The original Yoshi’s Island for the SNES is widely regarded as one if not the, greatest 2D platformers of all time. So, when word came that they were creating a sequel for the Nintendo DS, people were speculating as to what Nintendo could do to possibly improve on the original.
Yoshi’s Island DS takes the original and builds upon it. As with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Kamek has decided to steal all the babies in the Mushroom Kingdom and nearby locations, but the stork attacks back and manages to free Baby Mario and Baby Peach. You play as Yoshi carrying Baby Mario looking to rescue the kidnapped Baby Luigi. You go through various stages each with a specific theme, collecting hearts, red coins and starbits as you go. Each starbit you collect counts as a second you have to collect Baby Mario if you are injured, too. In this regard, the game is exactly the same as its predecessor, but there are changes.
While not as revolutionary in mechanics and aesthetics as its predecessor, it does bring a few notable things to the table: more babies. To many, that just makes you want to rip your ears off for the times that you get hit, but it actually gives a whole load of new mechanics to the game. Baby Peach allows you to float more in the air, and pick up air currents to propel you to further platforms. Baby Donkey Kong allows you to climb on vines or use rope swings, as well as having a forward charge to destroy blocks. Baby Wario uses magnets to grab onto platforms and attract coins, and Baby Bowser prevents you from creating Eggs but shoots out fireballs.
This is great as it adds variety to the levels, but with Baby Wario and Baby Bowser, it feels like a missed opportunity. These characters are only available in a handful of stages rather than through the entire game like Baby Mario, Baby Peach and Baby Donkey Kong. This is disappointing, as going back to the levels to find secrets with the other characters would have added to the replay value. That said, there are still the classic Yoshi transformations in the game, as well as various vehicles used including a Rocket and a Kangaroo, which add to the variety in the stages.
The stage design is done rather well, often fully utilising the dual screen aspect of the Nintendo DS hardware, so you will sometimes have to complete a puzzle by firing an egg from the bottom screen to the top screen, or travelling between the two screens. This is a fantastic feature and really makes the stages seem large compared to the predecessor and successor of the game. There are 10 stages in each world: 8 normal, one unlocked after completing the game and another unlocked for getting all the items in the other stages, so there are plenty of things to do, especially as some of the collectables are tricky to find.
The game controls well, as well. The controls are all intuitive and once you get used to the gap between the two screens that is meant to exist, you will quickly have mastery of shooting eggs. It is not an area where Yoshi’s Island DS has issues.
Graphically, the game looks nice. It doesn’t break any new ground but smoothens the original style from Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. All the spritework looks great and the stages are bright and colourful, though there is an issue with it being on the Wii U. Using the Wii U Virtual Console screen settings for the Nintendo DS, there’s only really one viable option – the standard one. Unfortunately, if you’re playing on the TV this means it is incredibly zoomed out and may be hard to see. All the other options make navigating between two screens tricky due to varying sizes and positions. There is an option that would have worked where the two screens are properly aligned on the TV, but doing that causes the D-Pad controls to be rotated as if you were holding the DS another way. This is very unfortunate as you will not be able to see the game as well as you should be able to, but if playing on the Wii U GamePad, the default option works particularly well.
The sound in the game is beautiful. You have the classic Yoshi’s Island music with some new additions, and all the sound effects are there and very crisp. You will often find yourself humming to the tunes around the house after setting the controller down.
Yoshi’s Island DS is a fantastic 2D platformer. While it’s not as innovative as its predecessor and retreads some of the same ground, it is still an absolute blast to play. It does have some bad points with the baby characters having somewhat limited use and the Wii U Virtual Console’s screen setting options, but it remains a must for any Yoshi’s Island fan or those that enjoy the genre in general.