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Yoshi's Story Review

Publisher - Nintendo
Developer - Nintendo
Platform - N64
Type - Adventure
Score - 8/10

Yoshi was first introduced in the Super Nintendo's Super Mario World. Later, Yoshi was spun off into his own cart called Yoshi's Island. Yoshi's Island was a good sidescroller, but it didn't receive a lot of attention. This is because it was released late in the Super Nintendo's life cycle, and it was not as graphically pleasing as its contemporary, Donkey Kong Country. Because of it's lack of recognition, many people may not know what to expect from Yoshi's Story. Unlike most of the N64's titles, this game is not 3D; this game is in fact a good old fashioned 2D sidescroller. Why should we care about a flat throwback to an obsolete format? Simple- Yoshi's Story is the most graphically advanced sidescroller ever.

Yoshi's Story has the best looking graphics ever produced for a sidescrolling video game. Granted this outpouring of graphical chutzpah is directed in a cute, storybook direction, so many people may not appreciate it. Yoshi's story has level layouts that vary from traditional, flat sidescrolling, platform climbing, and even flat board with quasi-3D elements. It presents this with your average tile based foreground drawn over a sliding background image. The thing is, this game looks better and animates faster than any other sidescroller ever. In addition to doing the basics better than ever, a great deal of the graphical effects in Yoshi's Story are the products of transformations made on 2D objects in a 3D space. What this means is you have your basic 2D characters, but they squeeze, stretch, and rotate in 3D. This opens the door to a lot of graphic effects that don't usually appear in a side scrolling game.

The Yoshi characters are as well presented as the world they inhabit. There are more than enough frames of animation to make Yoshi into a believable cartoon dinosaur. Everything about the character oozes cuteness. When he jumps, he struggles to stay aloft, his whole body distorts when he drops to the ground, and he danced when you're not doing anything else. On top of this, Yoshi and all the other characters are prerendered 3D sprites, so the game almost never looks as flat as it really is.

The game also has a field day with the sound. The music is truly bizarre. The little Yoshis sing the title theme and other songs. They all have high pitched voices, they don't use words, and they're not... um... really good singers. That sounds awful the way I describe it, but it works, and it fits perfectly into the cute motif.

The incidental noises are also great. Yoshi produces all sorts of weird, silly, and most importantly cute noises. Cuteness and quirky noises aside, all the sounds in Yoshi's Story are localized in 3D space, like most of the N64 carts. When Yoshi runs to the right side of the screen, you hear the sound out of the right speaker. You can also detect which way enemies are coming from by the volume of their noises and by which speaker the sound is coming from.

As far as control goes, here's how it works. You think about what you want to do, then Yoshi does it. 'Nuff said. There is one control dynamic in particular that is worth mentioning because it is a strange departure from your basic sidescroller. When Yoshi jumps, you can hold down the jump button. This causes Yoshi to climb higher than the apex of the jump. This throws the classic jumping mechanic out the window. You'll find yourself jumping at things that are obviously out of your reach, then straining to make the leap. There's nothing inherently good or bad about this, but it makes this game play different than most sidescrollers.

And then there's that whole tongue thing... Yoshi still has all of his signature tongue moves with the addition of a couple new items. In particular, Yoshi can grab certain objects that can propel him upward in a similar way that Marina grabs objects in Mischief Makers. This opens up new doors in gameplay that you wouldn't expect in a Yoshi title.

I've been dancing around one key point this whole review. This game is REALLY cute. Everything in Yoshi's Story is geared towards a younger audience. The Yoshi's cannot die. That doesn't mean that you can't botch a level; if you do make a fatal error, your Yoshi is captured by the bad guys. This is equivalent to losing a life, but no one has to get hurt.

Another aspect that older players might object to is the level design. The levels in Yoshi's Story are diverse and well constructed. The problem is that there is no incentive to play a level all the way to its end. In fact, many levels just end. No exits or bosses; there's nowhere left to go. That's because the object is not to finish a level but to collect a fixed number of fruit. So, you keep searching until you have enough. If you don't have enough when you hit the end of the level, you have to turn around and search some more. Luckily, that will never happen. If you'd like to reach the end of the level, you'll have to hold yourself back and pass up items along the way. Kids will have a field day with this set up; they'll be able to win without frustration, and they'll always be new stuff to see. Older players won't appreciate this scheme.

The third aspect of this game that may put some people off is what I'd like to call the "Starfox Syndrome." You can sit down and play this game to the "end" in one sitting, but that doesn't mean you've beaten the game. There are six "pages" in Yoshi's Story, and each page has four levels. You only have to finish one level per page to advance, so you only need to finish six levels to finish the game. You'll have to finish the game several times before you see each level, and more than that to master them.

Yoshi's Story is a technically excellent game, with credible level design and superb mechanics. The only reason why you may want to pass this game up is due to it's younger target audience. It is a great game for kids and anyone who can handle the ultra-cute.