Saturday, November 29, 2014

Yoshi's New Island (3DS) Review

Received: April 5th, 2014 / Written November 4th-29th, 2014
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Year: 2014 | Developed by: Arzest | Published by: Nintendo
*prolonged facepalm* *sigh*  =(  All they had was one job!  One job!  And they blew it!  Yoshi deserves so much better than this.
Image from Wikipedia
Five years after his debut in Super Mario World, we finally got to play as Yoshi helping Baby Mario save Baby Luigi who's been captured by the Magikoopa Kamek throughout Yoshi's Island in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island for the SNES in 1995.  It was a very enjoyable game with lots of charm, creative ideas, and highly intuitive gameplay.  Even the 2002 Game Boy Advance port Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island was a blast from beginning to end (and that's not something I say often about downsized GBA ports of SNES titles).  One of my favorites, and one of the best platformers ever!  To me it's only slightly better than its predecessor.  =)
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Then in 1997 Nintendo decided to follow up on the success of the SNES classic with the Nintendo 64 2D platformer Yoshi's Story, where a group of Yoshi's had to venture forth and collect fruit.  While it did pretty good enough in terms of sales it was poorly received, often being compared to Yoshi's Island.  I didn't think it was awful like it's often clamored to be but I do agree that it could've been better than it was.  And besides, I've played far worse.
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Seven years later in 2004 a little company called Artoon crafted the platformer Yoshi's Topsy-Turvy (or Yoshi's Universal Gravitation in Europe) for the Game Boy Advance.  It shared the same motion sensors that were used to control the game and rotation like Intelligent System's WarioWare: Twisted! but it didn't have anywhere near its success and appraisal for it's split gamers worldwide.
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Afterwards in 2005 Nintendo decided to make the stylus-based Yoshi Touch & Go for the then new Nintendo DS, where it centers on Yoshi trying to get Baby Mario to a safe place and perhaps find the brother Baby Luigi.  It's cute and likable, and at the time it was a very novel concept to use the stylus.  It's more score-based than in-depth, but in very short bursts it is fun while it lasts.  =)
Image from Wikipedia
Finally in 2006 Artoon once again decided to get involved with the Yoshi franchise, but this time it was for the Nintendo DS made direct sequel to the original Yoshi's Island, Yoshi's Island DS, which is one of the few games made for the handheld that required zero use of the stylus.  While many of the gameplay elements were properly replicated it was nowhere near as fun as the original due its lack of freshness, but as a game on its own it was fairly and strictly okay (as a sequel though, it failed to deliver).  The less said about how unnecessary the other baby characters were, the better; but it did take advantage of using both screens to survey the action.

Since then there have been no more Yoshi platformers until earlier this year.  When news broke out that there would be another follow-up to Yoshi's Island, naturally gamers such as myself were overjoyed; but then after it was revealed who the developer of this game was, enthusiasm towards the new game started to dwindle.  You see, Arzest is a company that was comprised of some of the people who originated from Artoon, developer of the last Yoshi platformer.  I can honestly tell you that while no one expected to be up to par with the original 1995, many gamers hoped that it would at least be better than Yoshi's Island DS.  But then Yoshi's New Island was released for the Nintendo 3DS this 2014.

Upon release it got a mixed to negative reception from many that played, and I just could not believe it.  I was hoping against hope that it wouldn't be as bad as many people made it out to be, that it would at least be fun.  I really wanted it to be good.  On my twenty-third birthday this year I had gotten four video games: my own copy of Super Metroid (after years of playing my cousins' copy) for the SNES, Secret of Evermore for the SNES, Gūfii to Makkusu - Kaizoku Shima no Daibōken for the Super Famicom (my first time playing these two), and today's game Yoshi's New Island for the Nintendo 3DS.  Guess which one of these four I liked the least.  =(

How do I even begin?  Yoshi's New Island take place after the events of the first Yoshi's Island, and to be fair it does have a clever twist of that game's ending.  So for those that didn't play or beat Yoshi's Island Baby Bowser's been defeated by Yoshi who has successfully reunited Baby Mario with Baby Luigi; then the stork proceeded to take the two brothers to their new home.  But what if it wasn't the correct home that the stork delivered the two?  Haha, okay, I thought that was funny (which is more than I can say for the entirety of the game itself).  So the stork reroutes his destination so that he would be flying to the right direction.

But as you may surmise, since this is a Yoshi platformer in canon with Yoshi's Island, Kamek the Magikoopa zooms right past the stork swiping one of the babies.  The other one falls down to, of course, Yoshi's Island and lands on Yoshi's back.  Kamek has taken Baby Luigi while Baby Mario had gotten to safety, so it is Yoshi's duty to take the infant and reunite the two brothers in order to save the day.  Along the way Kamek will try to take Baby Mario for himself, trying to set big obstacles for him in his path.  Will Yoshi make it?

You know, when the brothers got separated in the original Yoshi's Island (and to some extent Yoshi Touch & Go), at least the plot was novel and filled with sparks of originality.  But when the same exact plot gets repeated (albeit with significantly different details) with the same outcome--as was the case in Yoshi's Island DS and Yoshi's New Island--it feels a bit redundant.  Although one has got to wonder what the hell Kamek wants with the Baby Bros. in the first place?  Has he got a midlife crisis or something?  And of course, there's Baby Bowser too... and more for this instalment.  So the introduction I thought was harmless overall,... but then I played the game.

Now before I say what the gameplay's quality is like, allow me to explain the basics.  In each stage Yoshi begins with Baby Mario in his back, who must make it to the end of the stage so that he would waylay the infant to the subsequent Yoshi.  There are eight regular stages in each world (nine including the unlockable ones under certain conditions) each with differently colored Yoshis.  In each stage you get a chance to try to collect thirty stars, twenty red coins, and five flowers; doing so will ensure stage completion... but there's a catch.  In each stage there are a series of obstacles that will try to stop you, whether it be Kamek's forces or other hazards.  In each area there are at least one or two checkpoints, and reaching those will give you ten stars.

You start off with ten stars in each stage, but if you get hit Baby Mario will be in a bubble slowly flowing away, and the longer he stays in it the more stars you lose; you'll still keep the red coins and flowers, but should the star counter reach zero then Baby Mario will be whisked away by Kamek's lackies who will appear out of nowhere.  Once you reach the end the end of a stage where the other Yoshi is waiting for you you'll be entering a ring (consisting of five dots and five flowers--found and unfound) which plays like a roulette.  Should it land on a dot, nothing will happen, but should it land on the flower you'll get a reward.

Yoshi's main source of attack is by throwing eggs towards enemies--whether it be above, below, or in front of you.  Yoshi can only bring six eggs at a type which follow him wherever he goes.  By swallowing enemies, jumping up white and green blocks, or gathering some stray eggs you'll be attaining some ammo to help you on your way.  Some of the items that you'll be looking for will be found in a "?" cloud, whether it be a visible one or one that's not.  Helpful still, they can even bounce off of walls and floors resulting in a ricocheting motion.  I hope I described it all succinctly.

So, gameplay sounds like that of the original Yoshi's Island, right?  Reading this you think that Arzest got the structure of the original down pat, right?  They did... but not without hindrances in the proceedings.  What felt so fresh and fun the first time in the first Yoshi's Island feels stale and a lot less fun this time around.  In the earlier games if you lost a life you got to keep the amount of stars that you had gathered when you reached the starry checkpoint; this time around any time you lose a life (even after you arrived at a checkpoint) you start with ten stars.  The same amount you started with in each stage!  If keeping the proper amount in Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Island DS made them a bit easy, at least it was welcome and prevented completion from being frustrating, so I would take that any day.  Completion in Yoshi's New Island is needlessly frustrating because of this.  At least you only take Baby Mario in this sequel as opposed to various Baby characters.  =|

There are no bonus mini-games like in Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Island DS that gave you a chance to earn lives, but there is something similar.  In the middle of certain stages Yoshi would turn into a vehicle of sorts in order to proceed a bit further or in order to get a special item.  The thing about those segments is that they involve the Nintendo 3DS body to be tilted or rotate to move Yoshi, thanks to the built-in sensor.  When it comes to those moments you have to make sure that you properly turn in a proper position otherwise things go awry (i.e. keep it straight in order for Yoshi to go straight).  Yeah, so tilting sensors left a lot to be desired.  If you want to play it at your own free time, then you can always access it should you collect thirty gold medals in each world (no matter which area you are in).

So yeah, remember in the predecessors how you would go to the bonus areas if the ring landed on the flower?  Well in Yoshi's New Island if the ring lands on a flower all (found) flowers will transform into gold medals, so that way you would earn said amount of medals.  Something this game does is keep track of whether you got all stars, all red coins, and all flowers when you beat the stage (regardless of whether you got it in all categories or less).  If you collect everything in all the world's stages, another one will be unlocked.  Yaaaaaay.  -_-

There are some new gameplay elements, which are nice but sadly are shortlived.  One of them involves the giant egg throw attack; after you swallow a giant ShyGuy Yoshi will lay a ginormous egg (which results in sacrificing the other small ones for the time being).  By throwing it the egg will not only destroy everything in its path but also collect the special items in its vicinity (up until it becomes red and cannot be bounced anymore).  The other revolves around a metal egg, which can be obtained by swallowing a giant metallic ShyGuy.  By himself Yoshi can only stay in the surface of water, but with the metal egg he'll be able to explore deep underwater.  And like the regular giant egg you can throw the metal egg ahead of you in order to destroy obstacles and take coins and flowers, but in doing so Yoshi will be floating up to the surface.

A lot has been made regarding the visual style of this game, mainly that the characters and enemies do not seamlessly blend in to the backgrounds they're in.  Environment-wise, I think it looks fine.  I like the little touches here and there and how they look like they were drawn with markers and crayons (reminds me of Kirby's Dream Land 3 a little).  The colors are decently chosen, and in some cases they are bright.  The downside is there is just one image in the background as opposed to several layers like in the first Yoshi's Island, so there isn't much depth to be found.  But they're nice all the same.
The character and enemy models, as I said, do not mesh perfectly with their environment; they're fluidly animated and the look and charm of the characters are spot-on (mostly faithful to the originator), but looking at it all together it's almost like they were lifted from an entirely different game (with different visuals, even).  That is also heavily apparent when it comes to the bigger enemies and bosses.  What I personally felt distracted from the most was not the fact that they don't blend in well, but the fact that Yoshi has got very large feet.  What the hell happened, did someone step on those for a long time?  And he also doesn't have any legs whenever he moves or jumps.  Were Yoshi's legs hard to draw, Arzest, or were you just lazy?  =|
One of my quibbles with Yoshi's Island DS was that it had a largely forgettable soundtrack, so I hoped that Yoshi's New Island would offer something more.  On one hand it does, but on the other hand it's not very good.  The good stuff, which is few, had a tender piano-driven melody and a sweet instrumentation (similar to Kirby's Epic Yarn's music).  I liked the first theme you heard in 1-1, but everything else was just downhill.  Some of the themes were remixed from Yoshi's Island, while many of the themes are new; the problem here is that the instrumentation is lackluster.  And the thing that kills me the most about this music?  The overabundant usage of the kazoo!  >=P
I am not a fan of the kazoo, and if you like it then more power for you; but the thing about kazoos are that they're only fine when heard once in awhile... not every now and again!!!  The title theme?  Uses the kazoo.  The end of stage fanfare when it lands on a flower?  Uses the kazoo.  The remix of a few of the Yoshi's Island themes?  Uses the kazoo!  Any time I don't hear the damn kazoo it's tolerable, but it doesn't make the soundtrack any better.  But the most inexcusable usage of it happens literally during the middle of the ending credits theme!  Why the flying hell would you do that, Arzest?!?  The ending theme was doing just nicely if not for that freakin' damn nuisance ruining it all.  Freakin' bullcrap, Arzest; shame on you!  >O<  Remember how in the last two Yoshi's Island platformers there was a brief theme whenever you lost a life?  Now it's just silence for this game, and it is unsettling!
In the fourth and eighth stages of each Yoshi must navigate and peruse inside a fortress or castle, ultimately culminating in a boss confrontation.  In the fourth stage of each word you will be fighting Kamek, who must be hit three times in order to be defeating; and he is a complete pushover (regardless of the varying strategies in subsequent worlds).  In the eighth stage of each world you will instead be fighting creatures that have been transformed into giant monsters thanks to Kamek's sorcery.  They're better than the Kamek battles, but they still need to be hit three times and are easy.  One of them involves a huge bean who got transformed into an elongated bean case (it's as you picture it, yes), and another involves a small round bat being supersized.
Of course if you manage to reach the end you will be fighting Bowser?  In the first Yoshi's Island Baby Bowser only had two forms, and that was fine.  Hey, remember how Yoshi's Island DS had a bullcrap time travel subplot with Bowser and Baby Bowser?  Let's bring that back right at the last minute!!!  You know, I thought those two battles went by too quick.  =\  Yoshi's Island DS had a final boss that was three bosses long; Yoshi's New Island overstays its welcome by upping the ante up to four!  Seriously!  The problem isn't that the Bowser battles are hard, the problem with them is that they feel too longwinded and slightly stretched out.  It wouldn't be a big issue if they were fun and exciting, but they're not.
In the end after you went through all that you will see a message stating that it "took such-and-such amount of Yoshis to deliver the baby".  So essentially it keeps track of how many lives you lost, and you didn't even realize it.  What a burn.  -_-  Not that it matters because it is largely a very easy game, but not the fun kind unfortunately since it was just boring.  Yoshi's Island DS was a much better sequel to Yoshi's Island than this game, as at least that game didn't bore me in the slightest (despite not being anywhere near as good).  =(
Yoshi's New Island is a sad case of a game that should've been better than it actually turned out.  It's clear that Arzest knew the essential structure of its eldest predecessor's gameplay when making the game, but I just wish that they could've added a lot more fun and joy in the final product despite their otherwise decent handling (outside the tilting motion bonuses, that is).  The collecting is more frustrating than fun thanks to the star counter being reset at ten every time you lose a life after reaching a checkpoint, and it really hurts the game.  The visuals are creative and it provides solid eye candy, but the music is a large turn-off and doesn't inspire a lot of adventuring and charging.  Arzest's Yoshi venture had a lot of potential but ultimately succumbed to its more than numerous flaws.
When the game got released it was met with mixed to negative reviews, and before having played it I was hoping that they were exaggerating in how bad it was.  They were not!  =(  I made the same mistake with Altron's Pocky & Rocky with Becky several months prior, so as a result I got my hopes up.  I wanted to like Yoshi's New Island, since there is a lot to like charm-wise, but it doesn't make up for everything else.  I hesitated before playing more of it, and it wasn't one of those games that I got glued to 'til the end.
Image from Wikipedia
I hope that when Nintendo releases Good-Feel's Yoshi's Woolly World on the Nintendo Wii U in 2015 it turns out to be a much more satisfying platformer than this.  And of course, since the company has got an impressive track record going for them (especially with their Nintendo Wii's heartwarming Kirby's Epic Yarn way back in 2010), here's hoping that it's good; and it would be ironic if a Good-Feel game ended up making me feel bad.  Don't let us down, guys!
I was so let down by Yoshi's New Island's uninspired venture that it made me feel depressed.  It was the second game to make me feel that way after Xandra no Daibōken: Valkyrie to no Deai on the Super Famicom the preceding month.  Maybe not as dreary as that game, but today's game was highly disappointing to me as a diehard Yoshi's Island fan.  Can't possibly stoop any lower than that, right?  Days after my birthday I decided to give the original Mega Man games a chance proper on Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the GameCube.  I liked what I played,... but then I played Mega Man VII, which had depressed me due to being averagely stale compared to its 8-bit predecessors.  Three games ending up depressing me, not a good deal at all.  =(
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Thank God for games like Kirby: Triple Deluxe!!!  =D
Next Review: Kirby: Triple Deluxe
v( -_-)>TO EACH THEIR OWN<(-_- )v
Thank you for reading my review, please leave a comment and I hope you have a great day!  Take care!

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