What’s Up With Yoshi?

Yoshi’s game has two names. The first, and most often used, is ‘Yoshi’s Story’, the name Nintendo has decided upon for the game’s release outside Japan. The other, the one his mum and his Japanese friends still use, is the original title, Yoshi’s Island 64’. Shrouded in a seemingly magical cloak of intrigue and suspense which is then surrounded by five burly bodyguards from Peckham and the whole lot bunged in a lead-lined vault with steel walls 20-inches thick, this is one fiercely guarded title. Not even the Nintendo PR people have been able to play the game. But remember, it IS only a game.

The plot, we’ve nevertheless discovered, goes something like this: Yoshi’s enemies have incarcerated our good friend in a picture book and it’s our job to get him out of it and home in time for tea. How much more motivation does anyone need? 33% bigger than originally planned (now 128 Megabit), the game has you playing as up to six different-coloured Yoshis in an entirely sprite-based adventure. As in the SNES incarnation, eggs will serve as projectiles, but (see Miyamoto’s Story below) greater things are envisioned for the ovoids.

We’ve all heard that it’s a 2D game but looks like it plays in 3D. Well, that’s because the designers have used cunningly used the process of scaling. Yoshi grows bigger and smaller as he moves into and out of the screen to give an impression of depth to his surroundings, as do elements of the background. And with up to 30 people working on developing the title, Nintendo’s developers should get reasonably close to realising Mr Miyamoto’s vision of total gaming immersion.

Miyamoto’s Story
Mr Miyamoto is obviously relishing his role as Yoshi’s guardian angel. Tantalisingly, he’s playing his cards as close to his chest as ever, while continually dropping hints on re-invented gameplay and ‘unique’ exploitation of the N64 Controller. So this is his story, culled from recent interviews:

“Yoshi’s Island has special graphical style which we want people to view as a ‘storybook’. It’s a 2D environment, yes, but the experience of playing Yoshi’s Island will draw you in, hke you’re really being sucked into the book, into his world. People will be amazed at the graphical intensity of the game and the attention to detail. This is nothing like the 2D games players are used to. It’s a complete departure, even from the original SNES version. Don’t worry about Baby Mario not being in it — this is Yoshi’s game! He’ll be facing new and old enemies and a boss which will take your breath away. Coupled with the way we’ve found of using the Controller, you’ll have enough to worry about, believe me!”

Max Everingham’s Story
If anyone should know the latest on Yoshi’s Story, we reasoned, it’s our man on the streets of Tokyo…

You’ve heard enough, I should imagine, from all the other sources, that I thought I’d keep my bit really, really short. And that decision had nothing to do with the fad that my normally forthcoming Nintendo contacts have refused to answer any of my questions. Oh no.

But I will say this: I think Yoshi’s Story’s detractors (and amazingly, there are loads already) are missing the point. Yes, the N64 was primarily conceived.

The PR Lady’s Story
Nintendo are releasing a 2D scrolling game! The main concept is that you will have great fun playing an action game which has beautiful graphics. There are six different Yoshis (six colours). The hand-drawn ‘feel’ has been dramatically improved from the Super Famicom days, and a wonderful, graphically-rich world spreads out before you. Some of the characters are here from the previous game, but you’ll notice big improvements [‘grade-up’].

To throw eggs you use the 3D stick, but it also does several new, interesting things. And what will the big boss, Koopa, bring to the encounter?
“Now a little about the story. Yoshi’s world has been changed to a picture book by magic, so how will he get it back to normal?

“Yoshi’s Island also has an entertaining bonus game. We’ve exploited the Nintendo 64’s powerful characteristics to produce stunning graphics and sound, and the game writes a new page in the annals of gaming history. You will experience an incredible, fun hand-drawn world, so please just wait a little longer.”

N.B. There’s a note on the press release to say that ‘Yoshi’s Island’ is a working title.

The Developer’s Story
Placing an arm around Max’s shoulder (telephonically, obviously), we persuaded him to try a bit harder, and interrogate Nintendo’s Japanese headquarters directly:

Max: What sort of things happen in the game?
Them: We can’t answer that question.
Max: Is there any dialogue in it?
Them: We cannot answer each question from everyone.
Max: Can you answer any questions?
Them: No.
Max: Who’s in charge of the project? 4
Them: Mr Hongo.
Max: May I speak to him?
Them: No. He’s on vacation.
Max: Oh.

And there we have it. Not much to go on, you might imagine. But by putting this information together with the screenshots that’ve so far made it out of Nintendo’s HO it’s possible to put together a picture of a brilliant game, bursting with the imagination that fills everything Shigeru Miyamoto is involved with. Don’t expect a straight left-to-right platform trek in the traditional fashion. Instead prepare yourself for twists and turns that exploit the N64’s power in a completely different way from the 3D games we’ve seen so far.

Although it’s still meant to come out in Japan before Christmas (and we’ll bring you a full review as soon as it does), Yoshi’s Story won’t make it to the western hemisphere until February at the earliest because of the time it’ll take to translate.