This week, we’re going on safari in Jewellery Land and hunting for Goombas, in the next Super Scope game on my list – Yoshi’s Safari.
Name: Yoshi’s Safari
Released on: SNES
Original Release Date: 1993
It’s funny, isn’t it? I’ve been reviewing every Super Scope-supported release in chronological order, and it’s taken me five games to get to one featuring Mario. You’d think that Nintendo would have started with their best foot forward with their support of their 16-bit light gun peripheral, but not this time. Even the Super NES Mouse launched with a Mario game in the form of Mario Paint, but the Super Scope got short shrift in this regard.
Never mind, for we’ve finally come to the moustachioed one’s maiden voyage in terms of light gun games, albeit one where his name isn’t even in the title. For this is another of Yoshi’s non-canonical starring roles, and in the case of Yoshi’s Safari, you play the entirety of the game in Mario’s point of view, riding upon the green dinosaurs back.
Bowser and those dastardly Koopa Kids have taken up shop in the far-off reaches of Jewellery Land, which, you’ll be disappointed, is not where Mr T. lives. Nope, this is the domain of King Fret and Prince Pine, who have been captured by Bowser and his cronies. No, I have no idea who they are either, but it makes a change from rescuing Princess Peach – Sidenote, this game is the very first Western Mario release to name the Princess by her original Japanese moniker, Peach instead of the well-known name of Toadstool.
Anyway, Jewellery Land doesn’t appear to be too different to the standard Mushroom Kingdom locales. Laid before you are 12 levels in total, all ticking the requisite Mario theme boxes. You’ve got standard land-based areas, underwater bits, firey environments and more, but the aim of the game remains the same. Get from point A to point B in a linear fashion, ensuring you do so safely by blowing a path through every nasty that gets in your way. Only this time, there’s less stomping and more using the very un-Mario like method of heavy artillery.
Yes, this is an on-rails shooter, but one where the action is head on as you ride down Mode 7 pathways and mowing down enemies before they get too close to you. It’s sort of like Mario Kart, only with linear tracks and guns. And it really is linear too – You might get the option to go down a different path by shooting a gate (or not), but it’s a decision that rarely affects anything other than maybe a powerup or a few more enemies. A handful of situations occur where you need to jump over large gaps, but these instances are telegraphed well in advance.
The standard set of Super Mario’s rogue’s gallery litter each stage – Your Koopa Troopers, Bullet Bills and even the occasional Hammer Brother, every once in a while. They’ll all be throwing themselves at you with reckless abandon, which is a problem for you as while the bazooka held upon your shoulder has an infinite clip of ammunition, it’s ability to fire rapidly whittles down a gauge that when depleted, considerably slows down your rate of fire – Not an ideal situation when a horde of Koopa Troopas are bearing down on you.
A random thought – Has anyone ever established a name for a group of Koopa Troopers? I mean, you’ve got a murder of crows, a pride of lions. Is it a Koop of Troopers? A swarm of Koopas? Answers in the comments, please.
Anyway, where was I. So, the longer you keep the trigger held, the gauge goes down – So, you’ve got to learn when to just stop firing for a few seconds to let that sucker fill up again. Overwise, there’ll be a murder of Bullet Bills coming at you and in no time, you’ll have the offensive capabilities of a potato gun.
Not that it’s a terribly difficult juggling act. There’s always plenty of moments to let off the trigger for a second or two, and while things do get a little chaotic every now and then, the difficulty never gets too intense. Each level barely lasts more than 5 minutes or so, and with regular health power-ups, I didn’t lose a single life. In fact, I didn’t see the health gauge fall below halfway. Even the end of level bosses weren’t too much of a problem. A shame as the design of these bosses a pretty cool, from the Koopa Kids in mech suits and various craft, to a fight with Wendy O’Koopa where you have to shoot an anvil to drop on her head.
I played Yoshi’s Safari from start to finish in a brisk one-hour session, at which point you’re given a code to enter that unlocks the game’s Hard Mode. This makes for a much more challenging experience, and ultimately a more satisfying one – The levels and bosses have switched around, more enemies come at you, and your time limit for finishing each stage is reduced. The cutscenes that play occasionally also have slightly amended dialogue, which is a nice touch.
There’s also a pretty limited 2-player co-op mode in which one player fires the Super Scope as usual, but the other player uses a standard pad to strafe Yoshi left and right and jump when required, slow down and even duck. Ducking is surprisingly useful as in the single-player mode, enemies will regularly fly in front of Yoshi’s head and if you shoot him, he will take damage (and give you a shady look at the same time). This is but another example of Mario’s continued abuse of Yoshi – In-between levels he even takes potshots at our green-scaled hero. What the Hell, Mario? Didn’t Donkey Kong Jr. teach you not to mistreat animals?
HIGHLIGHTS: A fun blast with bright colourful visuals and a couple of fun bosses.
LOW POINTS: Too short, and possibly a little too repetitive in such a short time. Also, I cannot condone the continued abuse of Yoshi.
VERDICT: An on-rails light gun shooter that tries to play to the Super Nintendo’s strengths, and is pretty fun while it lasts. You’ll quickly be reaching for that Hard Mode code though.