By Matt Hawkins . February 28, 2014 . 3:00pm
Nintendo recently came to New York City for the Toy Fair—for the first time in 25 years, according to one representative at the event. But while their presence has long been felt, via Donkey Kong dolls and real life Mario Kart karts from their small army of licensee partners, Nintendo proper stayed nice and hidden instead.
In a rear corner of the expo center, however, where the meeting rooms are located, the publisher showed off a few Nintendo 3DS titles for members of the press, and we got to try them out. One of them was Yoshi’s New Island.
Long considered one of the Super Nintendo’s crowning achievements, Yoshi’s Island is now officially a franchise, thanks to the upcoming third installment. It’s essentially the same game as before, which in this case is not such a bad thing, though there is a tad bit more backstory this time. The Stork delivers Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to what appears to be residents of the Mushroom Kingdom, but is told that they are not the parents. Oops.
So, the Stork decides to find their real mom & dad; I asked if the destination was Brooklyn, and while I not given a clear answer, one rep did admit that their New York City roots are somewhat canon, according to various children’s books and cartoons from the past. Anyhow, Kamek shows up as expected and tries to intercept both tykes like usual, but is only able to secure Baby Luigi. Cue an army of Yoshis to reunite the siblings.
Gameplay is again largely unchanged; each level has Baby Mario riding on the back of a Yoshi, who eats enemies and produces eggs, which are used to defeat other adversaries or to perform actions that will enable progress towards the end of a level. One major addition is extremely large foes, which takes a bit of button mashing to swallow, but when successful, Yoshi is able to command an appropriately sized large egg.
Dubbed Eggdozers. they are used primarily to plow through the environment, in a similar fashion to the giant sized mushroom in New Super Mario Bros. I encountered two super sized adversaries; a very big regular Shy Guy and a very big metallic Shy Guy. The end result of the latter was a metallic Eggdozer; it is presumed that the latter is more resilient than a regular one, which breaks apart after being knocked around a couple of times, though I was never given the chance to experience its true degree of indestructibility.
Another major addition is Flutter Wings, which the player gets if he or she dies more than three times in any given level. By simply holding down the jump button, Yoshi can simply fly past any tricky bits. This is obviously Yoshi’s New Island’s take on the Super Guide, which is intended for players who are young or particularly unskilled. That said, as with other Mario games, there is an incentive for players to go back and beat the stage sans hand holding, though the precise benefit was not revealed.
Back to familiar elements; Yoshi can transform into different forms as in previous installments. The demo level I tried had him turning into a mine cart. To go left or right, you simply tilt the 3DS the corresponding direction. I could also press the jump button to avoid obstacles, namely Shy Guys on the track. Visually speaking, Yoshi’s New Island appears to be a mixture of the first two Yoshi’s Islands, which both resembled a child’s drawing, and Yoshi’s Story for the Nintendo 64’s more 3D look.
As always, it’s tough judging an entire game based upon just a few fleeting minutes in a single level, but it certainly felt like a Yoshi’s Island game, which again is a very good thing. As well as hardly surprising, given that it’s the product of Arzest, which is comprised of members of the now defunct Artoon, which developed Yoshi’s Island DS. Takashi Tezuka, who directed the original Yoshi’s Island, is also back as producer.