Yoshi’s Story Review – Definitive 50 N64 Game #50

The list so far: The Definitive 50 N64 Games

The Super Nintendo and GameCube, which we covered in past seasons of the Definitive 50, were of evolutionary generations. Their games took what had worked from the generations which preceded them, and refined the experiences with improved hardware.

The N64, on the other hand, was of a revolutionary generation. Developers of its time were occupied with just figuring out how to make polygonal, 3-dimensional games for the first time. For some genres, the transition was easy, for others, it was a struggle, and some genres were almost forgotten.

Despite being one of the primary drivers of Nintendo’s success through the NES and SNES days, 2-D platformers were largely abandoned on the N64. Their gameplay was seen as quaint and outdated in the face of Mario 64 and its kind.

Rare exceptions did make it through, however, including Yoshi’s Story, but not without radical changes to what had worked in the past.

Unfortunately, fans of classic Super Nintendo platformers, including Yoshi’s Island, probably didn’t find much to enjoy in Yoshi’s Story. This is a deeply flawed game that bares little resemblance to its stellar SNES predecessor.

There is minimal challenge in navigating the game’s enemies and obstacles, with focus placed on strategically collecting different types of fruit instead. Levels are completed not by reaching the end, but by gobbling up 30 pieces of fruit, an inspiration apparently drawn from the “collect-a-thon” gameplay prevalent in the 3D platformers of the time.

Each play-through has a “Lucky Fruit,” which counts for more points, and each Yoshi has a favourite fruit that does as well. Collecting several of the same fruit in a row has a multiplier effect.

The game’s Story Mode can still be easily beaten without worrying about any of that, however, and in a single sitting no less. Despite the game containing 24 levels, a play-through only takes beating 6, with the rest available in branching paths.

Trial Mode is really where the meat of the gameplay is found. Any levels unlocked in Story mode are available there, and each level can be replayed in the quest for higher scores.

3D gaming caused such an upheaval that even Nintendo’s own studios seemed to forget how to structure logical control schemes for 2D games. Yoshi’s Story is played with the N64’s joystick, rather than the woefully forgotten and seemingly extraneous D-pad included on every N64 controller.

Yoshi’s Story does retains its predecessor’s dedication to bright, cute, colourful, and generally awesome graphics. The game features a wildly coloured pre-rendered style where everything is made out of different materials, from cardboard to fabric.

Yoshi’s Story is at least as memorable for its failings as it is for its successes. The game’s structure and controls are such a far cry from its predecessor that they speak to the upheaval 3D gaming brought to game design, which threw into question even the most basic tenets learned in past generations.

Let me know what you think of Yoshi’s Story and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe.

Huge thanks go out to sulci and Amanda T for our intro. Amanda did the music and sulci did the photography and editing.

Check back next week for entry #49 on the Definitive 50 N64 games.