Contains cuteness, but lacks originality.
Back when the N64 was first released, there were a variety of solid titles from Nintendo and Rare. During a slow period in early 1998, a title known as Yoshi's Story was released. 3D was all the rage in those days, but Nintendo tried to bring back 2D gameplay in a new form. Yoshi's Story featured 2D side-scrolling gameplay, but used pre-rendered graphics to give the game a 3D look. Nintendo called this 2 and 1/2D, but essentially, it was a 2D platformer with glossy graphics. Some gamers scoffed at this new approach, while others gobbled it up expecting a new Yoshi's Island (SNES) with better graphics. I avoided the game not because of the graphics, but because of the mediocre reviews the title received. Not only did it sound like Yoshi's Story didn't bring anything new to the table, but it didn't even come close to Yoshi's Island in the gameplay department. I don't expect new titles to follow a formula set by previous games in a series, but I do expect great gameplay regardless of the form it comes in, and Yoshi's Story fails to deliver.
Yoshi's Story looks great on the surface--the graphics are colorful, almost to a sickeningly cute degree, but the core mechanics of the game underneath tarnish Yoshi's reputation. Yoshi was Mario's loveable dino pal in Super Mario World, and he took center stage in Yoshi's Island, which was one of the best platformers for the SNES. Yoshi carried baby Mario on his back through numerous innovative levels that looked marvelous thanks to the game's pastel art style. At the end of the perilous journey, Yoshi faced off against Baby Bowser. In Yoshi's Story, you no longer have to take care of Baby Mario. Instead, you control six different colors of Yoshis who all essentially control the same. Over the course of the game, you travel through six stages and complete them by eating thirty pieces of fruit in each level. Eventually, you'll face Baby Bowser who stole the "Super Happy Tree." The plot of Yoshi's Story makes the narrative in your typical Kirby game a masterpiece, so don't expect much.
Not only does the story fail to grab your interest, but the underlying gameplay is weak as well. Yoshi controls much different from Mario--he runs in an awkward manner and can hover in the air for a period of time, but your control over him is not as precise as in Mario games. You take Yoshi through six stages during each play-through of the game. This makes Yoshi's Story sound like a short game, but there are actually 24 total stages that you can play through if you find enough heart pieces in each level. This is a unique approach to a platform game--you play through the game in one sitting, but by searching for hearts you can unlock more courses in each world. Unfortunately, sometimes those hearts are difficult to find, and you may find yourself repeating the game over and over again just to play one or two new levels. This process is tedious and will certainly turn some gamers off. Once you unlock all the courses however, you can play them in any order you wish in Time Trial mode to your heart's content.
The levels in Yoshi's story are slightly interesting, but they lack substance. Sometimes fruit is lying right in front of you that you can swallow with a simple push of the button, while at other times, you have to shoot it down from bubbles with Yoshi's eggs. Yoshi can also pound the ground as in his previous game. The boss fights are ridiculously easy--they give you the strategy to beat them right before the fight. On one boss, you simply have to lick him to beat him, and he is hard to miss seeing that he is a huge, fluffy cloud. The levels have your standard twists and turns found in 2D games, and moments where you ride certain creatures to access other areas, but there is nothing that will really grab your attention and make you want to keep playing. Everything in Yoshi's Story has been done better in games on the SNES, so there really isn't any compelling reason to make you play more than once. For the most part, Yoshi's Story is extremely easy, but there are some frustrating jumps that are made difficult by Yoshi's squirmy nature, but luckily those are few and far between.
One of the most irritating parts of Yoshi's Story comes not from the gameplay, but from the horrible audio that accompanies the game. Yoshi's Story features a random mish-mash of songs that in some ways fits the cutesy visuals, but it definitely makes you want to turn the volume down. Unfortunately, the game features some horrible singing done by the Yoshis that actually makes the DK Rap look good. The singing is worse than most sounds you can imagine and will likely make you cringe. It occurs during the opening of the game, between levels, and during the ending credits, so be prepared to plug your ears or turn the volume down. The music played during the levels isn't nearly as bad as the singing, but it is nothing memorable. You won't be humming tunes in this game like you would with Mario or Zelda. Yoshi's Story actually features a random bit of rap in a couple stages, but it is all garbled except for the words, "Yoshi, Yoshi, Yoshi."
Yoshi's Story isn't a terrible game--it is playable and the visuals are pretty good, but it just isn't much fun. If the gameplay was broken, I'd give it a much lower score, but the technical aspects work just fine. The problem lies with the fact that the game just doesn't feel inspired. Everything in Yoshi's Story has been done before and much better I might add. The game is extremely short, and it becomes a laborious task having to play levels over and over to unlock other courses. I wouldn't recommend this game even for ten bucks, but remember, if you do purchase the game, wear some ear plugs, or do the wise thing and turn the volume down.