RETROspective: Super Mario World 2 Yoshi’s Island


While developing ‘Neon the Ninja’ I’ve been playing a whole slew of NES, SNES and Sega Genesis games. recently I just finished a full play-through of Yoshi’s Island and realized I should be doing formal write ups on these games since I’m already putting the time in.

Super Mario World 2 Yoshi’s Island‘ is a game I had played a little bit of as a kid (through ancient establishments like Blockbuster) but never owned. It’s a very unique and highly regarded platformer so I was excited to purchase it for my collection and experience it again. These are my findings.


At first the controls were very off-putting to me. I’m very familiar with the way Mario dashes and jumps but Yoshi has a very different feel to him. He’s very floaty and seems less precise but after a few levels things started ‘clicking for me’. I finally got the feel of his ‘flutter’ ability (which is crucial to progressing through the game) and tossing eggs became much more enjoyable when I started hitting my targets. Once you get over the initial learning curve this is a very refined experience unlike any other game I’ve played.

Art Style

The game evokes the feeling of visiting a child’s hand-drawn world. This very bold choice could have come off amateurish if it had not been done correctly but they pull it off with flying colors. These images I’ve posted barely do the game justice as the visuals create a very charming world full of interesting characters (even more impressive when you see the animations in motion). I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this game has a timeless look to it. In an alternate reality where Nintendo is a scrappy small game company in 2016 this game could have easily been the next indie darling on current consoles.


These levels are much longer on average than previous Mario titles. While there are some long and difficult stretches in the game they don’t feel unbeatable due to having a more forgiving checkpoint system. The map is extremely linear when compared to ‘Super Mario 3‘ or ‘Super Mario World‘ and I do think it’s a step backwards. While I can see that it fits the narrative for the Yoshi’s to systematically search the island for baby Luigi I did miss choosing between two or three forked paths on the map, or stumbling upon a shortcut as you do in previous games.


Each boss in the game is a MEGA-POWERED-UP version of a regular enemy that you’ve already encountered in the previous level. This decision leads to some of the greatest battles in the entire series. There’s no repetitive “dodge attack + jump on their head = victory” formula here. You have to figure out each boss’ weaknesses and how to exploit them (granted most are susceptible to eggs being thrown at them but even so these fights still feel very fresh). Uncomplicated but unique; I like this approach so much I’m trying to implement it for Neon. Enough said.


Longer play sessions are rewarded with many opportunities to get extra lives through collecting items, skill based challenges and mini games. I found myself with 10 – 20 lives on average so while the game increased in difficulty I didn’t hit a ‘Game Over’ screen very often which had me less worried about dying and more focused on enjoying the game.

You can also earn power-ups in you inventory like ‘Super Mario World‘ and ‘Super Mario 3‘ but while in those games I was always popping a fire flower or mushroom, in this game I very rarely used them. I think Yoshi has such a variety of abilities from the get-go that I believed I just needed to master them to finish the game.


I love this game. It’s charming, unique and very rewarding. It’s not my favorite Mario game because it’s not a Mario game it’s a Yoshi game and that’s what makes it so great. You do you Yoshi. You do you.

Like a BOSS …fight.


What’s been going on?

I know what you’re thinking. “What has Team Neon been up to these last few months? I have been tossing and turning every night worrying about the state of the game.” Firstly, I have to say you should follow me on twitter or instagram to get more frequent updates. (Look at a recent GIF or Video of a boss fight that I’ve posted and finally get a good nights rest for once)

Second, after getting greenlit we realized it was time to stop the “discovery” phase where we throw around pie-in-the-sky ideas and really break down and perfect every core feature of the gameplay. We spent a few months finessing the controls, animations and game systems. It wasn’t terribly exciting work to share with you guys but you’ll notice a huge difference in the new build.


Third, we’ve decided on a new development approach.

The deeper I got into level design the more I noticed unknown variables that could effect my design decisions. For example the Patriarch is an evil pope with fire and wind powers. I wanted to introduce the player to these powers by integrating them in the level before the boss fight. This was difficult because I didn’t know exactly how the Patriarch will be using these abilities.

That’s when it hit me. I was thinking about things backwards. If I focus on the boss fights first then I’ll have all the knowledge I need to create the levels leading up to them! You don’t plan a trip without researching your destination. (that’s a saying right?)


As of writing this I’m pleased to announce our first boss fight is ready for playtesting!

  • Having a gamepad is highly recommended but not required.
  • Controls can be found in the pause menu
  • You can press the “back” or “select” button to restart the level
  • I’d love you forever if you fill out this survey after you play the fight.

Alright, It’s on! I’m well into the next boss fight so you can expect these every other month or so. It’s going to be a fun year!

Patriarch Boss Fight - Windows Demo

Gamepad KeyMouse





That’s all we can say at this point. Thank you SO very much for supporting us on here! And thank you to Valve as well for the opportunity.

Neon the Ninja started as a little game made by a punk rock drummer (and developer)
who simply loves games. Over time, Neon became a big game made by that same punk rock drummer but now with the help of a punk rock singer (and teacher/writer) and a punk rock guitarist (and professional composer).

A band had formed. That band hopped in the van and played its first major gig at PAX East in Boston. With the incredible help of the drummer’s wonderful partner as well as three very dear friends, they humbly set up a booth and waited to see if anyone would notice.

People noticed.

The team now includes an incredible Canadian and a swell voice actor for Neon, and we’re ready to take the show on tour. With the game gearing up for its world tour, we want to tell you all about our development ethos: “Modern Look, Retro Feel”

We’re going to be completely honest here: We love retro games. Not in some “seven-year-old kid born in 2008 playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time” kinda’ way, either. We lived retro games – cutting our teeth on NES, SNES, Genesis, Saturn, PS1, etc. – before those systems were “retro.” Back when they were just video game systems.

Though we love retro video games, we recognize that re-creating every aspect of 1980s and 90s games isn’t what we want to do. Meaning: the action platformers of the 1980s and early 1990s weren’t designed to have “pixel art and chiptunes.” Pixel art and chiptunes were simply the tools available to the developers at the time.

Instead of trying to re-create the audio/visual aesthetic of our beloved retro games, then, we’re focusing on achieving the SPIRIT of classic games like Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man while using the modern tools of Wacom tablets and real musical instruments.

Thus, the philosophy of “MODERN LOOK, RETRO FEEL.”

What does “retro feel” mean? For us, it’s a design philosophy centered on easy-to-access but difficult-to-master gameplay. Neon the Ninja won’t be an intimidating game to simply pick up and play, but it will require the player learning how to quickly use stealth abilities. All in due time, though. The game doesn’t ask you to rely upon complex skills until you’ve encountered them in low-risk situations.

Retro feel means an emphasis on having fun and rewarding skillful play, rather than an emphasis on enduring long tutorials and collecting every irrelevant trinket in the level.

Retro feel means tight platforming, impactful combat, and over-the-top character.

Retro feel means fun.

With so much love,
The Neon the Ninja Team

Speed Running + Combos = Sweet Victory


Recently I added in a Stealth Kill Combo System. The gist of it is if you stealth kill enemies back-to-back within a certain amount of time you get bonus points.

The Combo System breaks down like this:

  • Kill x1 = 100 pt
  • Kill x2 = 250 pt
  • Kill x3 = 500 pt
  • Kill x4 = 1,000 pt
  • Kill x5 = 5,000 pt

It’s pretty straight forward but it leads to some hectic and exciting gameplay while re-enforcing the quick/action stealth kills that we’re going for.

There are a few other new variables I’ve added. To incentivize speed-running but also creative gameplay. If you beat the level in the fastest possible time you’re given the Ninja Grade “Breakneck” and you receive a 10,000 pts. (nothing to scoff at).

There are a few other new variables I’ve added to incentivize speed-running and creative gameplay. If you beat the level in the fastest possible time you receive a 10,000 pts. (nothing to scoff at). If you beat the game without receiving any damage you get 5,000 pts. regardless of speed.

Now if you combine either of those playstyles with a bunch of kill combos you will have a much larger score (upwards of 50,000 pts) when compared to a standard speed run.

Things are going to get even more interesting when I implement a Global leader-board in the near future. With such a broad range there’s potential for some insanely high scores with only a rough idea of how they were achieved.

Call me crazy but that’s pretty exciting!


The Official BOSS Roster!

After many long nights of designing and redesigning as well as long phone conversations collaborating with Josh we now have the OFFICIAL BOSS ROSTER for Neon the Ninja!

After literally slicing her way to the top, The Geisha Assassin is now the leader (and chief executioner) of the Yakuza. Her true identity is unknown, as she never removes her mask, but some say only a blood-stained skull lies behind it. Although her name and face may never be discovered, her brutal business dealings are well known all over the world. And she plans to keep it that way.

It’s no secret that when a new Pope is elected, he receives the holy abilities of levitation and pyrokinesis. What the Church doesn’t want you to know is that they sometimes choose the wrong candidate. How does one know a bad leader is in place? Sometimes it’s a series of disastrous meetings with the press or pronounced drops in church attendance. Other times, however, it’s the pile of burned bodies sitting outside of the commander’s office.

Hero-villains are born, not made. Such is the case for Big Kim, who exited his mother’s vaginal canal with a triumphant cry of “Seize all who oppose us!” Yes, Supreme Leader Big Kim is the world’s youngest head of state – and he behaves like it. But come on, the guy is loved all over the world, and he has the pictures to prove it. Whether shooting hoops with forgotten (and reportedly banished) NBA nitwit Dick Dickman, or having dinner with a hologram of Adolf Hitler, Kim is certainly a man of the people. And, oh yeah, he has nuclear weapons, lots of guns, and no conscience.

ATM, a rapper from the ATL, has sold over 10 million units of his debut album, “Advi$er.” Its singles, including “Liquid Assets” and “Private Placement,” are mainstream hits not only because of their memorable beats and instrumentation, but also their solid financial advice. Though generous in his willingness to share information on the best investment opportunities, critics have begun to question the companies ATM supports. They want to know why all of these companies manufacture futuristic weaponry, and more importantly, why the CEOs keep “disappearing.”

The Recluse is a former American business magnate, investor, programmer, inventor, and philanthropist. He is the founder and original CEO of SwagSoft®, the world’s largest personal-computer software company. Perhaps the weight of these accomplishments and responsibilities became too much for him, as he eventually became obsessed with what he called the “inevitable Mayan Apocalypse that would destroy us all and maybe, just maybe, bring us face to face with the Mayan god of death.” No one has seen or heard from him since he rocketed out of a SwagSoft® board meeting with the company’s only prototype of its multi-billion dollar jetpack.

Neo-Cleo is many things. She’s a combat specialist, roboticist, and daughter of the world’s most revered archaeologist, Sir Eugene Cleopatra. Indeed, she has a considerable claim to fame. Despite being influenced by her father, Neo-Cleo disagrees with the old man on one minor issue: She believes true power can only be obtained through the unholy union of science, technology, and the occult. In a quest to prove herself right, she’s enclosed herself in a heavily fortified Egyptian pyramid where she eagerly pursues the secret to world domination.

Not content with being heir to the most powerful drug trafficking family in Eastern Europe, “The King” decided he’d rather become the world’s most powerful Elvis impersonator. Thus, he grew his sideburns to a suitable length and moved his clandestine operation to the only city capable of truly appreciating his Presleyian abilities: Las Vegas. In addition to adoring the King’s spirited renditions of Elvis’ hits, the city fell equally in love with his high-quality cocaine. And neither his show nor his blow are going away any time soon, as every detective assigned to investigate the King for drug trafficking has turned up dead. Or maybe you could say, “all shook up.”

New Year! New Build!



I’ve made a lot of changes to the prototype over the last few months. This is essentially Tokyo 2.0 with the amount of level re-working and art style updates that I’ve added. Here’s the breakdown.

  • Shurikens – these throwing weapons will stun a Yakuza long enough for you to stab them to death. They will also instantly kill a Cambot.
  • Suit Swapping – You can switch suits colors at any time and the level was heavily re-designed with this in mind.
  • Stealth Kill Spin Attack – You can now Stealth Kill from below in certain situations where you are stealthing by the enemy. Push the attack button and you will throw yourself into a helicopter spin attack.
  • 3 attack combo – If you press the attack button fast enough you’ll do two sword slashes and a spin attack. This attack will not prevent you from getting shot by yakuza unless you stun them first.
  • Multiple Paths – the prototype now more accurately represents how I want the final game to feel. There are two primary paths that you can take to get through the level one focused on platforming and the other more focused on stealthing.
  • Camera – A lot of work put into having the camera adjust depending on your direction, how your stealthing and jumping dampening. Overall it should just “feel better”. Also you can toggle wide view by pressing in the right joystock.

Those are the main new features. I’ve left out the Boss fight in this build because it’s still a Work in Progress. However I’d love your help with finding bugs and giving me overall feedback with the current build as they’ve gotten less and less obvious.

There are two versions of the build one is controller mapped to the Wii U Pro gamepad and the other is mapped to Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers. Both versions have keyboard and mouse controls but as always I would recommend a gamepad.




Neon is Evolving.

CharactersRecently, I was motivated to create a brand new promo image for the game. Something dynamic and iconic. Something that pushed the art style with lush colors, shiny glares, glows and blurs.

I love how the image turned out but when I compared this Neon with the one that is in-game it was a bit of a let down.

“We can rebuild him.”

So I tried to bring in the elements that I really loved in that promo image in-game.

  • I added a glow to his swords but tried to keep it looking like a glare off of the camera more then a light source emanating from the swords I’m going to try and fluctuate the glare depending on the animation to enhance the effect.
  • His brow is much thicker making his head shape more iconic from a distance. When you combine the more exaggerated brow with the blue eyes there’s an insanity to his stare that’s a lot more interesting.
  • His suit has a lot more variation in color. In previous versions the simple gradient insinuated just the one light source. Now his suit will look more reflective and should really liven up his animations as he twists and turns.

You might notice that the majority of Neon’s look hasn’t changed. The hardest part is sorting out what is working from what isn’t but I think the more time you spend with a character or art style the more obvious the little things become.

This is the perfect example of the kind of polish that while a bit time-consuming can really enhance the production quality of a game.

Releasing on the Wii U (FAQ)

Q. Is this as awesome as it sounds?
Yes, if it sounds like I’ll be able to release the game on the Nintendo eShop without having to go through a publisher.

No, if you think it means I’m getting flown out to Japan to meet Mr. Miyamoto about a million dollar advance. It’s not like signing a record deal it’s more like getting access to a special club.

Q. Sounds exciting how did this happen?
A. Apparently, having a presence in social media and showing off your work early really can help.

Q. How will this change development of the game?
The cool thing is the Unity Engine is compatible with all the new consoles so I’ll be able to continue building the game as I have been.

The big thing that I’ll have now is access to Wii U tablet/controller functions for cool little things to enhance the experience like an interactive level map, equipment screen or the ability to play the game on the controller.

Q. Have they given you any deadlines or launch dates?
A.  No, I’ll have full control over the launch date which is great considering I’m still doing the development part time. I am still looking into crowd funding (once I have all of my ducks in a row) in order to go full-time and speed up development.

Q. So are you still launching on PC?
A. Absolutely, the current plan is to release simultaneously on the PC, Mac, Linux and Wii u.

Q. Aren’t you worried you’ll get “screwed over by the man”?
A. No, because games aren’t cheap or easy to make and with this setup we both win.
They’re getting a game (without having to spend any resources developing it) for their console when I finish it. I’m getting access to the Nintendo market (which I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise) and am still releasing on PC, Mac, and Linux just as I initially planned.

Q. Have you gotten your exclusive Nintendo Members Only jacket yet?
No, but I’m assuming it’s in the mail.

Q. So what’s next?
I’m hard at work on the official website, first trailer and polishing the prototype level. Once I have all of these at a good point then I’m going to need another round of play testing from you guys so stay tuned!

Responsive Soundtrack


Video games are an interactive media. When you push certain buttons the images on the screen change and different sound effects are triggered to create the illusion of a virtual world.

One way the game can respond to the player’s actions is through music. A well known example of this would be in Super Mario Bros. When the player starts running out of time the music speeds up in tempo. Since this happens the player immediately knows that they are running out of time to complete the level.

Super Mario World has another more subtle example. When Mario rides Yoshi drums are added to the background music.  This gave the player an audible reward by filling out the song making the experience feel more complete. When Mario dismounts the drums fall out echoing the change in gameplay.

I wanted to try something similar with Neon’s music by having the level music respond to  how you are currently playing the game. The idea is if you are crashing through windows the song will be loud and energetic, but when you are in sneak mode the track will fade into something more subdued to reflect the players actions.

It was a fun idea that I added to my “wishlist” but as animating and programming continued to take up so much of my focus it seemed that I would never get around to it on my own.

Then I found Chris Sinnott. We discussed how to match the sound of Neon with the art style by giving it the attitude of a 90’s anime. Energetic, unapologetic melodies with high quality samples and wicked guitar work. He also had the idea of showcasing some classic Japanese instruments (since that’s where the prototype level is taking place).

Listen to this mini-masterpiece.

His next challenge was to work on the alternate version of this song for stealth mode. I was a little worried about this one but I have to say it turned out great!

Finally, it was up to me to implement them in game. I love it when a plan comes together!

Let’s get testing!


Alright here’s a quick primer before you try out the prototype.

1) If you can get a hold of a USB controller or have an Xbox or Playstation controller that has a USB cord it’s pretty easy to download a driver. (Though depending on your setup it could be plug and play). You will have a much better time with a controller because platformers just don’t translate well to Mouse/Keyboard.

2) You can still play the game with Mouse/Keyboard but you can’t rebind the keys currently as I’m still trying to find the best solution for that.

3) At the bottom of this blog you will see a breakdown of the controls but also if the you pause the game by pressing the “Start” button or the “P” key you can find the controls in-game if you need to refresh.

4) You can download the latest build for here just unzip and click.

5) After you’ve had your fill of the prototype please fill out this questionnaire. Also feel free to contact me through twitter, facebook or email with any suggestions or questions or comments you might have.


Keyboard/Mouse – Controls


360 – Controls