A follow-up to the hugely impressive Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island on SNES, Yoshi’s Story released in 1998 and delivered a pared-back experience – one that many critics at the time found disappointing.
Presented in the style of a pop-up storybook, Yoshi’s Story follows a gaggle of the cute dinosaurs on their quest to reclaim the Super Happy Tree – a magical source of Yoshi wellbeing – from the evil clutches of Baby Bowser.
It’s clear from the get-go that Yoshi’s Story is very much aimed at children in terms of both its premise and presentation. Each of the game’s stages is crafted using a range of everyday materials, such as cardboard and stitched-together fabrics.
This unusual visual style holds up a lot better than that of many other games released around the same time as Yoshi’s Story – mainly those that employed 3D polygonal graphics. The pre-rendered characters may be somewhat pixelated, but they nevertheless manage to convey a lot of charm.
The environmental textures look convincing enough, but only by playing on a CRT TV or UltraHDMI N64 (with the scanline effect turned on) will you truly be able to enjoy the vibrancy and detail of the stage backgrounds.
It’s all complemented with endearing storytelling that incorporates the sort of playful language and rhyming couplets you’d typically find in an actual children’s storybook.
Unfortunately, such moments are accompanied by a chorus of singing Yoshis – quite possibly the most torturous audio experience of any N64 game.
Musical woes aside, the whimsical setting nevertheless befits the gameplay. Yoshi’s Story is a 2D platformer with a score-attack focus that involves consuming fruit, collecting coins and special items, and defeating enemies.
There are six different-coloured Yoshis you can play as (and two more to unlock), and you can select a different one before each stage. Each Yoshi has the same innate abilities, such as being able to perform a ground pound attack and launch eggs at enemies and objects.
Where they do differ is in their taste for fruit. Watermelons, bananas, grapes, apples – you can eat whichever fruit you like, and you’ll regain any lost health for doing so. But by catering to your chosen Yoshi’s taste, as well as prioritising melons (which all Yoshis love and are the most valuable item – not to be confused with watermelons) you’ll score more points.
That’s because stages don’t have a physical end location, and instead you complete them by consuming 30 fruits. Therefore, it really pays to be a fussy eater.
It gives the game a non-linear design, making it more about exploring every nook and cranny to find the best fruit. Many of these collectibles are hidden behind mini-games and light puzzles, which serve as a nice distraction.
You can also uncover secrets by using Yoshi’s sniff ability, although it’s cumbersome and typically used to discover secrets that you acquire by merely performing a ground pound – hardly exciting or challenging.
In total there are 24 stages for you to play through, although in the story mode you only ever play a total of six of them (one per world). You also need to unlock most of the stages by collecting special hearts in each stage.
Having more stages to choose from does at least mean you can choose the route that works best for you in terms of difficulty and/or high-score potential. At the same time, it’s a very blatant attempt to mask the game’s light amount of content by artificially lengthening the story mode.
It’s frustrating because you can’t skip the story segments in between levels, and so must endure the horrendous music over and over again.
There’s a trial mode in which you can play individual stages without any of the surrounding story bumf – so long as you’ve unlocked them in the story mode.
While finding everything is by no means a quick task, Yoshi’s Story is generally a very easy game. There’s little to no challenge in navigating environments and, in particular, boss fights are an absolute doddle.
In fact, during the final battle of the game you’re more or less invincible. Moreover, finding all of Yoshi’s Story’s hidden secrets is more dependent on thorough exploration than demonstrating skill.
Unless you’re a fan of easy and laid-back games (or are considering Yoshi’s Story for a young child), you may quickly find yourself bored by the lack of challenge.
The only place you may struggle is with the game’s overly sensitive movement controls. It’s easy to miss or overshoot jumps as a result, although Yoshi can perform a generous flutter jump that you can often use to quickly rectify a mistake.
You move Yoshi using the control stick; the D-pad can’t be used at all. This is because you use the control stick to aim Yoshi’s tongue, but rarely do you ever need to be so precise that the D-pad wouldn’t have been more than sufficient.
Despite its visual charm, Yoshi’s Story is a shallow experience that offers little in the way of challenge and deliberately holds back gameplay content to make it seem longer than it actually is.
The story mode is structured so that multiple playthroughs are required to fully unlock everything, and the painfully annoying music throughout only serves to make it less enjoyable.
If you’re looking for a relaxing game to dip in and out of, then Yoshi’s Story may scratch that itch. Otherwise there are more exciting, more challenging and more in-depth adventures to had elsewhere on the N64.
- Highly creative art direction that has aged well for the most part
- Fun mini-games and puzzles
- Trial mode lets you get straight to the action
- Clunky sniff mechanic makes finding secrets feel laborious
- Unbearably annoying music in parts
- Can only unlock new stages by playing through the game multiple times
- Boss fights could be a lot more challenging
- Movement controls are overly sensitive
To learn more about how review N64 games see our review scoring system page. Because we focus on whether a game is still enjoyable to play today, we try to avoid discussing a game’s development history, impact or legacy in our reviews.