Yoshi has been my favourite character from the Super Mario series since he made his dino-riffic debut in Super Mario World back in '91. I was so fond of him at that time that I convinced my parents to name our new Bichon Frise puppy in his honour. To this day, when I play Mario Kart or Mario Party with friends, I selfishly rush to select Yoshi before anyone else can. When I stumble on a new Yoshi figurine at the store, I usually cough up the plastic quicker than Yoshi devours and expels his enemies. Even though my prehistoric pal has a history of disappointing me (which I’ll get to shortly), he and I have developed a seemingly unbreakable bond, one that keeps me saddling back up whenever he flutter jumps back into town asking for money.
Here's a short tale that should shed some extra light on the impact of this character's presence in my life.
About a year after the Nintendo 64 launched, Taco Bell gave away Nintendo-themed toys with its kids meals. One of those toys was a rubber-ish, vinyl-like Yoshi figurine, perfect for displaying in a bedroom or office. So that's what I did with it. For the next 10 years of my life, that same Yoshi toy was a constant fixture on either my desk or TV stand. When I moved on from my parent's house in my early 20s – bouncing between places to live at least once a year – the toy joined me on my travels. I didn't have any other significant childhood mementos with me during that era of my life, but I always kept that cheap figurine on display in the basements, bedrooms, and small living spaces I temporarily called home. In retrospect, I'd like to think it served as a daily reminder of my youth, ensuring that, even though I was growing up, I never lost sight of my childhood views and ambitions.
Sadly, the figure was eventually stolen (long story), and I’m now realising it's about time I visit eBay and seek out a replacement. But I digress.
With such a profound effect, I'm sure you can see why I'm so attached to the Yoshster. That's why it's been heartbreaking to be an unwavering participant in his inconsistent video game career. During the SNES era, we had Super Mario World and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, which were absolutely stellar, imaginative games. After that, however, things have been much more... mediocre. Yoshi's Story for N64 was a fun but half-hearted successor to Yoshi's Island. Yoshi's Island DS was modelled after the original, too much so, and it failed to evolve its concepts in an exciting, meaningful way. The two spin-offs, Touch & Go and Topsy-Turvy, were bite-sized distractions that couldn't substitute for the absence of the real deal. And don't even get me started on Yoshi's New Island for 3DS (Check out my review if you want to know more). In summary, even though most Yoshi games have at least been competent and mildly amusing, they've lacked the same level of magic and wonder that cemented the aforementioned-SNES games as classics.
For many, many years, I held out hope that the next Yoshi game would be the one to make up for past letdowns, but I'd be lying if I said my attitude wasn’t pessimistic for quite some time. That is, until Yoshi's Woolly World wrapped my jaded adult heart in a layer of the coziest, fuzziest yarn known to man.
While not a perfect game, Yoshi's Woolly World is the most creative, charming, and memorable platformer to star Mario's preferred method of transportation since the original Yoshi's Island. Quality-wise, I'd say Woolly World is a notch or two below Donkey Kong Country Returns and Tropical Freeze but a bit better than the best entry in the New Super Mario Bros. series. It successfully marries a gorgeous yarn aesthetic with inventive gameplay themes, offering something fresh with each successive level. While World 4, and beyond, can present some turbulence due to an occasional disparity between the stop-and-shoot mechanics and escalating platforming intensity, which will likely only cause problems for completionists, it doesn’t tarnish what makes this game so overwhelmingly delightful.
From the moment the title screen took over my television, accompanied by the serene, innocuous sound of acoustic guitars, I knew Woolly World was going to be a charmer. And by the end of the first world I was entirely confident it was going to be the best Yoshi game since the Super Nintendo was considered current-gen. I wasn't wrong. While I certainly could aim a very tiny, mostly yolk-less egg’s worth of criticism its way, the important thing is that the game is so good that the past two decades of disappointment have mostly faded from memory. Yoshi can once again puff out his chest with pride, and I no longer must sigh whenever I mention I'm a fan.
Now, I know Yoshi’s Woolly World released on the 3DS in the form of Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World earlier this year, and there’s an all-new Yoshi game, tentatively titled Yoshi, in the works for Switch, but Woolly World is a game I think would fit marvellously on Nintendo’s latest console at some point down the road. Between the stunning HD visuals of the Wii U version, the two-player local co-op, and the many objectives required to achieve 100% completion, this would be a sensible addition to the Switch library for play on the TV or on-the-go, especially if it comes with the additional Poochy content in tow.
But, even if it doesn’t make it over to Switch, I’ll remain a happy guy. After years of flirting with fossilization, Yoshi’s name is attached to one of the best side-scrolling platformers in recent memory – and for now, that’s more than enough for me.
Now let’s just hope that the forthcoming Yoshi game continues this upward trend.