I’ll be honest: I’m not excited whatsoever about the upcoming Yarn Yoshi for Wii U. And this is coming from someone who used to be a Yoshi nut and who actually rather enjoyed Kirby’s Epic Yarn. It’s just not at all what I wanted out of the next Yoshi game.
In fact, I can’t think of anybody who seriously wanted this out of the next Yoshi game. (Feel free to contradict me.) I’d rather Nintendo stop pushing their bizarre “style” experiments and instead start focusing on building the sequels that fans have been looking forward to.
Yes, it’s mostly about the art style. The game has this yarn and cloth thing going on – a style that’s being directly continued from 2010′s Epic Yarn. It’s all very hipster. But it’s not appealing. I don’t want the Yoshi franchise to look like it’s set in a nursery. I definitely don’t want it to literally be set in a nursery (see the screenshot at the top of the page).
To be honest, the style of the original Yoshi’s Island on SNES was already pretty iffy, and despite Yoshi’s immense popularity, the game saw a massive sales nosedive compared to most of the other “Mario”-branded games on the platform. Yoshi’s Story tried to change things up by being a bit more neutral in terms of the way the characters looked – but then they added in this bizarre patchwork/cardboard concept that made most of the levels… well, not feel like they were part of a real world at all.
The truth of the matter is, Yoshi games don’t need a distinctive art style. They certainly don’t need one that’s designed to look like it’s targeted primarily at children. Seriously, what kid goes out and buys something that looks like it’s for kids? They buy stuff that looks like it’s cool.
What Yoshi needs to be successful and to stand out from the crowd is to look phenomenal on a more neutral level – none of this “unique art style” stuff, since it’s been more or less proven that it doesn’t increase the appeal – and to add in its unique stylistic feel at the gameplay level.
Yarn Yoshi appears to be doing the opposite. It looks like it takes most of its gameplay cues directly from Kirby’s Epic Yarn, while at the same time adapting its art style to the Yoshi universe. Notice those beads? They’re a direct rip. There is no unique style to the game… because it just re-uses the style from Epic Yarn.
This is not the correct direction to continue an existing franchise. Nintendo properties are not guinea pigs with which Nintendo can continue to test out their gameplay and art style experiments. They have a customer base, with certain already-established desires and expectations. These constant efforts to change the way these franchises are presented to the customers have been very unhealthy for the success of many of Nintendo’s franchises, including Kirby (which has been all over the map) and Zelda (with its divided fan-base). Meanwhile, the franchises that focus most on consistency have been the ones with the greatest and most consistent success: Mario, Pokémon, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros..
It’s clear from the behavior patterns of Nintendo’s customers that what they desire is consistency, with innovation arriving at the level of new worlds to see and fresh content to consume. Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t seem interested in that. They’d rather “surprise” people with their Unique Art Styles™ and New Ways to Play™. Well, I’ve bought it for long enough – and I’m getting kind of sick of watching Nintendo crash and burn with each attempt when there’s a better way to move their franchises forward sitting right under their noses.