Another Mario Advance game means another review from The Younger Plumber! Is it really the SNES classic, or just what’s in Baby Mario’s diapers?
With its addicting gameplay and unique charm, Yoshi’s Island for the Super Nintendo is often considered to be one of Miyamoto’s (and EAD’s) greatest works. And while it isn’t a completely perfect recreation, Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 has most certainly turned the Mario Advance series around with an excellent port of the SNES classic.
Since, unlike Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island didn’t come with the SNES console, fewer are probably familiar with the game. The story is simple enough: while delivering the Mario Bros. to their parents, the stork is attacked by Baby Bowser’s guardian, Kamek the Magikoopa, who captures Luigi and the stork but misses Mario. The basic premise is to successfully maneuver Yoshi (and Baby Mario) through each of the levels by hopping, jumping, slurping, spitting, throwing eggs, and using tons of items in order to save the two prisoners stuck in Bowser’s Castle. Eggs, Yoshi’s main weapon, can be obtained by swallowing enemies or picking them up, and they are aimed and thrown with the trigger buttons. In place of a health meter or various power-ups is a star point system. When Yoshi gets hit, Baby Mario flies off in a little bubble and cries his head off while the Star meter counts down to zero. If Yoshi doesn’t rescue Baby Mario before then, flying koopa henchmen known as Toadies nab the runt and take him away. Though Toadies are a real threat, Yoshi will more often than not fall victim to more immediate deaths, such as pits, lava and spikes. There are also special Yoshi morphs which turn our heroes into vehicles such as submarines, helicopters and mechanical moles, as well as Super Stars, which let gamers control an invincible Baby Mario. Both power-ups last for a limited amount of time and are well integrated into the level design. There are also plenty of other wonderful little aspects first-timers will find great joy in discovering.
A few of the levels themselves are demanding, but the game’s real challenge is in its ingenious point system, coupled with outstanding level design. To get all 100 points in a level, Yoshi must search out five flowers (10 pts each) and 20 red coins (1 pt each) and then finish with the star meter maxed out at 30 (1 pt each). Finding every point in a level requires a great deal more skill than just “beating the game.” YI’s levels are often short, but they contain an abundance of secret or otherwise unessential rooms and alternate paths filled with coins, red coins and/or flowers. To get the full experience, gamers must push themselves to get 100 points in EVERY level. After all, those who work hard get rewarded. . .
Everyone should be satisfied with Mario Advance 3’s rendition of Yoshi’s Island. While the first two Mario Advance series had confused identities of sorts, offering somewhat tainted versions of the originals, the third installment provides an experience very true to the source material. Small things have been done to make the game “easier,” such as the newfound ability to reenter mini-game doors, extra lives for points and a more generous star point system (when almost at 30, the game will often provide extra stars instead of coins). The number of points required to unlock certain secrets have been reduced as well. But since getting 100% still isn’t any easier, these adjustments do little to impact the game’s difficulty in practice. In fact, the biggest gameplay changes can be found in the mini-games. In one mini-game, “Seed Spit,” Bandit (Yoshi’s opponent) can now shoot and be shot while hiding behind the wooden boards. This entirely changes the game, making it much more simplistic and less engaging. The cannon in “Gathering Coins” has also been lowered, in part due to the GBA’s smaller screen. Also, the secret multiplayer mini-games are nowhere to be found in the port—a small but disappointing omission.
Graphically speaking, the game is gorgeous. Nintendo has successfully brought the SNES game’s cheery, colorful “crayon” graphics to the small screen with almost no casualties. Sprites and backgrounds are well animated while the game’s parallax scrolling is often breathtaking. There is a little more slowdown than in the original, but nowhere is it any more hindering than before. In a smart move to help alleviate the slowdown, some enemies used for 1-up sequences have been replaced with balloons. I only noticed a few minor graphical downgrades. The flowing lava is now a few-frame background, and the ground shifting effects are choppier. Also, horizontally rotating planks are now of a single color and have much less shadowing. It seems the SNES + FX2 chip is just a little more powerful than the GBA after all!
The GBA screen does pose some graphical issues. Due to the screen’s nature, dark cave areas now come off as being even harder to see. They’re still playable, but players will find certain parts hard to maneuver unless they have an excellent light source. Equally annoying but just as rare are problems with some of the auto-scrolling levels. While you are allowed to go off the screen vertically a certain distance, just like in the original, the port doesn’t take the GBA’s screen size into account. Since the “camera” is still completely predetermined in these levels, players will find themselves above or below the screen much more easily in this portable edition. The additional vertical scrolling found on the GBA screen can also guide players away from “wrong” paths towards more lucrative ones. Excluding the afore-mentioned auto-scrolling levels, Nintendo has done a pretty good job with keeping things on screen. There are still times when the player won’t know what’s below or above and will miss something previously obvious, but most extreme situations have been minimized.
On a more disappointing note, the sound in Yoshi’s Island has taken a significant hit. Most musical instruments and sound effects are slightly off: they’re either “tinnier,” more analog, or just a little different. The end result is still enjoyable for most songs, even when missing a line of harmony (such as in the mini-boss music), but there are two songs (Bonus Game, Big Boss) that make extensive use of a hideous, slightly-out-of-tune analog “instrument” not unlike the one found in Mario Advance 2. Thankfully, none of the downgraded sound effects produce such detest, though the “unlickable” noise has been trashed. As anyone who has played either previous Mario Advance would expect, Nintendo has replaced certain sound effects with voice samples in YI. Yoshi’s voice samples have been lifted directly from the N64 game Yoshi’s Story, including the ever-popular “constipation” hover noise. The game also features standard Boo sound effects and (surprisingly) two Shy Guy samples taken from Mario Tennis! Though I enjoy these audio clips, not everyone will, and I fear Nintendo may have implemented them at the sacrifice of other instruments’ quality. Overall, the audio is good, but not as good as the original’s.
By far, the biggest additions Nintendo made to the game are its six new levels. Both those old and new to YI will find great pleasure in exploring these often confusing levels designed for those ambitious 100%-ers. In an industry where tinkering with what’s there is the standard update (even for Nintendo), these levels are a wonderful gift.
There are a few other things Nintendo included in the portable edition. Various menus have been added or altered to accommodate the smaller screen and additional features, including the re-mapping of the SNES’s Start function to the GBA’s Select button. The game also has an improved sleep function, now with easy access through the Pause menu as well as the traditional L+R+Select command. Also, much of the text is slightly changed in the GBA edition. This was usually done to make Japanese-structured phrases sound more natural or to provide additional clarification, though I noticed some alterations done for length issues on the smaller screen. Meanwhile, others seem to be different “just because”. I had to laugh when I saw that Nintendo changed “shoot your enemy” to “spit seeds at your enemy” in the “Seed Spit” mini-game. The game also axes the oh-so-confusing comment about Mario and Luigi being twins, though they’re still obviously being “delivered” at the same time. WHOOPS! With the exception of one changed level name, I doubt anyone will be too upset with anything NOA has done. There are other little differences I probably shouldn’t mention, such as the faster intro sequence with slightly slower music and one VERY slight level alteration. Yes, I am a geek.
There is also the oh-so-familiar Mario Bros. game, now complete with an ALL NEW Mario voice sample that is guaranteed to
shock and amaze annoy more people then it entertains! Yay! It also features yet another set of slightly altered sound instruments and the ability to link with Mario Advance 1 and 2 if you really even care.
When it comes down to it, Yoshi’s Island remains the same classic game we fell in love with in 1995, now with a few extra levels to boot. Anyone who missed the SNES original should run to the store right now, and everyone else should think of doing the same anyway. It’s that good.