Super Mario World has a deceptively amazing soundtrack. I don’t know if you ever noticed this, but that game basically has one song that’s repeatedly re-imagined throughout. By changing the tempo, instrumentation and bits of the melody here and there, Koji Kondo created a varied, yet wonderfully cohesive soundscape for my all-time favourite Super Mario game. I didn’t pick up on this until many years later, though there’s one audio cue that caught my ear immediately. Whenever Yoshi was on screen, he was accompanied by a sweet bongo arrangement. Those bongos in my mind became synonymous with the awesome that Yoshi brought to the table.
Prior to Super Mario World, the vast majority of Mario’s power-ups were consumable items that gave him new physical abilities, such as the ability to fly or throw fireballs. Yoshi, while technically a power-up, was far more than that. He’s another living being that works with Mario or Luigi to make things better. He can eat bad guys and spit them out in different forms. His magical feet made him impervious to ground spikes. He’s also just so darn cute, especially the baby Yoshi, which I think only appears in this game.
Beyond that, there were two outside-of-the-box uses for Yoshi that I thought were brilliant. One, Mario could not sustain his flight while riding on Yoshi. For balance purposes, this makes a lot of sense. Two, Mario could jump off of Yoshi in mid-air to ascend to even greater heights. While it meant that Yoshi would get left behind or fall in a hole, there are secrets in the game that required you to do it. When I discovered this trick on my own, I thought I was a genius, even if the game had intended for me to do that all along.
Ever since his hit debut performance in Super Mario World, the dinosaur has been in virtually every Mario game since in some shape or form. Running them all down is a bit excessive, so I wanted to cover two more of my favourite games featuring Yoshi.
Tetris Attack on the Super Nintendo featured Yoshi and his friends, though their appearance barely mattered within the context of the actual gameplay. Still, I think this is the most underrated puzzle game of all-time and quite possibly the originator of the match three mechanic that was popularized by Bejeweled many years later.
What put this game over the top is that it has a phenomenal battle mode. Any time you make a series of blocks disappear beyond a standard row of three, a junk block is dumped onto your opponent’s side. The bigger the combo, the larger the block. By making any string of blocks disappear that were touching that junk block, it converts the giant junk block into a series of usable blocks for future combinations.
When you put it all together, it’s this amazing duel where players are constantly stringing together insane combos and throwing junk on their opponent’s screen while trying to deal with all the junk getting thrown back at them. Between my brother and I, we’ve had many amazing matches that tested our skill and will. There aren’t any easy ways of tracking this game down now, though you can also play Pokemon Puzzle League on the Nintendo 64 and Planet Puzzle League on the DS; both of which are more or less the same thing.
The other feature game is Yoshi’s magnum opus. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is best remembered for its striking colouring book aesthetic. Beneath the surface of its gorgeous looks and Baby Mario wails is an amazing 2D platformer that put a greater emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving than a traditional Super Mario game. The clear stand-out level is “Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy”, where touching a floating Fuzzy will cause Yoshi to immediately trip out. He stumbles around the screen as the world and the music completely warp around him. Super Mario games will forever be tailored to all audiences, though this is one of the first (and maybe best) indirect drug reference you’ll ever experience in a game.
No offense to Luigi, but Yoshi is Mario’s best sidekick. They make for a great team and one that has been together ever since Mario was a baby. Yoshi is eternally adorable. Furthermore, Yoshi has been the central figure to some of Nintendo’s greatest works.
Getting a Yoshi Amiibo was inevitable for me. It was just a matter of when. With Yoshi appearing as part of the first wave, I had my eyes set elsewhere. Having said that, once I got Mario, I thought he looked lonely without any of his friends. For being an amazing pal, Yoshi gets a spot in my Amiibo lineup!