All Together Then: Yoshi's handheld islands
Egging on Nintendo's surprisingly salient series
Yyyyoshiii! Mario's mount has picked up quite the franchise of his own, with games in multiple genres scattered across the various Nintendo formats like delicious breadcrumbs. This edition of All Together Then, though, focuses solely on Yoshi's various Islands, rather than his Cookie, Safari, or (spit) Universal Gravitation.
If it's got the phrase "Yoshi's Island" in the title, and it's on a handheld, you'll find it covered here. That means no Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World and no Yoshi's Crafted World, despite adhering to the same basic gameplay tropes. Sorry, but them's the rules. I might cover them later! We'll see! It's going to be a bit (Yoshi's) touch and go!
All Together Then!
Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island (GBA, 2002)
Gosh, the Super Mario Advance series was weird, wasn't it? Not bad - who could say no to choice ports of excellent games - but just weird that there was never an original Mario platformer on the thing. Mario vs Donkey Kong doesn't count, good as it was. Anyway, this was the third such release, a port of the SNES classic Yoshi's Island. As per usual with the Advance series, you could also play an excellent multiplayer remake of the original Mario Bros, but the real draw for afficionados is the six additional bonus levels you unlock on finishing the game. They're fiendishly difficult to the point of almost feeling like "Kaizo" stages, with some secret placement so ingenious that I remember laughing out loud when I figured them out. There are some compromises in sound (naturally) and visuals (Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy doesn't really work properly here), but it's otherwise a terrific port of a terrific game.
Yoshi's Island DS (Nintendo DS, 2006)
Originally announced as Yoshi's Island 2, someone at Nintendo got cold feet right before release and stuck a DS on the end. This isn't a bad game, really, but it's a bit of a lesson in excess. On top of the usual Yoshi's Island gameplay, you've got a series of infants that Yoshi can now carry on his back, each offering a different ability - Baby Peach, for example, lets you float with a parasol, while Baby Mario lets you run faster. It's all pretty much good stuff, but the aggressive collectathon element of the original game is in overdrive here. Also, sloppier level design means it's very easy to get yourself into an area of the stage that you can't backtrack from, meaning it's much more challenging to get 100%. It's good stuff, and has a worse rep than it deserves, but it's still a lesser game than its predecessor. The slightly cheap feeling of the many reused assets doesn't really help.
Yoshi's New Island (3DS, 2014)
Criminally misunderstood, Yoshi's New Island is an excellent instalment in the series. It's usually mocked because of this song, which is a diagetic piece performed by the Yoshis themselves that only plays once at the start of the game. If you're able to get over this horror, you'll find a beautifully designed and super-friendly take on Yoshi's Island that actually streamlines my least favourite thing about the original - the collecting. Now, the sets of items are no longer all-or-nothing, meaning if you manage to get all five Flowers but miss one or two Red Coins, you'll still have the Flowers on your next run. This makes everything just less of a slog, because you don't need to be basically perfect all the time to get a full clear. There are issues with New Island - it's not exactly good-looking, and World 6 seems to have gone AWOL - but it offers far more fun than you'd think if you paid attention to its reception. A highly recommended game.