The Yoshi Series is Having Trouble Finding its Footing

Yoshi has been a part of the Mario series since 1990, but wasn’t the main headline of his own title until a few years later. The lovable dinosaur has been a partner to Mario, played sports, solved puzzles and even helped Mario shoot down enemies in a safari, but where he shined most was his platforming appearance in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Today this game is still praised as one of the best from the SNES era and as Yoshi’s best title by far, so why does it seem that Nintendo is straying further from what made it work in favor of Yoshi titles that aren’t as good?

It started with Yoshi’s Story, where instead of the focus being simply getting to the end of a level, it was to simply eat a bunch of fruit. It had mixed reception due to not living up to what the original had put in place, but every series has a few bumps along the way and Yoshi’s Story was seen as a spin-off more or less. It was much slower and easier than Yoshi’s Island, and could be seen as a title meant for younger players. While that is nice in theory, it has come to be an unfortunate defining feature in Yoshi titles. In the easiest comparison, Kirby titles have always been recognized as fairly easy for players to get a hold of, but that’s how those games were originally intended. The whole point of Kirby’s creation was to be an entry-level series that anyone could enjoy, but while they are typically easy, Kirby has never felt dull due to the games being genuinely enjoyable with many abilities to play with and remaining fairly fast-paced.

The next two Yoshi platforming titles are often forgotten, but Yoshi’s Topsy Turvy was an attempt to use motion controls on the Game Boy Advance that made for a decent but unmemorable game. Yoshi’s Touch and Go on the other hand at least made creative use of the DS touch screens for a fun, but short, puzzle platforming title. It wasn’t until Yoshi’s Island DS that we would see a true return of the original SNES style of gameplay. This DS entry took what the original had, but added some new baby characters with special abilities to help Yoshi on his journey to get them home. This idea was executed fairly well, with the gameplay and level design being the most enjoyable of any Yoshi title since the original. The only issue came with the fact that changing babies on Yoshi could only be done at certain places in the level, giving it some backtracking issues, but it still managed to be the closest to the original and was truly fun to play and remains the second highest-selling entry after the original Yoshi’s Island.

It was after the DS entry that the series went silent and a new title finally appeared after eight years. Yoshi’s New Island was another attempt to go back to the original formula that put the series on the map but fell extremely short with lackluster level design, new ideas that slowed down gameplay further and a near unmemorable soundtrack if it weren’t for the obnoxious kazoos. It was a poor attempt and unfortunate considering that the DS entry had simply managed to do everything better while coming out years prior. The leap to the next Yoshi game wasn’t far at least, coming just a year later on Wii U as Yoshi’s Woolly World.

It’s cute, it’s fuzzy, but it’s still missing a little something. Yoshi’s Woolly World was a wonderfully beautiful title for the Wii U, making a mark for being one of the most visually impressive for the system with its wonderful yarn and cloth based appearance. The gameplay was a unique twist on the eggs of the past, with Yoshi unraveling enemies and terrain to use them as yarn balls while traversing the area. This was a delightful experience, definitely having that Feel Good vibe to it, but fell most short due to how simply easy and slow it was. Arguably the best way to really play Woolly World was with a friend, as the cooperative aspect made things move a bit faster and more fun when playing with someone else. The attempt to try something different was made, and it wasn’t perfect but it seemed like there was hope for the series to reach into its roots again. That is, until the latest Yoshi title got its debut appearance.

We got our first look at the newest Yoshi title during E3 2017 event, and while it was visually attractive, the gameplay they showed continues to be disappointing before even getting close to out the gate. This Yoshi entry is the first to get away from the mostly 2D aspect that the previous entries used and instead go for a 2.5D method of gameplay. This means both the back and foreground are no longer out of reach, and can be explored or thrown eggs at to access more items. The main issue is that this game looks like the slowest Yoshi has ever been by a long shot. The exploration isn’t a bad thing at all, Yoshi’s Island encouraged exploration to collect everything, but it was never bogged down by exploration and players could skip through it to the end if they wanted to move along quickly. It will likely have an audience with those who want a more laid-back experience, but Nintendo is truly missing out on the wonders of what made Yoshi so endearing in the first place with a satisfying platformer with a perfect balance of difficulty and puzzles.

The original Yoshi’s Island still holds up today as one of the greatest platforming titles Nintendo has ever created and it would be a shame if we never got to experience it again in a new modern title. Yoshi has so much potential that Nintendo has taken advantage of, but most just don’t deliver what fans are truly looking for when it comes to the iconic dinosaur. Yoshi appears to be moving in a direction of puzzles rather than platforming, which is fine in its own regard, but what made Yoshi best was balanced with fun challenge in a single-player experience. The Switch title will likely be fun, but the day Nintendo tries to one-up or at least meet their SNES classic is one that should come sooner rather than later.