Nintendo is no stranger to charming mascots. From Pokemon to Mario, there is a lot of cute and cuddly characters to pick from, but that doesn’t mean there is not room for more. With thunderous footsteps, in walks Yono, an almost god-like elephant with a magical, fate-filled destiny to be fulfilled. Yono is no average elephant, but rather a celestial one with some big responsibilities to see to in a world that is on the brink of dismay. He is also incredibly cute, so that kinda balances out the whole god-like, potentially war bearing story that lies ahead for the young celestial mammal. The story of Yono is one filled with charm and color, but he would not be an elephant without some rough edges to grind out now would he?
Yono is an adventure game that sets you off as the titular character on a quest to, well, of that I am not so sure exactly. You head off from town to town and kind of get thrown into any conflict that may be there, which elephants of Yono’s nature are known to do. Celestial Elephants only appear once every millennia, so Yono’s sudden appearance is a rare and welcomed site, but also a sign that bad things are to come as conflict is inevitable. During your adventures, you will help Yono use his undeniable charm, natural etiquette, and great decision making skills in attempts at making the lives of those around you better. It’s a sort of coming of age story, but with a magical elephant. Yono is not alone on his travels, as he is accompanied by a rebellious young princess and an unfocused young monk. Both of these characters are eager to find their paths in life alongside Yono, who serves as their ticket across the lands. You meet a variety of other people of all different backgrounds along your way, which expands young Yono’s views on the world. From royalty and monks, to a robotic race and another that is made up of the undead, each is unique and have their own story to tell.
While Yono does not mind learning about these stories of the people who currently inhabit earth, Yono is here to make his mark and find out what is story is destined to be. With that comes the aforementioned tasks in the aforementioned cities. The underlying issue spreading across the land is the potential war that may eventually rage if the civil unrest were ever to boil over. The robotic race known as the Mekani are upset with the humans in control for putting such a tighthold on raw materials and for putting such high tariffs on imported good. The undead race known as the Bonewights are facing troubles expanding due to an unknown evil, and to keep it from spreading, they sheltered themselves from the rest of the world. The Queen of the humans rules with an ironfist, and implements a very materialistic and controlling lifestyle to those around her. These are all pretty serious predicaments for a cute and cuddly elephant to tackle, but with a bit of motivation and good spirits it can all be handled.
Most of the early portions of the game feature light exploration, and a lot of fetch quests. Resolutions to issues are usually solved with a missing item, while traversing over some very simple puzzles. Move a block here, find a key there, put out this fire, and blow that pile of leaves. All pretty trivial stuff. I grew concerned a few hours in that this would be all that Yono had to offer. When many made comparisons to it being a Legend of Zelda-esque game with an Elephant, you start to get your hopes pretty high. The repetitiveness of these aspects, along with the bland and almost unnecessary combat. Yono can blow a gust with his trunk, tackle with a ram, and pick up items and throw them in combat. Though there is a variety of enemies, they are all easily beatable. A couple quickly paced tackles will see your foe fall and explode, being erased from the earth within seconds. Making combat based around an elephant could be no easy task, that is for sure, but that further reinforces the idea that maybe it was not needed. Enemies have no sort of intelligence behind them, just timed attacks. They stare blankly at Yono, waiting to hit or be hit, never defending or using some unique ability that makes you have to adjust. It is just horribly plain, and it sucks because the surrounding subject matter is rather adorable and interesting.
Thankfully, the second half of the game has some great dungeons and some surprisingly good boss fights. These fights are how most of the combat should have been. I would have rather had traps and puzzles with boss fights at the end the entirety of the game then have to deal with the standard, run-of-the-mill bad guys throughout. The puzzles became more challenging and enjoyable, and overall the game really found itself in the later acts.
Yono is visually charming right out of the gate. The colors are vibrant, and Yono is one of the cutest characters on the market. There is a fast travel option for further explorations that sees Yono travel by train from city to city, and with that comes one of the cutest animations I have seen all year (a CUTE CARTOON YONO IN A CART!). There is also a bunch of different skins for Yono to purchase and wear, from a galactic space skin to floral patterns and much more, these just further the cuteness level. I also enjoyed the music that accompanied my travels, but the sound effects were not on par with the rest of the aesthetics. It is hard to explain, but they sounded like they were phoned in. They were too distinctively separated from the game, which made them sound generic and unfitting. Thumps, wails, and grunts just all did not hit the mark sadly.
Yono is an ambitiously adorable game, crafted solely by a single individual. With that in mind, it is quite the impressive adventure. Your travels will last 6-8 hours in most cases, and while it may be too casual for some, it is definitely an enjoyable game for all ages if you can get through a somewhat boring first few hours. Beware of bugs though, as this game is riddled with technical hiccups. From overly sensitive doors, poor areas of attack, and other oddities, it is not the most polished experience out there. Though there is some junk in the trunk, it’s a cute and fun game that is easy to adore and fun to explore. Yono never overstays his welcome, and with some more time to polish his tusks, this game could really shine.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6.5/10
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