If Square Enix is at the forefront of remaking their old favorites for modern systems, Nintendo is the reigning champ of giving their old hits completely new sequels. Normally companies like to churn out follow-ups to a successful title as soon as possible. Entire trilogies can come out in the span of a few years. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example of this with a new game coming out every year since 2007. Nintendo hasn’t always been like that over the years. The hit Japanese developer has released highly successful titles in the past only to let them make their mark on history and move forward. Then, almost out of nowhere, they bust out a new sequel over a decade later. Clearly this is a method that works because sequels to their very early classics are almost always incredibly successful.
Last year Nintendo announced that their hit Yoshi’s Island series is getting this treatment in Yoshi’s New Island. Announced this week that it is coming out in March for the Nintendo 3DS, Yoshi’s New Island is officially a sequel to the 1995 game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and 2006’s Yoshi’s Island DS. Now obviously Yoshi has been busy popping up in almost every Mario based game since his debut, but Yoshi’s Island is the green dinosaur’s main adventure outside of his other non-island based games. Close to 20 years is a long stretch of time for only three titles regardless of the subject matter. But when it comes to Yoshi’s Island, Nintendo knows that it will always move units regardless of how much time has passed. Yoshi is one of their most iconic characters and his first outing is considered one of the greatest games ever released after all.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island came out way back when in 1995 for the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s considered a prequel to every other Mario Bros. game on the market with everyone’s favorite Italian plumber as an infant. Taking the Super Mario series in an entirely new direction, Yoshi’s Island puts you in control of Mario’s most trusted sidekick Yoshi. All but one Super Mario title prior had you control either Mario or Luigi so this was something entirely different. In fact, almost every aspect of Yoshi’s Island was a change for the franchise. Yoshi was the hero but the main goal was escorting Baby Mario to safety. Instead of running and jumping like Mario, Yoshi boasted an enhanced set of controls including a flutter jump to traverse large gaps, a ground pound to defeat enemies, and he can swallow enemies to produce eggs which he can throw. The graphics also gave it a very artistic hand drawn feel which was a huge point of praise and has since become a staple of the series. It was childlike in appearance, a nod to Baby Mario himself, but that was simply the surface that hid an incredibly challenging platformer underneath.
While Mario is Nintendo’s mascot and also the most recognizable game character in history, Yoshi’s Island proved that the franchise can have life without Mario as the star. How many other franchises can say the same? So many hits nowadays are anchored around one particular individual. There was no guarantee that people would have been receptive to a game where their favorite character is a helpless infant. Yet Yoshi’s Island was an unbelievable success simultaneously making Yoshi an icon and giving the Super Mario franchise a longevity that very few franchises have. It showed Nintendo that people wanted even more of an expanded Mario universe that wasn’t just centered on saving the same princess from the same bad guy with the same hero. Mario based characters have since headlined their own highly successfully titles which Yoshi still at the forefront.
Yoshi’s success as a character honestly speaks for itself. Yoshi first appeared in 1990’s Super Mario World as a very helpful sidekick to Mario and Luigi. There were many other Yoshi’s each boasting different colors and abilities, but green Yoshi has always been the leader. This anthropomorphic dinosaur has since gone on to become as iconic as Mario himself. He has appeared in nearly all Mario based titles since, including playing golf, baseball, soccer, riding go-karts, and going to parties. He was also one of the original Super Smash Bros. characters over other Mario icons like Peach, Bowser, and Wario. If Yoshi was in a game, everyone made a point to either play as him or get him on your team. If Yoshi wasn’t in a game (he hasn’t appeared in all titles), fans would cry foul. Mario without Yoshi? It’s almost criminal.
I remember playing Yoshi’s Island for the first time as a kid and absolutely loving it. Mario had already become an established part of my game collection but Yoshi quickly became my favorite character. Yoshi’s Island was so colorful and innocent while also being incredibly challenging. Even though I did play the original, it was the Game Boy Advance re-release of Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 where I actually saw this title through to completion. I may not have clocked in as many hours on Yoshi’s Island as I have with other titles, but I always make it a habit to play as Yoshi whenever he’s present. This is sometimes difficult though as everyone loves Yoshi, making it a real race to see who can pick him first.
It honestly looks like Yoshi’s New Island is both about taking the series on a new path while also keeping it honest to its roots. It has the same painted design and the main goal is to still keep Baby Mario safe. But you know what? That’s fine. Yoshi’s Island was an incredible game. Nintendo has a good track record of giving long awaited sequels to its biggest hits so all signs point to Yoshi’s New Island being a similar success. It’s easy to imagine a lot of people picking this up solely for the nostalgia factor. Those who played the original are almost 20 years older now. Can Nintendo appeal to old fans while bringing in new ones? My money’s on yes but we’ll see come March 14th.