When I played Yoshi’s New Island back at E3 2013, I kind of hated it. Bland graphics and recycled game design are not how one goes about paying homage to one of the greatest video games of all time, dammit.
But the final version of the game has improved on at least one front, thankfully. It’s too early to say if the game itself is a worthy successor to the original just yet (or rather, it’s too early for me to be legally allowed to weigh in), but at least it no longer looks butt-ugly.
Unlike the folks behind The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Takashi Tezuka and Arzest evidently weren’t content to leave their game as a dull, flat, polygonal effigy of a Super NES classic. While that’s exactly what I saw back at E3, at some point someone went in and said, “Hey guys, what if this game weren’t an ugly disappointment?” And so they gave it a touch of style.
The funny thing is, they really didn’t do that much to change the game’s visuals, so far as I can tell. It’s still a bunch of polygonal critters running around in the exact same polygonal world, a 3D simulation of Yoshi’s Island‘s visual style with fairly low-impact character models. And yet! The difference now is that those polygons have been drenched with a bunch of textures to make them look like real-world materials. Where before the game consisted of nearly solid-colored polygons awkwardly smooshed against backgrounds designed to look like fabric cut-outs and pastel illustrations, now everything boasts an artsy veneer. Yoshi, his enemies, and even background elements like pipes look more like a felt board diorama come to life than a cheap 3D game. The game already had some textures on its assets, but those details are far more prominent now, and it makes a world of difference.
I won’t deny that I still prefer the bold, MS Paint style of the original Yoshi’s Island. But if we must give into the tyranny of polygons, this is a pretty good way to go about it. I’m just impressed how a seemingly incidental detail – a minor tweak to the graphical patina! – makes such a huge difference. Because down inside, aren’t we all graphics whores at heart?