A faithful companion. A star in the making. Adoration, rejection, and finally, a triumphant return.
This is Yoshi's story… the real story.
The year: 1990. With the release of the SNES, the limitations of the NES no longer forced Mario to be mountless. In stepped Yoshi, an inexperienced green dinosaur with a passion for licking things, cast as the companion for a worldwide celebrity… and the pressure was on for the performance of a lifetime. With Miyamoto watching closely, unhesitant to feed Yoshi's contracts into a shredder, Super Mario World debuted, and one thing was clear:
The world LOVED Yoshi.
The whirlwinds of fame swept over Yoshi like a fat man at Hometown Buffet. After being added to the roster of Super Mario Kart, offers began rolling in for merchandising, guest appearances, and, most of all, spin-off games. Halfway through 1992, the green dinosaur could flaunt a self-titled puzzle game, Yoshi. Soon after came Yoshi's Cookie and Yoshi's Safari, an unconventional FPS.
In 1996, Yoshi was awarded the starring role in his debut game's prequel, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, proving he was leading-man material. Shockingly, Yoshi was not accompanied by the heroic Mario that audiences had grown to idolise. Instead, Yoshi lugged around a "Baby Mario" – Yoshi was the hero. Mario was the bit player.
Later that year, Yoshi was cast back into the role of mere transportation for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. It is unconfirmed whether or not this reduced role was the result of intense negotiations by Mario's high-powered lawyers. rumours of the plumber's waning fondness for his companion began messing with Yoshi's abnormally large head after he was almost completely left out of Super Mario 64. He appeared only on the castle roof, uttering a horrific typo:
"Mario!!! It that really you???"
Embarrassing was an understatement. Was Yoshi's star fading? Of course not.
Or was it?
While racing in the next installment of Mario Kart 64 in 1997, Yoshi made up his mind.
It was comeback time.
Yoshi's Story hit the scene in 1998, a game of implausibly cute proportions. Yoshi was in demand again, featured in Super Smash Bros, Mario Party games, and even a cameo appearance as a portrait in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Enter the Nintendo DS. Yoshi was made a primary hero of Super Mario 64 DS, an unspoken apology for his absence in the original version. Yoshi Touch & Go. Yoshi Topsy-Turvy. Even a contract for Yoshi's Island DS. By 2005, Yoshi was tongue-grabbing his way back to the top.
Until the unspeakable happened.
New Super Mario Bros debuted in 2006 and became one of the best-selling DS titles to date, garnering new fans and enchanting nostalgic ones – all while shunning Yoshi. Without even a reference, the green dinosaur was rejected from the classic game's DS revamp.
The following year brought about even more heartburn heartache for the hungry humble reptile. Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii became another smash hit… and another game sans Yoshi. His career seemed to be morphing into that of a mere supporting player – no self-titles, no spotlight, no more imported melons at the craft service table.
But the fat Italian in the overalls had a different plan for his compagno. With an outstretched, white-gloved hand, Mario welcomed Yoshi into the wildly popular New Super Mario Bros Wii, and suddenly, with Mario on Yoshi's saddled back reminiscent of the good ol' days, everything felt right with the world.
Cut to May 2010. Yoshi's latest role could potentially be his best performance yet. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will feature the friendly dinosaur audiences know and love, with a little added spice. As one of the most highly anticipated aspects of the game, Yoshi will get special power-ups in the form of food, allowing him to run swiftly or even float into the air. His "flutter jump" and tongue-grabbing action will make for even more precarious platforming and his ability to swallow enemies and spit them back out will be utilised for finding secrets and defeating bosses.
Take away the merchandising, publicity and painfully long list of hokey supporting roles, and what you're left with is an unexpected hero and a loyal companion. His career has had highs and lows, but if fans can stick by him through blatant typos, that constipated flutter jump sound effect, and his odd relationship with that Birdo thing, we won't be forgetting about Yoshi anytime soon.
Lisa Foiles is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as a graphic designer and writes for her game site, Save Point. For more info, visit Lisa's official website.