As I’m sure you all have noticed, I primarily talk about bosses, but that doesn’t mean all interesting villains are bosses. In fact, today I’ll be talking about someone who the player never faces in combat, but they remain an ever present threat, and in fact cast a shadow over the entire game. Today I’ll be talking about Kamek from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.
        This game was a very interesting addition to the Mario series- for one, you do not play as Mario, but Yoshi, and the game takes place far in the past- back when all of the cast players would know are but children. The story is thus: Mario and Luigi are being delivered to their parents by a stork. Kamek the Magikoopa foresees that when these two children grow up, they will cause endless trouble for the Koopa Troop and King Bowser.
        Kamek decides to nip this problem at the bud by attacking the stork and taking the children, but he only manages to take Luigi- Mario falls down to an island, right on Yoshi’s back. Naturally, this is also where Kamek resides, so the Yoshis resolve to work together and reunite the two babies.
        Yoshi plays very differently than Mario. For one, while he can stomp on some enemies like Mario, using his tongue to eat them is much more efficient, as that produces eggs. Yoshi uses those as projectiles to hit enemies that can’t be stomped or eaten, which is most of them, and can have up to six eggs at a time. He also cannot be killed by enemies at all, no matter what they do. Attacks simply knock him back.
        However, the game throws in two things to bring the difficulty back up- namely, while getting hit won’t kill Yoshi, he can be crushed between objects, fall into a bottomless pit, or fall on spikes or lava, so the game has quite a few cases where these can happen. Secondly, when Yoshi is hit, aside from being knocked back, Baby Mario is thrown off his back. This makes a floating bubble appear around the child, and a counter starts ticking down as the baby cries.
        You start off with 10 seconds, but finding star points can give you up to 30 seconds to get the kid, and once you rescue them it will slowly go back to ten. If you lose all of your time, Mario’s bubble will pop and Kamek’s minions will fly in to steal the baby, costing you a life. Rather clever- Yoshi can’t be harmed, but the child on his back is anything but invincible.
        The game has eight worlds to get through, each with two boss levels- a midboss fortress and a boss castle. Every time you reach the boss room, Kamek himself will appear on his broom to speak to Yoshi. A creature will be there in the room- one of the many enemies Yoshi will have faced. After giving out his threat, Kamek will fly back and forth, sprinkling magic dust hat will cause the creature to grow to gigantic proportions. Except in one case, where your enemy is a mostly harmless frog and Kamek instead makes you shrink so the frog can eat you.
        The game also diverges from the usual Mario format of hitting an enemy thrice and beating them. Many of the bosses do have to be hit three times, or more, but the way you do so is much more complex than in the past. For instance, Bigger Boo has to be hit with eggs, but he turns intangible if you face him, so you have to ricochet the eggs off walls so that it hits Bigger Boo when you’re facing away.
        There are also a few bosses that simply remove that formula altogether- Salvo the Slime doesn’t take a set number of hits. Rather, the longer an egg does damage to him through ricochets and the like, the smaller he will become. So exactly how many hits he can take varies. Roger the Potted Ghost cannot be harmed and can’t move, so Yoshi has to push his pot off the edge of the platform, while the ghost sends fireballs at Yoshi and pushes him away. Two Shy Guys will also be pushing the pot back in your direction, and if they succeed, you’ll be pushed off the edge instead.
        My favorite though is Tap-Tap The Red Nose, and his counterpart Tap-Tap The Golden. The first moves simply, trying to jump and run into Yoshi, but he simply cannot be harmed, just stunned. Instead, the goal is to destroy the blocks under him so that you can knock him into lava.
The Golden one, on the other hand, isn’t a normal boss. He is found behind Door 3 of Bowser’s Castle, and like Red Nose he cannot be harmed by Yoshi. Unlike Red Nose, he cannot be defeated at all. Even knocking him into pits will only stall him. Your objective is simply to keep moving and escape him before he crushes you.
        Speaking of Bowser’s Castle, it is here where Kamek really takes action. Before he simply shouted threats at you and empowered the bosses to stop you. As soon as you start Bowser’s Castle, there is a segment where Yoshi has to turn into a helicopter and fly to the castle proper over a large gap.
        The entire time, Kamek will swoop in and try to hit you from the left side of the screen, forewarned by him moving in the background and his sound effect. Yoshi is pretty much entirely invincible while transformed like this, but it will make him waste time until he changes back if hit, and send him on a downward spiral which, if he is low enough, will get you a game over.
        After that Yoshi comes to a set of spinning doors, and the one he hits with an egg will be the one he uses, the third of which leads to Tap-Tap The Golden. Aside from the number on the door, you’ll know you got the right one when the Hint Block only screams at you “RUN AWAY!!! HURRY!!!”
        No matter what door you pick, it leads to a singular dark hallway. Here the level scrolls to the right, forcing you ahead, and Kamek will appear on blacks ahead of you to blast you with magic. These spells just hurt you, you if they hit the blocks they will be transformed into either common enemies or star points. If you try to land on or attack Kamek, he just vanishes.
        This continues, naturally, until you reach the boss door. Going in, you’ll see a darkened room and Kamek, who loudly demands you had over the baby, likely a bit unhinged by all the grief the Yoshis have given him. He’s pretty much at his wit’s end. Unfortunately, his outburst woke up his master, and Baby Bowser is not happy.
        He immediately stomps Kamek, before turning his attention to Yoshi. Thinking he’s some kind of ‘gween donkey’, Baby Bowser attacks, wanting to ride on Yoshi. This actually makes for an interesting boss fight- instead of harming Yoshi, if Bowser jumps on Yoshi direction, he simply kicks Mario off and you have to knock Bowser off yourself with a ground pound.
        If he misses Yoshi, he will make a damaging shockwave. Yoshi will do the same, so you have to time your ground pounds as Bowser lands, so you can hit him. After three blows, Kamek returns, and powers up Bowser. The baby quickly grows to kaiju size, wreaking most of his castle. Now the real final battle begins, as Bowser appears in the background.
        This battle is especially unique, in that Yoshi is looking into and fires into the background to hit Baby Bowser, essentially meaning you have to relearn how to fire your eggs properly. In addition, you start off with no eggs, and you have to wait on balloons to arrive with giant eggs for you to use. Only attacks to the head will hurt him, and if you shoot too high, it won’t land at all, just hitting a flying enemy instead. Luckily, it starts off fairly easy- Bowser shoots fireballs, but a target marker shows exactly when he’s aiming for you.
        His second attack is more of a danger- roaring to send rocks flying at you. The rocks fall in certain spots, destroying your floor and leaving bottomless pits for you to die in. As the battle goes on, he will do this at certain points, leaving you with less and less safe ground. Worse, the main threat isn’t Baby Bowser’s attacks- its his movement. As the battle goes on, he will get closer and closer.
        This actually changes where you need to target to hit him, and hitting him knocks him back. He starts really speeding up once he’s low on health, and if he gets too close, the platform will be destroyed by his sheer bulk, ending the battle. In the end it comes down to a frantic battle to keep him away with fast egg shots, while dodging his ever closer fireballs and try to hit him before he simply obliterates you.
        Of course, after a hard fought battle, Yoshi does win, and Bowser reverts to normal. Kamek flies off with his charge, vowing revenge, and Yoshi saves Luigi at last. However, the reason I wrote this article was to point out that, despite Bowser being the final boss, it is really Kamek that Yoshi fights throughout by proxy. Bowser, after all, is just a baby in this game.
        It is Kamek who started the adventure off, and Kamek who enlarges the enemies you face as bosses. But he never fights you himself. Why? Because, as a magikoopa, he does have power, but he likely isn’t any tougher physically than the magikoopas that Mario faced in the first Super Mario World. He can’t face Yoshi head on, so he does so through superior tactics and magic. He may not be fighting you directly, but he certainly is plotting your downfall through the whole game,and we can directly see through his speech the effect Yoshi’s actions have on him. It makes him more understandable. Despite the fact he’s harming babies, he’s only doing so to protect his charge, to ensure a prosperous future for Bowser. And all this makes for a villain that I can’t help but respect.

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