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Yoshi's Story

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Yoshi's Story has been called the biggest disappointment to come out of Nintendo of Japan and its EAD (Entertainment, Analysis and Development) divisions in some time. Despite some less-than-spectacular reviews, I found that I enjoyed Yoshi's Story quite a bit. Yes, it does have its problems. But it's also better than 90% of the other platformers out there. A lot of the criticism of Yoshi's Story comes from the fact that it's different. Most magazines give bonus points for originality, yet they shun Yoshi's Story to a certain degree because it's different? Is it me, or do I smell a double standard? Anyway, this is how I look at Yoshi's Story: Although I would have wanted a pure Mario game much more than something different, I don't really mind that the developers went a different route. Yoshi's Story is kind of like Super Mario Bros. 2 (U.S. version) in that it's quite a bit different from the usual Mario fare. I know a lot of people loved Super Mario Bros. 2 -- and some didn't -- so the same will probably apply to Yoshi's Story. For the five people out there who don't know about Yoshi's Story, I'm going to describe the game's story and concept. Basically, Baby Bowser has stolen the Super Happy Tree and has cast an evil spell over Yoshi's Island that turned it into a picture book. Six Yoshis in a remote section of the island were unharmed and decide to save the island by spreading happiness. So now they go on a quest to defeat Baby Bowser and save the island. There are 24 stages (six worlds with four levels) in the game, of which only six can be played at a time a la Star Fox 64. Finding large, special hearts in a level will open up more stages in the next world to choose from. So that means you could play the six stages like this: 1-1, 2-3, 3-1, 4-2, 5-4, 6-3. Or you could play any other combination, assuming you opened up the level. Each level in the game has a beginning but doesn't have an end. There is no stage exit to reach in Yoshi's Story. Your goal in each level is to eat 30 pieces of fruit. After you eat the 30th piece, you will automatically be taken to the next world (not level). Levels in the game can be quite large and are very well designed. Many levels have multiple sections in them that are accessed through vases, pipes, or doors. So you'll need to scour back and forth through multiple parts in order to find 30 pieces of fruit, which isn't an overly difficult task. There are plenty more than that on any given level, though, with some hidden fruit that makes the Yoshis happier. You'll also find up to four "Miss Warps" on a level that serve two purposes: 1) She'll enable you to quickly go to other sections of a level, assuming you already woke her up, and 2) You'll continue from the nearest one if you die, or should I say get captured. Speaking of getting captured, let's talk about the "Story Mode" very briefly. When you start a new Story Mode quest, you must first pick your lucky fruit. This fruit will be your lucky fruit through the rest of the game. It will give you bonus points if eaten. Then you pick one of six colored Yoshis. After a Yoshi loses all of its happiness pedals, it gets captured. You regain happiness pedals, which is your life meter, by eating enemies or fruit or by eating a special flower that's on some levels. Then, after you die, you have to choose another Yoshi and you can try the level again from the nearest Miss Warp or you can pick another level. After all six Yoshis are captured, your quest is over and you must start over from the beginning if you want to defeat Baby Bowser. Fortunately, one of the improvements over the Japanese version is the ability to save your game in this mode. Your progress is automatically saved after you clear a level. However, if all six Yoshis get captured, then you must still start at the beginning even if your progress was saved before. Control in Yoshi's Story is super easy. You use the Control Stick to move and aim eggs. The A button is used to jump, though it can be imprecise at times because of the analog Control Stick. Holding the A button down will also make Yoshi sort of hover. The B button is your tongue. You use your tongue to eat enemies and eat fruit. You can't eat coins, however. (They must be touched to be picked up.) Any enemy Yoshi eats automatically gets "pooped out" as an egg. The Z button is used to throw an egg. You hold it down and a crosshair appears. You can move the crosshair anywhere you want, and when you release the Z button, Yoshi will throw an egg. Yoshi can have up to six eggs at one time. By the way, the C buttons are also the same as Z, but I think Z is more comfortable. The R button is used to sniff out hidden things, and the L button is used to turn the "fruit frame" on and off. I didn't think I would like playing with the fruit frame, but it doesn't bother me as much as I thought. So there you have it. I'm not going to go into all the detail of how the different fruits, enemies, etc., give you different points (check the instructions), but you basically get more points for eating certain colors of things that match the color of your Yoshi. There's also the ultimate goal of finding and eating 30 melons in each level. Of course, it doesn't really matter if you ignore all this about getting more points, because it just means your score won't be all that high. But then again, getting high scores is supposed to be half the fun. And therein lies what will be the biggest problem for some people. Unlike every other game nowadays, the goal in Yoshi's Story is to not just beat the game but to get high scores in all the levels. Many gamers are too lazy and impatient to master each and every level, trying to top their previous score. Back in the old days one couldn't beat games; one had to entertain and challenge one's self by trying to beat one's own (or someone else's) high scores. So this is how Yoshi's Story is supposed to get its replay value. But I'll admit that I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to wanting to beat games as fast as I can. With the exception of racing games and their multi-player modes that last for months, I often find myself racing to the end of the game to beat it. If you have that attitude, you can literally complete Yoshi's Story on your first try. But I promised myself that I wouldn't take that attitude this time around. I promised myself that I would open up all the levels in the game, find all the secrets, and set as many high scores as I can. Only then would I be able to realize how much fun Yoshi's Story can be. So if you can break the "beat the game and never play again" mentality, then you can go into the "Trial Mode" and try to set high scores on any level you've opened up from the Story Mode. If you get a high score, you can enter your name and it will be saved to the Game Pak forever. What about the presentation? Well, the graphics in Yoshi's Story are lush and gorgeous. There are tons of varied graphic themes from level-to-level that are colorful, detailed, and nicely animated. Some of the bosses and more difficult enemies to defeat are huge and well-animated. Also, there are some very cool special effects, such as scaling, stretching, warping, and rotating, used on objects in some levels. And as you probably already know, all of these graphics were rendered a la Donkey Kong Country. Because of the higher resolution and much higher color count, the graphics in Yoshi's Story go far beyond that game. There are also several layers of parallax scrolling on the levels. Essentially, the game just looks fantastic without any slowdown. The sound in the game is very impressive. In fact, it's probably the best sound ever heard in a Mario game. The title screen features a cute track that has the Yoshis singing. All of the other levels in the game have music that fit their themes very well. Furthermore, all of the sound is of extremely high quality and is in full stereo sound. Sound effects in the game are great, too. The Yoshis have cute sound effects for when they're running, throwing, falling, getting hit, etc. You might even hear a few recycled sound effects from older Mario games. Before I conclude, I figure I should mention a few miscellaneous items. First, Yoshi's Story supports the Rumble Pak and supports it very nicely. For a lot of games, I think using the Rumble Pak is too bothersome if a Controller Pak is also needed. Well, progress is saved to the cartridge, so there's no excuse not to use it. Yoshi's Story joins only a few other games (Star Fox 64, MRC, and Wheel of Fortune) that I personally use the accessory with. Second, there are a few improvements over the Japanese version. I already mentioned the save feature. Just to clarify, the Japanese version saved high scores but did not save progress in the Story Mode. The U.S. version does. There are also a few more secrets in the U.S. version. For example, eating lots of melons (melons, not watermelons) in a row will make a "Heart Fruit" appear. This makes Yoshi "Super Happy" and reveals a secret letter nearby that's made up out of coins. There's a secret letter on each level, which will eventually spell out a message. The game's difficulty was also increased slightly. Third, Yoshi's Story was actually produced and designed by Takashi Tezuka while Shigeru Miyamoto had his smallest role yet in an N64 game -- supervisor. Yes, Yoshi's Story is kind of easy and way too short. But it was meant to be that way. The slightly easy difficulty level is so kids -- who the game is aimed at -- can have a good time. The path design is also as such because of the storybook concept. Hard-core gamers will have to look beyond the initial run through and will have to look deeper by challenging themselves to get high scores and to find all of the numerous secrets in order to truly appreciate the game. If you can't do that, then Yoshi's Story is probably not for you. But if you can, you may find that Yoshi's Story can be a wonderfully irresistible experience.

Graphics: 4.6 out of 5 Sound: 4.2 out of 5 Control: 4.4 out of 5 Gameplay: 4.1 out of 5 Lastability: 3.7 out of 5 Overall: 4.3 out of 5

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