  =)

The only exceptions to the visual style being preserved by the first Yoshi platformer are the main characters and the enemies themselves.  In the original they were outlined in black with enough frames of smooth animation and certain helpings of Mode 7 during certain moments, while in Yoshi Touch & Go the character designs have been slightly updated and look more colorful and animate more fluidly then ever before.  Normally I'm not a big fan of black outlines when it comes to video games, as I'm more into characters that have colored outlines or none at all, but I admit there are some exceptions to this (the first Yoshi's Island being one of them).  The characters and enemies are well-designed this time around, and they have soft color palettes which is not bad.  Overall I would say that the visuals are great and colorful.

As far the sound is concerned it's not too shabby.  It's not as high-caliber as the first game's soundtrack, but it's very decent in its own right.  The instrumentation is not bad, and there are plenty of catchy and cool songs.  The remix of the first game's title theme is good, and some of the other songs don't sound too bad (including the invincibility theme).  Many of the original songs I feel sound nice; in particular the music that plays when Baby Mario is slowly gliding down and some of the autoscrolling themes.  This time around Baby Mario and Yoshi have sound samples, which is fine since they're not used so much that they overstay their welcome, so that's fine.  I love how Baby Mario giggles whenever you slide a bubble towards him.

This is one of those kinds of games where it's more played for score than anything else, and while normally I don't approve of that (since I play games to have fun, not to see how high I can score), there are a few exceptions (the Game & Watch games, for one, and this title).  There are five different events, and if you can beat the record on each of them (or manage to get in the Top 10) then it will be on the charts (and keep track of what year and date you did it in).  There are five different events found here: Score Attack, Marathon, Time Attack, Challenge, and Vs. Battle (the last of which requires two players).  Each of them starts with Baby Mario gliding down and ends up riding on Yoshi's back throughout, but all with different objectives.

The goal for Score Attack is basically to reach the stork with as high as score as you can possibly muster.  For the Marathon the goal is try to get as much mileage as you can, or at least try to get farther on ground.  Time Attack is a tricky event, but basically you have to liberate Baby Luigi from the Toadies as quick as you can before you reach the end.  In Challenge mode you must watch out for Kamek, who plans to take matters into his (her?) own hands.  To make matters difficult you must try to get a far distance as the timer runs down (and not at a reasonably allotted time, either).  In Vs. Battle you must race and/or compete with another player (with the second player having Baby Luigi).  Each of them offer their own ways of challenging you, and there are benefits which help add to the fun and challenge.

Like in the original game you'll be relaying Baby Mario to a different Yoshi from time to time; in this case, it happens every thousand yards.  Each Yoshi is faster and carries more eggs than the previous one, with green Yoshi being the slowest and carrying the least amount.  There is a trick to start with a differently-colored Yoshi, but it requires that you collect a specific amount of coins (sixty and then every twenty afterwards).  Should you reach a hundred points on the ground a star will pop up, and when that happens draw circle on it and throw it to Baby Mario, for he will become invincible for a temporary time.  After that the score turns back to zero; if you lose at any time you have the option to either start the event over from the sky or from the midpoint in the beginning of the ground portion, which means the other checkpoints that you'll be reaching in the ground will not count.  =(

I have a big fondness for Yoshi Touch & Go, and while it's by no means a great game, I think it's a charming good game by itself.  I remember when one of my friends in Italy let me play on his Nintendo DS back in 2005, and this was the game that was on it.  Since then I found it to be very fun, and it's still fun to play once in awhile in short bursts; it's a moment I'll always remember.  The visuals and music are good, and the exclusive stylus controls makes the gameplay intuitive and quite addicting at times.  =)  It's just a shame that none of the other Yoshi games could match the first Yoshi's Island in terms of fun, spirit, standards, and high quality, since Yoshi is such a great character and I love playing as him; and to be honest, while this game is nowhere near as good as that one, it's about as close as you can get to the original and in my opinion it's the second best Yoshi title.  Yes, even better than Yoshi's Island DS, but just by a tad smidge.  The stylus controls received some praise that other companies decided to try it out for themselves (only much extended), even HAL Laboratory with Kirby Canvas Curse, which I think is good but not as fantastic as everyone lauds it to be.  But that's just my opinion on that!  XD

It's too bad the Yoshi games that followed the original couldn't quite reach the same ranks as the first one, but hopefully the two upcoming Yoshi games will finally change all that.  There's Yarn Yoshi that's going to come out for the Nintendo Wii U, and I'm very interested in that game; and given that the developer behind it has got a great track record, in particular their heartwarming Kirby's Epic Yarn which I absolutely love, I have good faith that Good-Feel will make us proud.  =)  As for the other one, Yoshi's New Island for the Nintendo 3DS (interesting title choice), that's another one I'm interested in, and I'm curious to see how this other direct continuation to the original will fare compared to both the original and the previous attempt.  And since that one's being developed by Nintendo, not Artoon, I'm looking forward to that as well.  I just have one thing to say to them:
*Zuul Voice* DON'T LET US DOWN!!! *End Zuul Voice*
I saw the E3 trailer and it looks good, but I'm just saying.  It would be nice to finally play another great Yoshi game, and hopefully one or both of them will fit that long-anticipated bill when they come out.  But both are due for 2014, which is going to make the wait all the harder.  =(

So is Yoshi Touch & Go worth checking out?  I think it is, though your mileage may vary.  If you're looking for a fun Yoshi game, this will do just fine.  If you go in expecting it to be excellent like the original, you may want to lower your expectations some.  If you're one of those gamers who like to see how high you can score, then this one is a good choice.  If you like using the stylus for the majority of controls, then knock yourself out and give it a go.  If you're just looking for a good Yoshi game or Yoshi's Island spin-off, then I think you'll like this game.  I won't guarantee that you'll feel highly for it, but I do believe that you'll find yourself addicted should you be in the high score-breaking mood.

P.S.: The other SNES to GBA conversion that I like, even though it shares the same issues as all other SNES to GBA conversions is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/Four Swords.  I only play it for A Link to the Past since Four Swords requires multiple players in order to actually play it (no thanks).
P.S. 2: Both games come out in 2014.  *sigh*  Well, at least there are a couple more things to look forward to next year, as well as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Jurassic Park IV, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Marc Webb remake of Jesus Christ SuperstarCaptain America: The Winter Soldier, et al.
P.S. 3: In totally irrelevant news I recently saw Man of Steel in theatres, and I thought it was a fascinatingly dark reboot for Superman.  It had its share of flaws, there's no doubt about that, but I found to be good; just good, not great.  Totally different than the other Superman movies; I guess that's you expect from the man who helmed the movie adaptations of 300, The Watchmen, and the critically disparaged Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.  Michael Shannon played a decent Zod in my opinion, though I'd much rather kneel before Terence Stamp Zod than Michael Shannon Zod.  Just saying!  Though by the end of the day I honestly found Iron Man 3 and Star Trek into Darkness superior to and more enjoyable than Man of Steel.  The next movie I'll be watching in theatres, hopefully, is This is the End; it's going to be great!  XD
P.S. 4: In other totally irrelevant news, I also saw the trailer for the new The Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug, and let me tell you, having loved the first movie An Unexpected Journey, I am super hyped to see the second part.  =D
P.S. 5: Another example of a series that could never ever match up to the first movie is The Land Before Time series.  The only reason I didn't put it up there in the beginning of the review with the other examples I stated was because it's been stated by pretty much everyone.
P.S. 6: Credit where credit is due: the picture of Yoshi Touch & Go cover was taken by me; the Yoshi's Safari and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island covers were from Wikipedia.
P.S. 7: E3 has come and gone, and there was not a single report of a new Kirby game in the works.  =(
Thank you for reading my review and please leave a comment!  I hope you have a great day and summer, take care!  =)

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