I'm pretty biased while reviewing certain games, but I'd have to say I'm especially biased with Yoshi's Island. You see, Yoshi's Island was the first SNES game I played, at the tender age of five years old. My family was pretty late in the game (heh) when it came to the SNES; we were a Sega Genesis family throughout the early-mid 90's. My dad bought a SNES in 1997, so we ended up the the SNS-101 model (which I still use as my main SNES to this day, screw the haters), and I suspect he thought it was a new console... but I'm not entirely sure. Later that year, or perhaps early the next year, we got a Sony Playstation. If you read the linked Wiki article, you'd know that Yoshi's Island was one of the pack-ins, and was indeed the one we got with it.
Firstly, it must be stated that Yoshi's Island is pretty divergent from the Mario titles that came before it, in many ways:
|The gameplay is similar; it's still a 2D platformer for sure. However, while you can still jump on enemies to vanquish them, there is now an egg-throwing mechanic. See, Yoshi can swallow small enemies, hit down on the d-pad, and he'll swallow it and poop out an egg. You can then throw this egg. The game has been balanced around this very carefully, and it's incredibly fun. Beating this game requires getting a great handle on this, but it's a sinch to figure out. The jumping has been overhauled too, and it's incredible. This game makes the first appearance of Yoshi's "flutter kick" (or whatever you prefer to call it). Mid-jump you can press the jump button again to make Yoshi kick his feet and game some height and distance. This really expands your jumping abilities, leading to all sorts of crazy things you can do in the air, and it's rad as all hell. You can even do it multiple times in a jump, with a bit of a delay, which has led to some awesome things done by speed runners.|
|Another interesting part is the baby mechanic. The story of the game, such as it is, involves Mario as a baby. Kamek the magikoopa tries to steal the twin babies Mario and Luigi from the stork, who is busy delivering them to their parents. He succeeds in capturing Luigi, but Mario lands on yoshi's island, so the Yoshi's decide to help baby Mario reunite with Luigi by carrying him there. In each level you play a different colored yoshi, who, at the end of the level, pass it on to the next yoshi. The only way to die is to have baby Mario captured. When you get hit, Mario will fall off your back, start floating in a bubble, and a countdown begins. If the countdown ends, Kamek's minions grab Mario and you lose a life. This is cool because as long as you don't hit something that insta-kills you (like lava), you can get baby Mario back and, as I said, not die.|
|The art is another interesting divergence. Basically, everything looks hand-drawn with crayon and other craft supplies. This gives the game a really unique look that I haven't really seen other games pull off as well. Supposedly this art choice was the result of the higher ups at Nintendo telling Miyamoto to do a CG game ala Donkey Kong Country and he getting pissed and going all rebel on them and doing the hand-drawn look. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it would explain the drastic change in art direction. The game also makes use of the Super FX2 chip to do a few 3D objects, and also lots and lots of sprite scaling. The way they stretch and smush sprites in this game is pretty cool.|
The sound design is superb, mostly. Koji Kondo returns to do the music, and he did a fantastic job. There are some really iconic and catchy songs in this one. Not to spoil anything, but this game has one of the best final boss tunes I've ever heard. The sound effects are fine, they serve their prupose. Though, sometime sounds effects are re-used for different purposes, which can be a little confusing. For example, a mouse enemy's squeek gets re-used for slipping on ice. As with most any Mario game, level themes get re-used a lot, but I don't really mind. Remember how baby Mario flies off in a bubble when you get hit? Well, when this happens he begins to cry (as babies often do), and Jesus H. Christ is this annoying to listen to. Humans are literally programmed to find the sound of a baby crying annoying, and I guess Nintendo didn't know this.
If you are a fan of 2D platformers, and you haven't played Yoshi's Island, you need to change that right now.