Yoshi's Safari
  • Genre:
    • Light Gun Shooter
  • Platform:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 07/14/1993
    • US September 1993
    • UK 1993
Score: 75%

This review was published on 01/20/2016.

Yoshi's Safari is a light gun shooter video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in Japan on July 14, 1993, North America in September 1993, and Europe in 1993. The game makes use of a Super Nintendo peripheral known as the Super Scope, which is basically the successor to the NES Zapper for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES Zapper is designed to resemble a pistol, whereas the Super Scope is shaped like a bazooka. Both the NES Zapper and the Super Scope are light guns. That's to say, guns that detect light, not guns that are light in weight. This amazing technology allows players to physically point at the television screen to shoot targets in the game. Not many games used the Super Scope, so it wasn't a wildly supported accessory. Yoshi's Safari successfully utilizes the Super Scope in an enjoyable manner, but it's a bit short lived and lacks some depth.

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Bowser, King of the Koopas, a turtle-like gang of miscreants that terrorize the Mushroom Kingdom, is up to no good again. This time, he and his evil offspring, the Koopalings, have seized the precious crystals of a neighboring kingdom called Jewelry Land. Prince Pine and King Fret, the rulers of Jewelry Land, were also kidnapped by Bowser and his phony cronies. Once again, it's up to an overweight Italian plumber named Mario and his pet dinosaur, Yoshi, to save the day. There are a few notable things worth mentioning here. One, this is the first Mario game in which the Princess is referred to as Peach in North America instead of Toadstool. Two, this is the last time the Koopalings made an official appearance until Mario and Luigi: Super Star Saga was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. Three, Princess Peach actually doesn't get kidnapped this time! Aside from that random trivia, there's not much else to say about the plot in Yoshi's Safari.

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Breaking the fourth wall, Mario shoots down foes with the Super Scope as he rides Yoshi along a linear path. The Super Nintendo's exclusive Mode-7 capability is used to render the flat landscapes, allowing players to see what's coming up ahead in a first-person perspective. In a way, this is like a Mario themed first-person shooter. Yoshi's head can be seen from behind as he walks forward; you can even shoot the back of his head if you're a heartless fiend. Besides making him jump, you can't actually influence Yoshi's movements, so the focus is entirely on using the Super Scope to shoot stuff and avoid taking damage to your life bar. There's a rapid fire function to make the shooting easier, but you have to be aware of the power meter, which goes down as shots are fired. If fully depleted, the rate of fire will greatly decrease, and the power meter can only be replenished when you aren't shooting. This prevents you from mindlessly blasting away at the screen. Additionally, there's a co-op mode that lets a second player assume the role of Yoshi, but it's not very satisfying, because their control is extremely limited.

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There are twelve gems to retrieve and twelve stages to conquer. The game is divided into two portions; the Light Realm and the Dark Realm. You start off in the Light Realm, and once you finish all seven of its stages, you then move onto the Dark Realm to do the rest. The nifty thing here is that the stages can be tackled in a nonlinear fashion in each individual Realm, though the stages themselves are still fairly linear. However, the stages are still numbered on the map and they do increase in difficulty depending on the number, therefore giving players a suggested order. Considering that, the marginal nonlinearity is a bit jarring, because it's essentially superfluous. You can also replay stages, but again, doing so serves no real purpose. Both of these things do allow for more player freedom, though, and that's never a bad thing.

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Enemies are the main focus of the many stages in Yoshi's Safari. A constant barrage of baddies will swoop in from all sides of the screen in an attempt to assault Mario and Yoshi. Most of these are recognizable creatures from the Super Mario series, like Goombas, Koopas, and Bullet Bills. Because you're not really able to dodge attacks, the best defense is a good offense. In other words, shoot everything down before anything even has a chance of hurting you. Also, there'll be moments where you'll have to jump over pits or other hazardous traps, though unlike most other Mario games, this will never be the focus of a stage. Occasionally, you'll be able to take alternate paths by shooting at a gate, but these still lead to the same destination and often don't differ that much from the normal path. The alternate paths do sometimes have extra power-ups, though. It gives you something to shoot for, pun intended. The stages are all fun enough, but they're all a little too short and simple.

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During stages, question mark blocks with wings will sometimes fly across the screen. These first appeared in Super Mario World and will house valuable items deep within them. In order to acquire their mysterious contents, one must simply shoot them with the Super Scope. Some items are instantly used once found, but others can only be used during bosses. Items include things like mushrooms that restore some of your life meter, 1ups that grant extra lives, clocks that add to your timer, stars that make you invincible for a brief period of time, nuts that increase your defensive power, and the Fire Flower, which extends the power meter. Getting these goodies can turn the tide in your favor, making it prudent to hit blocks whenever they appear. It's a pretty standard power-up system, but it does add a miniscule amount of depth to the game.

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Bosses are a big deal in Yoshi's Safari. Well, not really; they're quite easy, actually. There are mini-bosses and main bosses, and both of them will want to ruin your day by ruining your day. Miniature bosses will appear somewhere in the middle of the stage and will often be enemies that are a little tougher than the rest of Bowser's minions, like Hammer Bros. As for the main bosses, they exclusively appear at the end of stages and mostly consist of fights against the Koopalings. The Koopalings are small in stature, so they usually make up for that by piloting giant robots armed with countless cannons. A few of the Koopalings will defy this convention, though, like how Wendy pops out of pipes to throw bombs at you and you have to drop an anvil on her head by shooting it. For all these fights, your only means of defense is to shoot their projectiles down before they hit you. Sometimes you'll have to decide whether to shoot their shots or shoot them, striking a balance that keeps you alive, but also results in the boss' demise. This combination of action and strategy makes the bosses the highlight of the game.

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It may lack an actual safari, but Yoshi's Safari is still a pretty decent time. As far as light gun games go, Yoshi's Safari isn't half bad. It's got decent graphics, okay music that you won't be able to hear due to the Super Scope, pleasantly paced stages, and reasonably good boss battles. The game is a bit on the overly simple side, though. Outside of the boss fights, which do require a bit of strategy, there's not much more to the game other than shooting anything that moves. Many of the enemies also get recycled repeatedly throughout the game. It's still good fun in spite of that, but the game could have more going on. Yoshi's Safari is a good way to get some use out of the Super Scope, though you shouldn't get one solely for this game.

Word Count: 1,348

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