Thursday, January 16, 2014

Yoshi (NES) Review

Written: January 15th-16th, 2014
Before the review starts, a few words must be expressed over the events that happened in the year up to now:
Welcome to 2014, everybody!  =)  Lots of things happened since the start of the year, including some reeeeeally weird events.  o_0  During the month The Legend of Hercules by Renny Harlin came out to incredibly negative reviews (as we speak, 5% low) which makes it the year's poorly received movie yet; I almost want to watch it just to see how bad it is (some say it's so bad it's good).  We got a completely shocking revelation of a classic SNES game released twenty years ago being reprinted once more in a more accessible SNES cart format (since the previous issue was half a cart), and you'll never believe which one it is.
Screengrab from Nintendo Life
Yep, that very game!  I don't know what's weirder: the fact that this Christian-theme Wolfenstein 3D knock-off has come back to haunt us all, or the fact that Wisdom Tree's Super Noah's Ark 3D exists.  I suspect the reissue must have something to do with that Noah movie with Russell Crowe that's coming out this year.  I mean, really, this cannot be coincidence.  *ponders*
On the bright side good things have occurred as well.  Alfonso Cuarón won the Golden Globe for Best Director for Gravity (and deservingly so, that movie was incredible!), and Chicago P.D., the spin-off to the solidly good in my opinion Chicago Fire, has debuted and made a very good impression so far.  Linkara finally concluded the mindfudge nightmare comic series that is Marville, and I got Rayman Legends for the Nintendo Wii U during the Epiphany.  I finally talked about the Wander Over Yonder episode "The Pet"... three months after it came out (I can be such a procrastinator sometimes).  =(
And I saw the most recent episode of that show, "The Ball", which I thought was very good.  And by far it has got to have the most adorable animated (space) dog I think I'll ever see in a long time; but that's for another time.  ^O^  Unfortunately, I also got to see a poor excuse of a YouTube video with Alex Kidd and Link in it that lasted a minute long, and let me tell you it was not amusing one bit!  >=(  The creator of that video had better owe several thousand viewers a big apology for that unpleasant misfire!  ...  Well anyway, enough progress tracking for now, I know why you all came here: to read my first ever 2014 video game review!  =D  Let's go back to the beginning.
Time for a little backstory:
In the beginning of the '90s a little game was released for the Super Nintendo called Super Mario World, or as the Japanese revered it as for the Super Famicom: Super Mario Bros. 4.  It was a huge hit, being one of the first ever Nintendo 16-bit games ever made, and it helped pioneer sidescrolling platformers that were yet to come and made an impact on both the Mario series and gamers in general.  It's a fun game with really good play control, pleasant visuals, and lots of areas to explore (with ninety-six exits to discover) which helped with its replay value even though it's an easy game overall.  There's no contesting that it's a great game, it is, and many people will agree.  But greatest Mario game ever?  Ehhhh, that's highly debatable.  If we're talking 2D Mario then I would be onboard with that, let me tell you; but if we were discussing which Mario was the best overall, my vote would go for the Nintendo Wii's magnum opus Super Mario Galaxy.
Super Mario World did introduce new elements that would pop up from time to time in the series: the Wigglers and Reznors made their first appearance, Princess Toadstool permanently dyed her hair blonde after being a brunette for the past few games, the Goombas literally became rotten apples for the first and only time (seriously, Nintendo could not have shaped them properly?), the reserve box came in handy and would do the same in some of the future titles (particularly the recent Super Mario 3D World), and also
we were given Yoshi, Mario's faithful friend and steed!  =)  Yoshi is a charming green dino-like creature that has enthralled and captured the hearts of millions since 1990, and he would make reapparances in the Mario universe from time to time helping him, including Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy 2.  He would even star in his own games as well as appear in many spin-off games, but before all that something interesting happened.
Alternate Names: Mario & Yoshi [|O|] / Yoshi's Egg [|O|]
Year: 1991, 1992 | Developed by: Game Freak | Published by: Nintendo
Not a year had passed since Super Mario World debuted that already they were taking into consideration making a game with Yoshi in it.  But that's not the strange part, for instead of making it for the SNES Game Freak (of Pokémon fame) decided to make it for the NES (and Game Boy).  Talk about backtracking!  But on the bright side, the NES had two more years to live so at least people got to play it.  But that's not the weird part; they decided to make it a falling piece puzzler in the vein of Tetris (which will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary this year), only with a much different formula.  And as if all that wasn't crazy enough, upon release Yoshi (Mario & Yoshi in Europe and Yoshi's Egg in Japan) was a critical bomb=O  Damn!  What the hell happened?  How do you go from positively received platformer to negatively received puzzler in the span of two years?  And what's sad about it is that it's the second game that Yoshi appeared in, so it's enough to make you feel bad for the guy.  Well, nothing to do now but delve in and discover the answer.
So as I said before it's a puzzler in a similar vein to Tetris, which means options!!!  =)  As is par for the course in puzzlers like these you get to choose which game type to play (two in this case, I'll get what they are shortly), the option to skip up to level five (wouldn't it be logical to start from the beginning?  What is it with games that dare you to cut corners?  It's very unbecoming!), adjust the speed to make it fast or slow, and even change the background music (if you want any).  I don't know about you, but I'm quite disturbed by the notion of people actually wanting to play video games without music in them!  =|  Why leave the choice on there when music is part of what makes the game what it is???  And once you make the choice it's time to start.
Puzzling, few pieces at a time
You take control of Mario as... wait, wait, wait!  I thought this game was called Yoshi?  Why is Mario the controllable character?  ...  Anyway, you take control of the portly plumber (or his brother Luigi if you get a second player) as he's positioned under four rotating tables.  He can only stand under two, so there'll be lots of moving around to be done, and from time to you'll even be rotating said tables.  Each turn will have a couple (or more) enemies go down at a time, and the only way to make combos is if one enemy is on top of the enemy of its equal.  You'll be moving and rotating as Goombas, Boos, Bloopers, and Piranha Plants are coming down.  From time to time there will be top and bottom egg pieces, and if you can manage to sandwich as many enemies inside one egg you'll earn lots of points (and hatch a little Yoshi).  If you don't want the pieces to take the time, you can force them down by holding the Down button (it's up to you).
Pop go the enemies!
So let's talk about the game modes, shall we?  In Game A you begin with an empty field until enemies begin popping up left and right.  There is no end to speak of so there's no telling when you reach the next level, which will happen without warning.  In Game B each game begins with a row of enemies at the bottom, and the only way to reach the next level will be if you've cleared the whole area (which will take either a short time or a long time depending on how you do), and with each level you start off with an additional row of enemies to make it a little more challenging.  For example if you're in Level 5 you'll start off with five rows of enemies in the field, and depending on the speed it'll get more challenging along the way.
With a colorful cast of enemies, how can
you can wrong?
Visuals aren't the main hightlight when it comes to puzzlers, and Yoshi is no exception to this rule, but I figured I may as well discuss them anyway.  They're good for NES standards, though obviously not as great, colorful, and detailed as Super Mario World before it.  Mario's animation as he turns is decent, Yoshi looks good (even though he's just standing by the side), and the four enemies were rendered nicely (and their two-frame animations are decent).  Give Game Freak some credit, at least Goomba looks more accurate here than he did in Nintendo's aforementioned platformer.  The backgrounds aren't all that interesting, as they're just black and green (or pink) checkered patterns surrounding blue spaces.  I do like how the font is the same as it was in Super Mario World, the three BGM symbols look good in 8-bit format (again, lifted from said game), Yoshi looks really good in the title screen, and what's cool is that any time you finish a level in Game B you'll see a small cutscene of Mario riding Yoshi until they stumble across an item (at first they're in the distance with sprite-work similar to, once more, Super Mario World, and then once they get offscreen they reemerge in the foreground bigger and more detailed).  As a whole the visuals are serviceable but good to a point.
Things will heat up on fast speed
Music in the game is pretty harmless, though not exactly noteworthy (though a lot of it will be stuck in your head, so bear that in mind when playing this game).  The title music is not bad, and the sound effects are relatively decent.  The select BGMs vary in terms of tone and speed, but none of them are bad.  I suppose to be fair that the only reason for the "no BGM" option would be if the music is repetitive, and while I wouldn't say it is, it definitely comes close here.  The Mushroom theme is playful, the Flower theme is a little deep and somber, while the Star theme is exciting and bombastic.  It's a shame that none of the past Mario themes could've sneaked on here, 'cause I feel it would've matched the visual aesthetics here as well.  =(
Congratulations, it's a Yoshi!  =)
Yoshi is by all accounts a simple puzzler, and like all simple puzzlers the difficulty gradually ramps up the longer you survive.  Game A lasts far longer than Game B, and is the easiest of the two, but even then it'll get a little harder later on.  At the top you'll get a preview of the next few pieces that will slide down, and while it's mostly two pieces that come down at a time, it won't take long 'til the moment comes when three start coming down at once.  You must be vigilant, especially when it comes to pairing the pieces; if you fumble they'll overlap each other, which is no problem if you can get a matching piece to get on top of that one.  Game B is where things get very interesting, for each level starts with an additional row of enemies each, complicating your playing field and making the experience a little difficult along the way.  Focusing is one of the keys to survival, and you may need it if you wish to get farther.
Holy shit!  =O
So why did Yoshi bomb, then?  I mean, it doesn't seem like there's anything all that terrible about it and it's rather harmless and simple.  But I think that may have been linked to many a person's problem with this game: there just wasn't enough to go for it.  The fact that there weren't many ways to earn combos might also attribute to that, and some I gather found it to be rather repetitive along the way.  And okay, to be fair it can get a tiny bit repetitive, but I didn't really dislike it because of that.  I thought the simplicity of it was charming and it can be fun to play once in awhile.  Mind you, it's no masterpiece by any means, but as falling piece puzzlers go this one wasn't that bad in my book.  I'll concede that there could've been more options to increase the replay value, but aside from that it's good to a point.  It's just too bad that Yoshi himself didn't really do much of anything throughout the game (outside of the cutscenes), and he was the main draw to his own game!
Congratulations, you're prize is a cute,
smiling flower
Honestly, despite its grave shortcomings, I found it to be so much better than Not Kirby's Avalanche in more ways than one.  For starters, Yoshi wasn't an out of character smart-mouthed wiseass towards his enemies (and the best part is that Yoshi doesn't talk here at all, thank God).  Second of all, I didn't mind the simplicity, and it genuinely felt like a Yoshi game (and there's a reason for that: this is intended to be a Yoshi game as opposed to a drastic facelift of a different one).  And lastly, I thought the difficulty in this game was fairly balanced and as a result felt more fair because of that, instead of having the difficulty being all over the place making for an unbalanced game like that one aforementioned puzzler (making for a "luck over skill" game, and I hate that).  Again, it's not great like Columns, Bust-A-Move 2, or Kirby's Star Stacker, but by itself Yoshi is fairly decent at best.  If you're curious to see Yoshi's first game with his name on it, I think you should check it out.  If you're expecting something big, you won't get that here; but if you're looking for non-demanding simplicity, then this game will be right up your alley.  I can't guarantee whether you'll like it or not, but it is worth playing at least once.  Make of it what you will.
It's funny that I talk about Yoshi, since 2014 is his big year with a couple games on the way.  =)  Like a lot of people I consider his platformer Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island to be the green dino's greatest achievement, and his subsequent platformers were great too.  Uhhh,
................... sorta........................
.......not really!
I like the original Yoshi's Island a lot, I really do, but I feel that out of all the games Yoshi's personally starred in, that one was the only one that really reached greatness.  And the following games that came out simply fell short of that.  Who knows?  Maybe Arzest will finally turn that around when Yoshi's New Island comes out for the 3DS, and if they don't deliver, then I have the full utmost confidence that Good-Feel will not let us down once they unleash the spiritual yarnified follow-up to Kirby's Epic Yarn, Yarn Yoshi on the Nintendo Wii U.  We'll see what the future brings.  I mean, c'mon guys, we're pushing nineteen years here; I've been dying to play another great Yoshi platformer for a long time, and I hope that at least one of them will finally be it!  I seriously cannot wait!  =)
P.S. I first played this game when I was little on my cousins' classic Game Boy, and remember thinking that it was good.  I downloaded Yoshi on the Nintendo Wii U eShop to catch up with it, and I'm glad I did.  In speaking of the Nintendo Wii U, what I find fascinating is that there is a letterbox aspect ratio when playing the classic games on the Wii U.  It's so weird to play a classic game on my TV screen (outside of a compilation) that maintains the game's aspect ratio and leaves the borders.  I had to stretch the screenshots a little to make it look right here.
P.S. 2: Images of Yoshi's Story, Yoshi's Universal Gravitation, and Yoshi's Island DS all from Wikipedia.
P.S. 3: In speaking of Yoshi, I said in my Yoshi Touch & Go review that Nintendo was going to make Yoshi's New Island, not Artoon.  I was wrong; Arzest is making the game, not Nintendo, and to make things a little more ironic, some of the people who used to be at Artoon are now at Arzest.  =(  I really hope the 3DS entry turns out to be good.  Also, Jurassic World (no longer is it Jurassic Park IV) will come out in 2015.  Urrrrgh!  Why do we have to wait longer?!?
P.S. 4: The next spin-off game with Yoshi's name on it would be Yoshi's Cookie by Bullet Proof Software.  Time to search for a copy of it!
P.S. 5: Wander Over Yonder is the property of Disney; screengrabs from having watched the episode on the Wander Over Yonder News Tumblr.
P.S. 6:

I swear, that puppy is so adorable!!!  I'm still convinced that it's the cutest puppy ever seen in an animated media!  ^o^  Buster's much more charming and likable than that creepy CG-lipped dog from that live action dog of a show Dog with a Blog with a charmlessly contrived dog character voiced by a dog of an actor running a dog-themed blog, reeks of dog breath, and gives dogs a bad name; dog-gone it all!  >=(
........ He worded it that way on purpose, you know.
( >'.')>TO EACH THEIR OWN<('.'< )
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!  Take Care!  =)