perjantai 11. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Yoshi's Safari (1993)

Genre(s): Shooter
Released: 1993
Available on: SNES
Developer(s): Nintendo
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Players: 1-2

Super Scope was released for the SNES in 1992, to very rough response from the public who found the much-anticipated light bazooka painful to use, and expensive in the long run - the thing practically ate through a total of six of even the most durable batteries in hours. In an attempt to save Super Scope, Nintendo came up with the concept of a rail shooter starring Mario and Yoshi, possibly selling Yoshi as the main character to avoid watering Mario down if something went wrong. Whatever the commercial plan was behind it, or whether there was any or not, Yoshi's Safari is not a great game - however, as the only shooting game in the whole Mario franchise, it's an unavoidable curiosity for a serious completist.

Fire. Fire. Rapid fire. Jump. Rapid fire. Jump. Fire. The end.

Gonna pump you full of... blue balls.
For once, Bowser has left Mushroom Kingdom alone, but instead invaded the neighboring kingdom of Jewelry Land and stolen the 12 gems which make it one, and kidnapped its two rulers, King Fret and Prince Pine. Princess Peach sends Mario and Yoshi on a journey to return the gems and make Jewelry Land whole again.

What makes Yoshi's Safari a very hard game for me to approach right off the bat is that it requires the Super Scope to function. Unlike T2 - The Arcade Game, which I reviewed some time ago, gave the player the option of using the SNES Mouse or a standard controller. The game sucked, but at least it had less painful control options available. In this day and age we have emulators, which allow players to use a mouse to simulate a Super Scope, but back in 1993, Yoshi's Safari was pure agony. Not only was the Super Scope an expensive torture device which picked your arm and shoulder apart piece by piece, Yoshi's Safari was a game that had no save feature, and it required quick and precise aiming. It's one of the few games I've played using a real Super Scope, and just 45 minutes of continuous gameplay were enough to flare up my neck and shoulder area for days. By using a mouse, anyone can beat the game in that same time. It's the Scope itself that made the game so hard.

Once again, we're dealing with a Yoshi game that isn't really a Yoshi game, just like Yoshi and Yoshi's Cookie before it. Yoshi's depicted as the sole protagonist in the box art, and of course the game's title is Yoshi's Safari, but Mario's the one holding the virtual Super Scope and the leader of this little field trip. So, it's another Mario game, and my very strong guess is that Nintendo wanted this to be a Mario game to its very title, but didn't want to sell it as one just in case they fucked up real bad, so they placed the potential blame on Yoshi. Poor dinosaur - well, he's the one that laughed last when the masterpiece Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island finally came out.

The game utilizes Mode 7 to the absolute maximum, which leaves the sprites and the far background kind of flat and shallow, but all in all, the game looks all right - the large, good-looking boss sprites compensate for the lamer elements. There are no credits at all, but I can say for sure that neither Koji Kondo or Soyo Oka had nothing to do with the soundtrack. There's no classic Mario music at all, and the original soundtrack is uninspired and unmemorable. Hell, even everything released under Mario's name by other game developers have more real spirit in them. Yes, even all the crap made by The Software Toolworks.

Wizardry doesn't stand a chance against good,
old-fashioned fire power.
There are rail shooters which I liked as a kid, and still do. None of them were released before the era of the 32-bit consoles, though, and in the big picture Yoshi's Safari is no exception to the strict rule of the earlier ones being bland games with no longevity. Nintendo's always had the tendency to try to colour up even the most black 'n' white genre in any way they can, in better and worse, so the stage layout's quite unique in comparison to any of the game's peers. Yoshi navigates the paths automatically, while your job (as Mario) is to shoot everything that moves. Every once in a while there's a chasm or some other hazard which you have to leap over by aiming high and using the cursor button. Sounds easy, but success is frustratingly random. As long as you have coins in your possession, you won't lose a life by falling into a trap. Some enemies spawn with the sole purpose of pushing you into water or a chasm.

Mario's Scope has a pathetic power meter in the beginning, which practically means that you can't use rapid fire too much before overheating the thing. The power meter is upgraded by collecting fire flowers. There are many other power-ups, but none which would upgrade your actual fire power.

One of the greatest video game villains from
a different perspective, it's cool.
Each stage has a boss, and perhaps a sub-boss as well. The game is divided into two parts. The first part takes place on the larger of the two continents of Jewelry Land, and has Koopalings for bosses. The second part features other classic bosses such as Kamek (who is still known by his previous name Magikoopa), Big Boo, and of course, Bowser himself. The boss fights are perhaps best of all that Yoshi's Safari has to offer. They're not all just of the simple variety of aiming any single spot and raping it with rapid fire; they range from picking your opponent apart piece by piece, to taking a more strategic approach and keeping an eye on other targets on the screen besides the boss and figuring out how you could use them to your advantage in the fight.

Like I said, the difficulty of Yoshi's Safari is mostly based on how hard and tedious the Super Scope is to use, and the fact that there is not even a password system that would let you rest your limbs every now and then. Playing the game on an emulator and using a mouse sheds a little light on how much easier the game would've been if the Scope had been more like the classic Nintendo Zapper.

Yoshi's Safari might provide some light entertainment to the most dedicated Mario fan, but even the familiar characters and atmosphere don't make it any less of a bore than any other rail of the fourth generation.

Graphics : 7.7
Sound : 5.0
Playability : 6.0
Challenge : 5.5
Overall : 5.9


a.k.a. Yoshi's Road Hunting (JAP)

GameRankings: 75.00%

The first game in which the Princess was referred to as Princess Peach.

The last official Mario game to feature the seven Koopalings until Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003).

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