In the realm of cuteness, “cute” can only go so far. My cat is cute; however, I still get angry at him when he misses the litter box. Our neighbor’s new puppy is very, very cute, except when he decides to chase ALL the rabbits under the fence and into our garden. That little kid on the subway this morning was cute, until he start crying and slapping his mother’s leg (which was apparently tied to her cell phone as well) for attention.
Many video games are fraught with cuteness as well, either to their credit or detriment. I’ll readily admit that the cute factor has played a role in some of my video game choices. I hold Mario and his crew in high regard when it comes to cuteness; and surely Yoshi takes the cake. Yoshi’s general adorableness, kind-hearted nature, and tongue-grasping action has captured my attention since he was introduced in Super Mario World. He’s hands down my most favorite character in the Mario universe. But like I said before, cute only goes so far. And no amount of cuteness can save anyone, even Yoshi, from the depths of mediocrity. Unfortunately, this is what Nintendo offered the world when it released Yoshi’s Story (1998).
On paper, the N64’s Yoshi’s Story read as a decent game. Picking up in some manner after the events of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, we find the happy Yoshis hanging out on their happy island, until one day, Baby Bowser attacks! Well, not literally with heavy artillery; rather with an act of meanness by stealing the island’s Super Happy Fun Tree! (Just go with it…) For whatever reason and because it’s a video game, this act turns the island and the Yoshis into a book. Six baby Yoshis, however, survive and take it upon themselves to save the Super Happy Fun Tree, defeat baby Bowser, and bring happiness back to their island.
Make sense right? I mean, in the vast oddness of the Mario universe, this story isn’t any stranger than Mario ending up in space or on Delfino Island. And if a Super Happy Fun Tree was gonna exist somewhere, it damn well better be on Yoshi’s Island.
Anyway, like I said, it sounded good. And I was of course on board, especially since the game DID NOT feature baby Mario. (Thank the gaming gods for that!) A game that was all Yoshi, all the time! Where do I sign?
Well, I didn’t sign my money away because I rented to game. It wasn’t an immediate sell for me because I was saving my money for Banjo-Kazooie, which was released later in 1998. So I snatched up the first available copy I saw at the local Blockbuster. The rental was for seven days. I finished the game in two.
Yoshi’s Story was short. Like really, sadly, short. That’s the first thing I remember about the game. For a game with a Super Happy Fun Tree and a bunch of Yoshis and a cast of familar enemies, there just wasn’t much substance. Whereas Yoshi’s Island offered dozens of interesting levels, Yoshi’s Story offered a “storybook” of six “pages,” each with four “stories.” That’s 24 levels total. And 24 rather short levels at that. Did I mention that the game was short?
Because Yoshi’s Story wasn’t very substantive, the game felt very rudimentary. Billed as something of a puzzler/platformer, the puzzles were really easy. Granted, I was old…er when the game was released, but I’ve never been one to shy away from “kid’s games.” Yet the puzzles in the game were too simple. Like Simple Jack simple. Like probably not even all that fun for young players. The game’s pandering led to, in my case, boredom. By the time I reached Baby Bowser, the mehness far outweighed any remaining inklings of cuteness.
And you know what didn’t help the game’s cause? Its soundtrack. Now I’m hardly one to judge music, good or bad, but man oh man, Yoshi’s Story had an unpleasant OST. It pretty much consists of a dozen versions of the same melody. On synthesizer. On kazoo. On xylophone. On guitar. On marimbas. On trumpet. On piccolo. Whistled. As elevator music. Chiptuned. Set to beats, of course.
From YouTube user louisalulu.
From YouTube user louisalulu.
Stomach churning is what it is.
At the risk of ruining my negativity, Yoshi’s Story wasn’t all bad. I mean, it was cute. The game continued with the look of Yoshi’s Island. The 3D crayon-colored environments were bright and colorful; and they contained some natural elements that made them somewhat more interesting. I can’t complain too much about the game’s controls – Yoshi was easy control, and it was fun shooting eggs at stuff. And there was no baby Mario. So score one there obviously.
In the end, I’m glad that I was smart enough to save my money for Banjo-Kazooie, a wholly better and more memorable game in all respects. I’m not sure how or why Nintendo went so awry in telling Yoshi’s story, which could have been wonderful. But I guess that something’s gotta be at the bottom of the gaming barrel, right? It’s just sad that with all the great N64 Mario titles, that game is probably Yoshi’s Story.