(GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island (GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Martin Watts

Egg-ceptional platforming

When you take into account just how much of a landmark title Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was when it released back in 1995, it’s absurd to think that it’s only just being re-released on one of Nintendo’s Virtual Console services – well, that is if you exclude the exclusive 3DS release under the guise of the 3DS Ambassador Program. Early adopter perks aside, Yoshi's Island is finally available for the masses to repurchase or experience for the first time. Moreover, it’s the GBA port, Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island, which Nintendo has stuck up for sale – something which might seem a little odd to some given that the title was originally released in home console form on the SNES.

However, to dismiss this portable version would be incredibly rash, as Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island retains nearly all of the magic of the original and also has a few new tricks up its sleeve. In Nintendo’s eyes, it’s no doubt the definitive version of the game as it contains updated sound effects and more levels than the original, and very little has been lost in its transition to the big screen experience afforded by the Wii U. Veterans will no doubt welcome the opportunity to return to the series’ roots, while newcomers will find a fantastic 2D platforming experience that still holds up today.

Although it was originally pitched as a follow-up to the SNES masterpiece that is Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island is an exceptional game in its own right. Much of the classic Super Mario formula can be found here, and at first glance you could be mistaken for assuming Nintendo has simply swapped out its world-renowned plumber for Yoshi. However, the gameplay focus in Yoshi's Island is in fact quite different; long gone is the dreaded level timer which previously forced you to work your way through each stage in a certain amount of time, and instead you’re given the luxury of exploring every nook and cranny of each level in search of collectable items – should you wish to, that is. Getting to the end of the level is still very much the order of the day, but you’ll need to find everything if you want to say you've truly beaten the game by the time the credits roll. Yoshi’s Island may not have been the ground-breaking moment in gaming that Super Mario 64 was, but it was nevertheless an exceptional evolution of an already tried-and-tested genre in the mid '90s, and one which spawned an entirely new Nintendo franchise. While it may not seem as fresh today, you can at least still appreciate its impressively deep gameplay design.

The green mascot’s first big moment in the spotlight is arguably the most significant in the Mario Bros. timeline – if such a thing exists. Yoshi and Mario’s paths first cross as a result of a dastardly attempt by the Magikoopa Kamek to steal the plumber and his twin brother at birth – in fact, they’re in the process of being delivered by the stork. It all goes a bit pear-shaped; while Kamek is able to nab Luigi, Mario plummets to an island below which just so happens to be inhabited by a colourful clan of Yoshis. Ever the positive creatures that they are, the group decides to set off on an adventure, Baby Mario in tow, with the aim of reuniting him with his brother and waiting family.

In order to succeed at this rather daunting task, you will need to call upon all of Yoshi's unique skills. In particular, it’s his trademark tongue abilities which make the biggest difference, especially in terms of gameplay; with this, he can grab enemies and either spit them out as projectiles or turn them into eggs. The latter approach is ultimately more useful, as eggs can be stockpiled, travel further when fired and can be used to reach otherwise unreachable areas and objects. It’s a clever gameplay mechanic which promotes exploration of the environments while also ensuring that you use your eggs wisely. You’ll often stumble across numerous enemies/egg-transformation victims as you traverse each level, but if you’re carelessly wasteful with your eggs it’s possible that you’ll find yourself missing out on a wealth of bonuses.

Naturally, hidden items and secret areas aren't just handed to you on a plate. Therefore, attention to detail is key if you want to find absolutely everything, and this proves to be quite a challenging task when the game’s environments are just so beautiful to look at. Sporting a vibrant, cartoony look and feel, Yoshi's Island is an absolute pleasure on the eyes, and unlike any other SNES game you may have played for that matter. Upon seeing it and hearing the cheery, upbeat background music and cute Yoshi sounds, it’s hard not to fall in love with it all.

As cute as it may be though, things can get pretty ugly if you don’t take proper care of Baby Mario. Yoshi's Island forgoes the standard power-up formula in favour of a unique time-based system. With the exception of some instant-death hazards, Yoshi will survive a brush with an enemy but will temporarily lose Baby Mario, who floats off in a bubble around the screen. A countdown timer appears, and if Yoshi doesn’t get the little one back before it reaches zero, Kamek's minions – who are alerted to Baby Mario's vulnerability as a result of his absurdly loud and annoying cries – whisk him away. It’s a fair mechanic in that it allows you to make some mistakes, but at the same time you can’t help but feel a great sense of urgency when it does happens. Moreover, it works hand-in-hand with the exploration mechanic, as the gameplay is rarely brought to a screeching halt.

Of course, the burning question on many people’s mind is how good the GBA port is when played on the Wii U. In terms of the wonderful visual style, the transition to the big screen hasn't had a negative effect. In fact, with the screen-smoothing function available in the Wii U version enabled, Yoshi's Island looks especially nice, although nothing is really lost without it either. However, that’s not to say that this version is perfect; in particular, there isn't as much of the visible playing field available to you as there was was in the SNES version due to the game having to originally accommodate the GBA's relatively small screen. This means that some parts are that little bit more frustrating, as it can sometimes be hard to anticipate what’s coming next. The music doesn't quite match the quality of the SNES original, again due to the original limitations of the GBA system itself. Moreover, this version occasionally suffers from a drop in frame rate; it’s not enough to ruin the gameplay experience, but it’s nevertheless noticeable.

This GBA edition also includes a version of the original Mario Bros. arcade game. It serves as a fun side feature, and is in fact far more playable than the NES version (mainly because your movement is less restricted). However, multiplayer functionality isn't available, making this dated arcade port lose some of its appeal.


With its deep exploration-based gameplay and gorgeous art style, Yoshi's Island is still a joy to play all these years later. This particular version may have been originally intended for a small portable system, but Nintendo has done it justice in transitioning it over to Wii U. There are a few minor niggles in terms of performance, although these are more to do with the game’s original porting to GBA, while the Wii U's screen-smoothing feature really helps to keep its visual presentation intact. Moreover, Yoshi's Island is a 2D platformer with a considerable amount of depth; exploring is made fun thanks to Yoshi's egg-based abilities, and it’s also a very challenging experience overall – getting everything is a gargantuan effort, but an immensely entertaining one at that. This is one of Nintendo’s finest efforts from back in the day, and if you've never played it before (or have a hankering to go through it all again), then this is an opportunity you definitely shouldn't pass up on.

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User Comments (56)



Raylax said:

I never played the SNES original, but can attest that this is a fantastic game. My personal favourite of the 2D Marios.



DarkCoolEdge said:

I played it last year on the 3DS and I didn't like it that much. I can see how fresh and innovative it was back in the day but gameplay-wise is not that fun. In fact, I really dislike how Yoshi controls.



chiptoon said:

looking at those screen shots , I find myself wondering what all the complaints were around the graphics in New Island. Looks incredibly similar.



Maelstrom said:

@chiptoon The new art style might look similar, but the 3d models ruin the hand-drawn effect and only serve to make it look horrendous to the people who grew up with the original.



Einherjar said:

@chiptoon Also, people around here like to whine day in day out Dont get me wrong, i also didnt like New Yoshis Island, but the graphics were the least of its problems. For me, the abysmal soundtrack was a much bigger problem.

@DarkCoolEdge Thats a first. What exactly didnt you like about how Yoshi handles ? I really liked the somewhat floaty "flutter jump" controlls. If you get the hang of them, you can stay airborn for pretty long. But i can see that it might be a bit too sluggish / floaty for some people.



biglittlejake said:

The first Mario game I was able to beat. I am not good at Mario games. It seems in all video games only being able to jump makes it difficult.



Phantom_R said:

I don't get what people like about this game. It's probably the most meticulous collectathon ever made, especially considering that you need to collect everything in one go and a lot of them are one-chance deals.



ricklongo said:

It took quite the effort to 100% the SNES game back in the day. I never played the GBA version, so I'll eventually get this (not until after I get and beat New Island, however).



DiscoDriver43 said:

Ah love this game alot. i think i'll go replay it for old times. Such a shame that Artoon can't make a sequel that can even match the game nor is above mediocre.



unrandomsam said:

@DiscoDriver43 This version doesn't even match the original part of the charm of it is the effects. They would have been better off doing a modern port of the original with all the effects intact but they weren't willing to expend the effort.



Klunk23 said:

Great game. Used to play it all the time on my GBA. Never Quite 100% it though. I might just get it on my Wii U. Though I do still have my GBA copy.



KevTastic84 said:

Remember renting this on the snes when it came out. Could barely get anywhere in the two nights i had it. Played it to death when the GBA port came out, now own it on my 3DS so probably won't bother with the big screen experience again. But a unique Top top game.



Yosher said:

Now THIS is a game worthy of the Yoshi name. Yoshi's New Island really does not do this game any justice whatsoever. I downloaded this on my Wii U after playing some New Island, and my GOD was this game refreshing to play again. So, so, so, SO much better than the horrid 3DS installment.



sub12 said:

One of my fav games of all time, regardless of genre.....this is pretty much a masterpiece, and although very different, I prefer this title over Super Mario World.

This biggest area where New Yoshi's Island stumbled was the level design IMO. It was all very linear, point A to point B stuff, pretty uninspired, the original, on the other hand, has some of the best 2D platform levels ever........as in ever.



Shugo said:

It's too bad they opt for the watered down GBA version rather than the original SNES version. The SNES sound chip is far superior to the GBA's and many visual effects were changed.

I guess this version does have the eight bonus stages, though. But most people probably won't even beat them without guide assistance; they're really tough.



supermario182 said:

playing a gba version of a snes port on a system with snes style controls is very frustrating. at least it was on the 3ds. i presume you can customize the controls on the wii u version like their other virtual consoles as of late.



TsundokuBoy said:

I've nothing against GBA games and I'll be first in-line for Minish Cap but Yoshi's Island is probably my all-time favourite game and, since I own a boxed PAL copy for Super Nintendo, Virtual Console needs to go SNES or go home. I suspect we'll never see the SNES version, at least not on Wii U, though.



sub12 said:

Nintendo has not / can not emulate Super FX / 2 chip games, prob due to some legal issues, hence why no Star Fox or Yoshi's Island.



Jetson said:

Was thinking about getting the New Yoshi's island, but this sounds like it would be better, and cheaper , I haven't played either, so which of the two should I pick up?



Melkac said:

The GBA version is bad in comparison to this one, I honestly don't know why Nintendo decided to release the GBA version instead of the SNES original...



Minotaurgamer said:

Great game? yes. Great Mario game? No. It isn't a mario game and has nothing of its formula. This was nothing but a Miyamoto stunt to avoid making super mario bros. 5 and he could do whatever he want with the mario franchise. DKC has more of mario than this one.



larry_koopa said:

Personally I don't really care whether it's the GBA version or the SNES version - it's the exact same game either way and I have no idea why people are complaining. Just be happy that you can finally play the game on a TV screen again as opposed to a 3DS or GBA screen. The game looks beautiful and if you're playing with a classic controller it might as well be the SNES version (after you re-map a few buttons anyways).

Oh, and the original also suffered from frame-rate drops in places. That's not specific to the GBA version. But like Martin says it in no way ruins the experience.



sub12 said:

Agree with the over complaining, I own the SNES version, but I was more than happy to replay it on my Wii U with screen smoothing,.......this isn't a bad version.



speedyboris said:

As far as I'm concerned, this was the better version to put on the Wii U VC: More levels, less annoying Baby Mario, and a few optimizations (remember in the SNES version when you ate a watermelon, there'd be a slight pause? Yeah, there's no delay in this version). About the only negatives I can give it is a bit less pleasing music quality (though hardly a train wreck like some are claiming; at least the tracks sound like their SNES counterparts) and a little more cramped feel. But otherwise I'm perfectly fine with the GBA version being chosen.



sub12 said:

Yoshi's New Island by far as the worst music, the main menu theme will make you want to pull a Kurt Cobain.



JaxonH said:


But it's not always about the people who grew up with the game. You have to consider, for a moment, that Nintendo has to make new fans out of the new generation of kids. To them, Yoshi's New Island was a piece of real art, and one day THEY will look back on it with fond memories just as you look back on the original now. I was born in '84 and grew up with the NES and SNES, but I happened to miss Yoshi's Island. The 3DS entry was my first, and as someone who never played the original, the game really captivated me. So I can only assume it had the same affect on others who were not confining their expectations of what the game should or should not be.



JaxonH said:



I only ask because alot of times these rumors get started because someone tries rationalizing why we haven't seen certain games yet. Remember when SNES DKC trilogy was pulled from WiiShop and the whole internet was saying "Oh it's because of legal issues with Rare"? That turned out to be a load of crap when Rare announced they held no legal rights to those games whatsoever, and that if Nintendo pulled the games it was for their own personal reasons.

Likewise, I could totally see someone thinking to themselves "Well we haven't seen any VC releases for games using the FX chip, so obviously Nintendo can't release those" not knowing whether that speculation has a shred of truth to it. Then the rumor gets spread just like the DKC rumor and taken as fact.

So, I'm just wondering, is there any valid evidence to back up that claim?



Kirk said:

I simply do not believe the Game Boy Advance version of this classic is the definitive version and it's not the version I ultimately want to see on the Virtual Console.

When it totally messes up some of the coolest visual effects in the original game, Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy for example, then it's a compromised port imo.

Yes, it might add additional stuff but the reality is the stuff it adds wasn't lacking from the original in the first place, the original didn't need anthing more to basically be near perfect, and it's the things it loses that are the bigger issue here imo.

The view being smaller due to the Advance's screen size and resolution is a major compromise for example.

The ONLY thing I thought the original lacked was a slightly better/longer end sequence or a collie palette change, like in Super Mario World, or whatever for completing all the levels 100% (just not more levels though because then you'd expect/want another reward after completing those 100%).

Other than that one little thing it was basically an example of a perfect game imo.



Kirk said:


Well I don't know the REAL reasons why Nintendo isn't putting these games on VC but I'm almost 100% sure it's simply because it can't be bothered dedicating the small amount of extra time and money it would take to write them again or whatever to run on the current VC service without the FX-Chip.

Sega/M2 has shown you can put basically any classic game on these new consoles, irrespective of the custom chips and stuff it might have been using back in the day to acheive it's graphics etc, IF you give enough of a sh*t to actually invest the time and effort to do it right.


The homebrew guys have also been managing this feat of running FX-Chip games on non-FX-Chip hardware/tech perfectly well on PC for years too.

This guy summed up the situation a while ago and I expect he is right on the money:




JaxonH said:


We've got the bulk of this generation left with VC just starting to ramp up. Let's see what drifts up on shore over the next few years...



Expa0 said:

Not a big fan of this game, the soundtrack is good and the graphics are pretty, but otherwise it's pretty unremarkable. Though I'd imagine that at least the soundtrack gets kinda shot in this version.



camerica1618 said:

Got this through the Ambassador program a while back. Really enjoyed playing it, and I still come back every once and a while.



CharlieLoneWolf said:

This is one of the most unique, challenging, and fun platformers ever crafted. Yes, the GBA version has slightly inferior sound and special effects, but it also has extra levels and for the most part it is a faithful port. I still have my GBA cartridge and I play it on my TV with my GameCube's GameBoy Player, so I don't think I'll get this, but for anyone else that hasn't yet played this gem, I highly recommend it! This is Yoshi at his best.



hephiroth said:

Yeah, I'm really not sure why this isn't the SNES version. I guess the extra levels are cool, but it would have been cooler to add the extra levels into the SNES version/engine.

Speaking of SNES, I just played The Lion King game on it for the first time. It really doesn't compare to any of the Mario games (I guess this is technically a Yoshi game), but it sure was great-looking. It was just hard in a way that a game like Yoshi's Island avoided. Yoshi's Island certainly has difficult sections, but they never feel cheap or impossible...sometimes The Lion King felt that way.



Reverandjames said:

I'm not sure if this question has been asked yet, and apologies if it has, but will a discount be available to people who have downloaded the 3DS GBA versions?



HaNks said:

thanks for the review. echo some of the comments about the version though - SNES or bust.



Kirk said:

Does anyone know if you get anything more than just a few stars on the title screen after you complete all the levels in this game 100%?

That includes beating the 6 new levels too.

Basically, I'm just curious if there's a little visual payoff like an extended end cut-scene/credits or something once you're actually done with all the levels, similar to Super Mario World...

That was basically the one tiny thing I thought this game need to be for all intents and purposes Perfect.



greeeco said:

Honestly I think the SNES version is far better, ithe GBA version is really annoying to play on a big TV since it was zoomed in for a small screen and the sound quality is REALLY bad

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