Matt Green over at Press the Buttons recently came upon and posted the above piece of artwork by Michael Julius Peterson on deviantART, “Yoshi’s Island of Dreams.” He notes that “this is not a real Yoshi game, but it should be” while drawing comparisons between the composition of this piece and the art from Super Mario USA (the Japanese version of our Super Mario Bros. 2 and its forebearer, Yume K?j?: Doki Doki Panic.
Obviously, I liked the piece so much that I knew on the spot I had to share it here… and offer my own two cents, of course.
As noted, this isn’t for a real Yoshi game, but props to the artist for getting that sort of Yoshi’s Island watercolor style down. I also certainly concur with the notion that it would be great if Nintendo did make a game such as this, as there are a lot of interesting ideas here which could no doubt be expanded upon.
One thing which makes this so great is the simple idea of bringing Wart back, and rather than squaring him off against Mario and his friends, pitting him against Yoshi and friends instead. Wart has long been missing from the Mario– or any, for that matter– series of games, and this would give Yoshi his own nemesis to face instead of Baby Bowser and the Koopa Troop time and again.
Sure, one can argue that angle works since Yoshi’s Island games are basically prequels to the Super Mario titles, but much like Mario’s own issues with facing Bowser time and again, it runs the risk of getting a little stale when it seems like Bowser is the only bad guy left in the Mario universe (except when an RPG comes along). Super Princess Peach? Same deal.
Ironically, Luigi’s the only one who hasn’t had to face Bowser in his spin-off (I mean Luigi’s Mansion, for the record, not Mario is Missing), though King Boo even used a Bowser disguise. And he’d have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for that meddling professor.
Anyway, Wart makes sense for other reasons. Besides the fact that as a frog, one would expect him to have a tongue worthy of dueling Yoshi as seen above (an idea also seen in Randy Solem’s “Rise of the Mushroom Kingdom” series), Yoshi’s Island‘s number-one foot soldier also happens to be the same minions employed en masse by Wart in Super Mario Bros. 2: The Shy Guys.
The pic also shows a Little Mouser. Though the rename to “Squeeks” cuts almost any true tie to the little boss Mouser from Super Mario Bros. 2, one can easily imagine Wart casting his magic (as seen in Super Mario Advance) to give one of these diminutive rodents a more powerful, bomb-tossing form. And why not? He did the same thing to a Sidestepper, turning it into the boulder-hurling Clawgrip, and all they had in common was that both were crabs.
And then we have Birdo, another clever– perhaps even obvious, when one thinks about it– addition. Following her (yes, I know– just go with it) debut in Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo has often been depicted as a sort of partner and female counterpart to Yoshi, as both are fictional dinosaur-type creatures who attack with a near-limitless supply of eggs. In fact, Birdo makes a good foil to Yoshi’s egg-throwing in much the same way as Wart could counter his tongue.
By including Birdo here, there is actually some story potential. We see her serving her old master in this picture, but what if she switches sides at some point? Love is a strange thing, and some may argue that there is no love stranger than Yoshi and Birdo’s.
Another plus to using Wart is that he has his own distinct feel from Bowser, particularly in his environment. Bowser is generally known for residing in a barren, charred land of dead trees and molten lava, among other things. Meanwhile, Wart carries a more regal bearing about him, living high atop the world he rules in a golden castle in the clouds. Sure, that may not evoke the same sense of danger that trudging through Dark Land does, but that’s the point– evil comes in many forms, and Wart’s castle is no less risky to set foot into.
Of course, Wart’s not the only one with an army here. As we can see, Yoshi has brought in some prehistoric reinforcements!
In Yoshi’s Island, there wasn’t really much in the way of variety regarding player characters, as all you controlled were Yoshis of different colors. This continued in Yoshi’s Story and Yoshi’s Island DS with little change. In Yoshi’s Story, the colors only affected the benefits of eating matching fruit and Shy Guy colors; in Yoshi’s Island DS, different babies would ride atop the Yoshis, offering them different abilities and egg attributes.
The pic above gives us something fresh, new, and awesome: Different dinosaurs to control! In Super Mario World, just about every non-Yoshi dinosaur was out to get you, from the durable Rexes to the fire-breathing Reznors to the stampeding Dino Rhinos.
Rather than more Yoshis, the score is instead evened by a Yoshi-styled triceratops named Trump, a pterodactyl named Pterapal, and an apatosaurus named Big Al. No abilities are described, but the pterodactyl would no doubt provide some interesting flying and gliding mechanics, while the triceratops is clearly made for ramming, and could probably break through walls rather easily, too. And sure, we already have a triceratops in Reznor, but as we can see with the Mouser example, that’s never stopped Nintendo before.
The apatosaurus-styled character, on the other hand, is difficult to pinpoint as far as abilities. He might have some advantage in the water (as Dorrie from Super Mario 64 and New Super Mario Bros. does), or he might be good at causing tremors (if one were to take a cue from the Transformers Dinobot Sludge, that is).
Edit: Michael has offered some clarification on the matter:
I was thinking of having them act as transformation replacements, still fully controllable, yet no time limits… so more like Animal Buddies in the Donkey Kong Country series. Yoshi passes along baby Mario from dino to dino, just as he did in the first Yoshi’s Island, but now, passing along the baby would be a mechanic of who you’re controlling (and if say there’s a co-op multiplayer mode, whoever holds the baby would be the leader of the group, and as long as the baby is alive, the game continues to go).
In addition to playing a bit like Rambi the rhinoceros, the triceratops is a bit of an homage to Poochy as well (and why I placed Poochy on top of him), only fully controllable and far less annoying to play as (sorry, Poochy). The pterodactyl is like the helicopter, but perhaps also a bit like Squawks from the DKC series, full of egg ammunition (being Yoshi based, eggs would be nice for the other dinos to have as well).
The apatosaurus is indeed more of a Dorrie-like character, acting as a platform, perhaps in higher mountainous areas. Not nearly as exciting as the other two fully-controllable characters, but a friendly dinosaur of his size would be a great addition and would spice up the gameplay (plus, stages where you take a ride on him could play out like an excellent forced scrolling shooter of sorts, really giving Yoshi an opportunity to use his eggs without the worry of maneuvering through the stage).
I think just having dinosaur friends would excite and surprise players as they go through the game, as well as giving them a bit of a diversion with gameplay.
As for Baby Mario? I can take or leave him, though the baby-catching mechanic admittedly gives the Yoshi’s Island games a unique “health” dynamic. But much like the constant reuse of Bowser, it might be nice if they went for something– or someone– else, as bringing Mario back to the island so many times almost seems contrived.
I think that about does it here. I really love this piece, and as you can see, it just brought so much to my mind all at once. It’s quite well-realized, and if one were to show me this as the first bit of info on a new Yoshi’s Island, I would instantly be sold.
Of course, this also brings with it the disappointment of the fact that this is, again, a fan picture, and Nintendo probably has nothing like this in mind for Yoshi’s Island, if anything at all. Let’s just hope that when and if they do come up with something, it can spark the imagination and be as inventive as this is.
Dorrie image courtesy of Super Mario Wiki