The challenge of having to follow up such a hot act as Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island is staying true to the original while simultaneously feeling fresh and exciting. The original Yoshi's Island was a pioneer in its design; that design can be straight-up copied again, sure, but the sense of surprise that the first possessed cannot be copied along with it. This kind of "imposter syndrome" is the dilemma that developer Artoon seemed to face when making Yoshi's Island DS, and playing it on the Wii U Virtual Console adds another degree of separation to struggle against.
Let's not start off too fretfully, here: Yoshi's Island DS at its core is a fully competent 2D platformer. Its controls are faithful and translate to the Wii U perfectly, with no stylus necessary. The 5 worlds ramp up into a pretty sizeable challenge by the end, especially for those who want to unlock the secret and extra levels in each. The visuals are also sweet, colourful eye candy, retaining a great deal of the first Yoshi's Island style and still looking great today in certain contexts (more on this later).
And yet, something about Yoshi's Island DS makes it seem a bit less lustrous an egg than the original. At first glance there is a lot of the charm that made the first game so appealing and still makes the DS sequel worth looking at. But some of the level design just feels there to try and recreate the original without bringing many fun, new elements that made so many Yoshi's Island stages so memorable. Many of the new enemies that are introduced feel rather generically crafted, and even the music feels more subdued. Not bad, by any means - just too "by the book."
It's not that Yoshi's Island DS doesn't try at all to be original. The big twist here is the ability to call up the stork and switch between different tykes, each benefiting their babysitter in different ways. Standard Baby Mario will let a Yoshi dash and hit special "M" blocks, for example, while Baby Peach can open her parasol and allow flutter jumps to take off in strong breezes.The most entertaining might be Baby Donkey Kong, though, who can grab onto vines and swing from ropes, giving Yoshi a turn at being the one towed along. Baby Wario and Baby Bowser also show up temporarily, but the first three will always be around once you reach them early on.
Baby swapping is a fantastic idea at its heart. It's cute having baby versions of the characters and encouraging to see them being used for something more than filling go-karts. The actual implementation of the concept, however, can feel somewhat forced at points, as if pieces of levels were slapped in just to have an excuse to swap to a baby for only a minute or two, then causing the need for another swap once that section is passed. It can feel annoying and rhythm-breaking once in a while.
The other quirk Yoshi's Island DS has to its own is the double-tall expanse of being on dual screens. All the real estate is used, so it is essential to keep an eye on both screens and be able to line up long-distance egg pitches across both. Hitting a shot this way can definitely feel rewarding, but the two-screen nature can come with some drawbacks. The first was an issue even on a real DS: the "gap" between the screens is necessary to properly gauge shots, but it also means obstacles and baddies can sometimes hide from view there. This isn't frequently a problem, especially for those who pay attention, but it can still feel dumb to jump a Yoshi schnoz-first into an enemy that would have been plainly seen otherwise.
The other problem comes with the Virtual Console implementation. Since having the screens lined up is so essential to playing - and it's not a stylus-based game - you can play by turning the GamePad 90 degrees, but the only real screen setup that works on the Virtual Console is the one that sets the screens inside the static image of a DS, with the GamePad held normally. This works on either the GamePad or the TV, and looks the best this way, but it makes the actual playfield rather small. Those without huge-screen TVs will likely find themselves snuggling up with the GamePad, which surely isn't a crime, but it's a shame there aren't more workable alternatives.
Is Yoshi's Island DS a good game? Yes, but it shouldn't be expected to sit on the same blockbuster level as its predecessor. Even if its challenge feels increased toward the end, its design seems to just play it too safely at times; rather like it tried so hard to fit into a certain style that shaking up the substance fell to the back-burner. It's still certainly worth checking out for super-happy Yoshi's Island fans, although those who prefer playing on the TV over the GamePad might want to consider trying to snag an original DS cartridge instead.