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Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island Review

Developer: Nintendo Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: September 23, 2002 Also On: SNES

I was looking through an alphabetical list of the games I’ve reviewed, and I noticed a glaring omission between Super Mario Advance 2 and Super Mario Advance 4. Upon double-checking, none of the staff had filled that void, and so now I have taken it upon myself to complete my review quadrifecta of the four Super Mario Advance titles on the GBA with a review of Yoshi’s Island.

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In all honesty, I don’t see how this game qualifies as a Mario game in the first place since it stars Yoshi instead of Mario. As such, the first time I played the SNES version of this game, through a method which shall not be named, I didn’t like it because it was too different. A few years later though, I finally bought the GBA version of this game, and I must say, I see now what the big deal was even then. Yoshi’s Island was one of the best SNES games ever released, and it holds up very well after all these years.

Graphically, Yoshi’s Island had one of the most creative graphical styles seen when it came out in 1995, and that statement is just as true with the GBA version. Most games go for pristine and exact computer-generated graphics. Yoshi’s Island does not. It’s graphics are more hand-drawn and inexact, but they are very creative and are done very well. Even for it’s time on the GBA, Nintendo would have been hard-pressed to do better even if they had tried to. Between that, and the fact that they match the graphics of the SNES version almost to the pixel for the most part, I must say that the graphics in this game are some of the best I’ve seen on the GBA. In addition, they do a good job of conveying the cheerful mood that this game was going for. At the same time, however, in their original incarnation, they probably formed the beginnings of the kiddy image that Nintendo has received of late.

In terms of sound, I never played enough of the SNES version to know how many different musical numbers it had in it, but the four level melodies present in the GBA version are certainly more than sufficient. They are all as addicting as would be expected of melodies from first-party Nintendo games in the pre-3D era. The boss music likewise is memorable. All of the music is chipper and upbeat, which adds to the upbeat and cheerful mood set by the graphics. The sound effects are likewise cute, but they are also functional and mesh very well with the style of this game. Overall, the sound is done very well also. I should note, however, that there seem to be a few sound glitches with the music, but they are not overly noticeable and detract very little from the game.

In terms of gameplay, for those of you who have never played this game, it stars Yoshi instead of Mario. The plot centers on Mario as a baby, falling from the sky when Kamek, Bowser’s father, tried to capture him and Luigi. Kamek did get Luigi, so the Yoshis decide to help Mario rescue his brother. It isn’t the thickest plot, and I find it odd that Bowser’s father would look a lot like a Magikoopa from Super Mario World instead of being a brawny type like his son, but those are minor gripes in a game of this type that doesn’t revolve around plot.

Anyway, Yoshi’s basic abilities are pretty much borrowed from what he could do in Super Mario World. He can run, jump on enemies, and stick out his tongue to eat enemies. But many things have been added as well. For one thing, Yoshi can stick his tongue straight up instead of being restricted to horizontal only. Also, Yoshi can turn enemies into eggs and throw said eggs at other enemies or at other objects to solve puzzles and get other things. One other move that Yoshi has at his disposal is the ground pound, where he comes into the ground very hard. Such a move may be common today, but it wasn’t quite so common then. Also, he can kick his legs to stay in the air for a longer flutter jump if the jump button is held down. This makes for a strong move set for Yoshi.

In terms of levels, each of the six worlds has eight levels plus a bonus unlockable level, which makes for a decent amount of playtime for a Mario-type platformer. Some of the levels, especially later on, are quite lengthy, but the game never gets prohibitively hard because the only way Yoshi can die is to touch lava, touch a spike, or fall into a hole. If any other enemy hits Yoshi, it will only knock Mario off of his back, and a timer will start to count down until Yoshi grabs Mario again. The only way to die from this is to have the counter reach zero, which almost never will happen if you know what you’re doing.

That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk either, although in many places that does seem to be the case. The puzzles usually aren’t too hard to figure out, and the enemies and bosses don’t usually put up that much of a challenge because of the whole timer thing. Very few bosses are even fought in arenas where pure death for Yoshi is possible. On the flip side though, the bosses in this game are some of the most creative I’ve ever seen, even if they are mostly just enlarged forms of normal enemies.

A lot of elements in this game are borrowed from the Mario series, but many are also added. For those of you who like collect-a-thons, there are five flowers and twenty red coins in each level to collect for points at the end of the level, as well as you getting points for how many star points you have (star points relate to how long Mario can be off Yoshi after a hit), to a total of 100 points per level possible. Many of the enemies and other environmental things are likewise new, but new things will generally be introduced before you run into them if any introduction is needed. This may seem to baby the player a bit, but it isn’t as blatant as in many other games today.

Indeed, it seems that almost every level will have some niche to it that hasn’t been seen before, and you’ll usually know what from the name of the level. This helps to keep the game fresh and new throughout rather than becoming monotonous. Also helping to do that are three special forms that Yoshi can take for various purposes in some of the levels, as well as the fact that sometimes you can get an item that allows Mario to run for a while. These things are utilized just enough to keep the game fresh, but not enough for you to get tired of them.

Overall, this game is fairly lengthy, even before you factor in time spent trying to increase your point totals in previously-beaten levels. Also, tacked on to this game is the same thing that is tacked on to all three of the other Super Mario Advance titles (and a couple other Mario games, if I recall correctly), Mario Bros. The novelty of having it had probably worn down by this point, as it had been done twice before, but, for those people who wanted to play Mario Bros. multiplayer, having multiple carts to do so with would be nice.

In conclusion, if you are a fan of platformers, or of video games in general, there is no logical reason why you should not own this game either in its SNES incarnation or in this GBA one. It is a testament to what 2D platformers could have become if the 3D era hadn’t begun shortly after its release and deserves a place in the collection of almost anybody who would call themselves a gamer.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 9
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.5
Written by Martin Review Guide