Sadly, Yoshi's Island didn't arrive in time... I had to make do with the original Super Mario World, along with a dozen other games already in my collection. (Gee, poor me!) That's fine, though, because this not only gave me a chance to work my way through Mario's first Super NES adventure, but it gave me something to look forward to when I returned home.
As it turns out, there was a lot I had to look forward to! The cartridge included two welcome surprises, including Mario vs. Donkey Kong (best described as a sequel to Donkey Kong '94 on the original Game Boy) and the Yoshi's Island instruction manual. Game Boy Advance games were shipped in flimsy cardboard boxes, so the boxes and manuals can be hard to come by. I thought I'd share my good fortune with the rest of you by posting a few pages from the manual right here. By the way, any resemblance this has to The Gay Gamer's Manual Stimulation series is purely coincidental. (Yeah, right.)
By now, you're probably already familiar with the story of Yoshi's Island. Turtle magician Kamek looks into his crystal ball and discovers that Mario will eventually be a major pain in the Koopa kingdom's collective keister, so he sends his lackeys to kidnap the child and his twin brother Luigi. Fortunately, a herd of wild Yoshis intervenes, rescuing the tyke before Kamek can get his hands on him. Now it's up to the Yoshis to free baby Luigi from Kamek's clutches and set time on its proper course.
You'll notice that Kamek is computer rendered in these pictures, which hints at Nintendo's original plans for Yoshi's Island. CGI was hot at the time thanks to films like Jurassic Park, and Nintendo wanted to capitalize on it by giving the game the same plastic sheen that defined the Donkey Kong Country games. Lead developer Shigeru Miyamoto detested the idea, and deliberately gave the game a childish, hand-drawn look to spite his corporate masters. Fortunately, that act of defiance paid off... Yoshi's Island is still considered a classic twenty years later, while many of its contemporaries that hopped aboard the CGI train were quickly forgotten. (Ask Sega how well Sonic 3D Blast or Vectorman worked out for them.)
Here's the control scheme for Yoshi's Island, which is... a bit of a handful if you're used to previous Mario games. Yoshi plays a lot differently than he did in Super Mario World, with a "flutter jump" that lets him briefly bend the laws of gravity and the ability to fling eggs at his enemies. I've always had trouble aiming eggs; the way the cursor turns on an axis always leaves me feeling like I'm not in complete control of my shots.
Ah yes, the famous Baby Mario scream. He starts crying when he's been knocked off Yoshi's back, which is an understandable reaction but nevertheless rubs most players the wrong way. I'd argue that Mario's squeals aren't any more irritating than Charles Martinet's cries of "Oh! Mama Mia!" in the previous Super Mario Advance games, but whatever.
All of these new abilities make Yoshi's Island a little intimidating to newcomers. I never really understood why Yoshi transforms into different vehicles, aside from giving Nintendo the chance to show off some nifty morphing effects. Also, you've got to ask yourself, "What's stopping Kamek from snatching Baby Mario while Yoshi is out joyriding as a helicopter?" Man, I just don't get it.
Also included on the cartridge, as was the case with every other Super Mario Advance game, is a loose conversion of the original Mario Bros. that's entertaining for maybe ten minutes. Why did Nintendo insist on putting this in four (wait, was it in Mario and Luigi as well? Make that five) different cartridges? You'd think people would have been plenty sick of it after playing it once. Anyway, it's here, and ready for you if you find yourself having too much fun with Yoshi's Island.
I can't think of anything else worth sharing from the Yoshi's Island instruction booklet, so here's a couple of fake advertisements from Valiant's Super Mario Bros. comic to round things out. This is a parody of the cola wars that raged in the 1980s. Bowser's hard sell (Koopa Kola or a painful death? Let me think about that for a while...) is really not much different from what Pepsi did with its Pepsi challenge, asking people to choose between their cola and a flat, warm glass of the competition.
And here's an ad for the similarly "appealing" Koopatone sunscreen. Evidently Bowser's got tanlines, even though this is the first time I've ever seen him in speedos. (Must be a bitch getting those on with that shell in the way.)
Judging from the single issue I've got, the Valiant Super Mario Bros. comic is a pretty good read... unfathomably corny, yes, but it does a better job of fleshing out the characters than Nintendo usually does. One of the stories in this issue has Wendy O. Koopa violently spurning the affections of a lovesick fish, and I honestly can't imagine her doing anything else.