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Yoshi’s Story review – how does it play today?

by Martin Watts, 18 January 2018

Pop-up book featuring colourful Yoshis in the intro to Yoshi's Story for N64

Yoshi’s Story is the follow up to the critically acclaimed SNES game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.

Unfortunately, it’s not the in-depth masterpiece that its predecessor was. In fact, it’s quite a light experience – one that even critics at the time found disappointing.

What’s Yoshi’s Story about?

Yoshi’s Story is presented in the style of a pop-up storybook.

The plot follows a gaggle of the cute dinosaurs on their quest to reclaim the Super Happy Tree. They must rescue this magical source of Yoshi wellbeing from the evil clutches of Baby Bowser.

It’s very clear from the offset that Yoshi’s Story is a children’s game. It’s colourful, charming and simple in every part of its presentation.

For example, each of the game’s stages is crafted out of everyday materials, such as cardboard and stitched-together fabrics.

The Super Happy Tree from Yoshi's Story for N64

In between stages, you read the game’s overarching story. This is told through playful language and rhyming couplets – much like an actual storybook for kids.

Unfortunately, these moments are a tad torturous, because a chorus of annoying Yoshis sing over the top of it. It’s quite possibly one of the very worst audio experiences on N64.

In-depth snack attack

Yoshi’s Story is a 2D platformer with a score-attack focus. In each stage you have to eat fruit, collect coins and special items, and defeat enemies.

You can play as six different-coloured Yoshis (and unlock two more). The game lets you change between then before each stage.

Select Yoshi screen in Yoshi's Story on Nintendo 64

At first this might seem a bit odd, given all Yoshis have the same innate abilities. For example, they can all ground-pound and launch eggs at enemies and objects.

Where they do differ (aside from colour) 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.

Blue Yoshi from Yoshi's Story for Nintendo 64

But cater to your chosen Yoshi’s taste and you’ll score more points. All Yoshis love melons (different from watermelons). Eat only these and you’ll earn an even higher score.

Stages don’t have a physical end point. Instead you complete them by consuming 30 fruits, so it really pays to be a fussy eater.

Reveal Lucky Fruit screen in Yoshi's Story for N64

While not a unique concept, this non-linear design gives Yoshi’s Story some much-needed depth. It’s 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.

Yoshi's mood screen in Yoshi's Story for N64

You can also uncover secrets by using Yoshi’s sniff ability. But it’s cumbersome, and you only really use it to determine a place you need to ground-pound – hardly exciting.

Short, but not sweet

In total there are 24 stages for you to explore.

But in the story mode you only ever visit six per play through (one per world). You also need to unlock most of the stages by collecting special heart items.

Page 6 Finale stage select screen in Yoshi's Story for N64

It’s nice that you can choose the route that works best for you in terms of difficulty or high-score potential. At the same time, it’s a very blatant attempt to mask the game’s limited content by artificially lengthening it.

It’s frustrating because you can’t skip the story segments in between levels. So not only do you have to watch them repeatedly, but also endure the horrendous music over and over again.

Lots O' Jellyfish underwater stage in Yoshi's Story (N64)

There’s a trial mode that allows you to 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 boss fights are an absolute doddle.

Fleeing a Chain Chomp in Yoshi's Story's Jungle Hut stage (4-1) on N64.

In fact, during the final battle of the game you’re essentially invincible.

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, you may quickly find yourself bored by the lack of challenge.

Cloud Cruising Stage in Yoshi's Story for N64

Yoshi’s Story’s technical performance

While unconventional for its time, Yoshi’s Story’s art style really holds up a lot better than that of many other N64 games.

The environmental textures look surprisingly realistic. And while the pre-rendered characters are a bit pixelated, they nevertheless convey a lot of charm.

Unsurprisingly, a CRT TV or UltraHDMI N64 (if using a LCD/LED TV) offer the best visual experience. It looks too blurry on a modern TV using standard cables, meaning you lose a lot of the background detail.

Ghost Castle stage from Yoshi's Story for N64

The only other technical complaint concerns the controls. In particular, the game’s overly sensitive movement, which make it all too easy to miss or overshoot jumps.

Thankfully, Yoshi can perform a generous flutter jump, which 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. It’s a bit odd you can’t use it given this is a 2D platformer.

Fighting a Bone Dragon in Yoshi's Story for N64.

Conclusion

Despite its visual charm, Yoshi’s Story is a shallow experience. It offers little in the way of challenge and deliberately holds back gameplay content to make it seem longer than it actually is.

You have to play through it multiple times to fully unlock everything, which becomes repetitive very quickly. And the painfully annoying music throughout only serves to make it less enjoyable each time.

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 be had elsewhere on the N64.

Our verdict

flawed

  • 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.