Adventure Island
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Hudson
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 09/12/1986
    • US September 1988
    • UK 1992
    MSX
    • JP 09/12/1986
Score: 65%

This review was published on 04/04/2018.

Adventure Island, known in Europe as Adventure Island Classic, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed and published by Hudson Soft for the Nintendo Entertainment System and MSX. The NES version was originally released in Japan on September 12, 1986, North America in September 1988, and Europe in 1992. As for the MSX version, it exclusively came out in Japan at the same time as the Japanese release of the NES version. Initially, Adventure Island began development as a direct port of the Wonder Boy arcade game by Sega, the rights to which Hudson acquired from developer Escape, which is now known as Westone Bit Entertainment. Hudson later turned Adventure Island into a completely original series with countless sequels, none of which had any ties to Wonder Boy. Whereas later Wonder Boy games began adopting RPG mechanics, the Adventure Island series stuck with the simplistic action introduced in the first game. Anyway, the first Adventure Island isn't terribly impressive, but it's not terribly bad, either.

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During development, the decision was made to redesign the protagonist from Wonder Boy, modeling and naming him after Hudson's spokesman at the time, Toshiyuki Takahashi. He often went by the nickname of Takahashi Meijin; that's why the Japanese title of this game is Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima, which roughly translates to Master Takahashi's Adventure Island. Outside of Japan, the protagonist was renamed Master Higgins, but kept Takahashi's appearance. Other than that, Adventure Island is mostly the same game as the original Wonder Boy. However, there are a few other minor differences between the two. For instance, while Wonder Boy has overall better graphics, Adventure Island has more music tracks in it. There are countless tiny visual changes, as well, like some of the enemies and power-ups having different designs. None of these differences have a significant impact on how the games play, though.

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According to the North American instruction manual for the NES version, the Evil Witch Doctor has kidnapped Princess Leilani, referred to as Tina in the game's ending, from Master Higgins and taken her to Adventure Island in the South Pacific. It's your mission to help Master Higgins save the Princess, but it's not going to be easy. Along the way, there will be a plethora of baddies and traps to get in your way. Can Master Higgins rescue Princess Leilani from the Evil Witch Doctor? There's only one way to find out, and it involves playing the game. So yeah, it's a typical damsel-in-distress scenario similar to Nintendo's very own Super Mario Bros. That's not where the similarities end, either.

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You'll be controlling Master Higgins for the entirety of this adventure. The basics are pretty basic: Higgins can walk, run, and jump his way around the environment. Higgins must be cautious, though, for nearly everything in the game kills him in one hit. The NES version has Higgins begin every life completely unarmed, and unlike Mario, he can't hurt enemies by stomping on them. To remedy this, he must obtain a weapon power-up, which is typically found within an egg. Simply walking into an egg will knock it around, eventually cracking it open to reveal its hidden surprise. The main weapon you'll find is a stone axe that Higgins can throw an unlimited quantity of, but it can be upgraded into more potent fireball projectiles. Besides that and fairies that grant temporary invincibility, some eggs contain a skateboard that hastens your movement and allows you to take a single hit without dying. However, you can't stop moving while on the skateboard, which makes it difficult to avoid running into enemies or bottomless pits. Honestly, the skateboard is more of a liability than a help.

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Upon initial inspection, the massive meter at the top of the screen will seem like a health bar. In actuality, it's more of a timer, as the bar gradually decreases over time and you die once it's empty. A sizable chunk of the bar is also lost whenever Higgins trips over a rock. Luckily, a portion of the bar is replenished whenever you collect fruits or vegetables, which are plentiful all throughout the game. However, eggplants must be avoided at all costs, because they take away from your meter instead of adding to it. The whole hunger meter mechanic becomes one of the defining gimmicks of the Adventure Island series, as almost all subsequent games feature the same thing. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense from a logical standpoint, though. Why does Higgins need so much fruit to survive? Is he suffering from diabetes? The world may never know. Regardless, collecting food is mostly fun, but it can be annoying to do on the tougher levels.

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Similar to the first Super Mario, there are eight worlds with four stages each. The environments are all pretty typical for a platformer; forests, mountains, caves, and castles. Some castles are made out of ice, though, which is a little less typical. There are four signs posted in each stage that both act as checkpoints and barometers of your progress. The stage design is passable, but it tends to be too flat, and things start to feel samey after the first world. Bosses predictably appear at the end of each world, but they're all basically the same recycled monster with a different head. Aside from the head, the only difference from one boss and the next is how many hits it takes to kill; later bosses take more. If you lose all your lives, you'll get a Game Over, forcing you to replay the game from the very beginning. However, there's a hidden Hudson Bee you can find in the first world that'll let you continue indefinitely. At 32 stages, Adventure Island is a little too long for its own good.

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For 1986, Adventure Island is a pretty respectable effort. The graphics, music, and sound effects are pleasant, the controls are good enough, and the stages are okay. However, when compared to more mainstream classics like Super Mario Bros. and Ghosts 'n Goblins, Adventure Island isn't anything special. It lacks standout features and gets rather repetitive after the first world.

Word Count: 1,030

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