Adventure Island II
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developer:
    • Now Production
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    NES
    • US February 1991
    • JP 04/26/1991
    • UK 07/22/1992
    GB
    • US February 1992
    • JP 03/06/1992
    • UK 04/23/1992
Score: 70%

This review was published on 04/05/2018.

Adventure Island II is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Game Boy. The NES version originally released in North America in February 1991, Japan on April 26, 1991, and Europe on July 22, 1992. Dropping the "II" from the title, the Game Boy version is simply known as Adventure Island, and it came out in North America in February 1992, Japan on March 6, 1992, and Europe on April 23, 1992. As indicated by the NES version's title, this is the sequel to the original Adventure Island, which released on the NES and MSX in 1986. While the first Adventure Island is an adaptation of the Wonder Boy arcade game by Sega, Adventure Island II and all subsequent games in the series are original works. Much like the game it was based on, the first Adventure Island was quite bland, but Adventure Island II actually has some unique features to make it stand out.

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Our story revolves around a portly fellow known outside of Japan as Master Higgins, whose character design is based on Takahashi Meijin, a real person who acted as Hudson's spokesman back in the day. In the first Adventure Island, Higgins went on an island adventure to save Princess Leilani from the Evil Witch Doctor. After having succeeded in his mission, Higgins took a break from his adventuring. However, that break soon came to an end when the Evil Witch Doctor suddenly returned to do more evil witch doctoring. He just doesn't give up! While Princess Leilani is still safe, the Evil Witch Doctor has kidnapped her beautiful sister, Tina. Now it's up to Higgins to save the day once more. Things are going to be much tougher than before, though, because this adventure will put Higgins through eight perilous islands instead of only one. Of course, it'll all be worth it to save his honey.

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Master Higgins is the sole person you control in this game. Like most NES games, the controls are simple; left and right on the d-pad moves Higgins in those directions, the A button allows him to jump or swim, and the B button is for attacking. If you hold the B button during movement, Higgins will go faster. As with the first game, Higgins has a vitality meter at the top of the screen that constantly drains on its own, and he dies when it's completely empty. The meter can be replenished by collecting food, which mostly consists of fruits and vegetables. Despite the meter, most things in the game kill Higgins in one hit unless he's equipped with certain power-ups. One such power-up is the skateboard, which does the same thing it did in the first game by increasing your speed and enabling you to take an extra hit, though this comes at the cost of not being able to halt your movement. Unlike the first title, you automatically lose the skateboard after every stage. Aside from that, the controls are a little better this time around.

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Like the first title, Higgins starts each life unarmed, but he can acquire a power-up that allows him to throw an unlimited amount of stone axes. However, this game adds a plethora of new power-ups in the form of dinosaurs you can ride. In addition to allowing you to tank a single hit, dinosaurs will augment your mobility and offensive capabilities in a variety of ways. Depending on what playing card suit you pick up, you'll obtain a different dinosaur; the heart card summons a blue camptosaurus that attacks with its tail, the spade card calls forth a red camptosaurus that breathes fire and is immune to lava, the clover card brings in a pteranodon that flies over obstacles and drops rocks, and a diamond card beckons an elasmosaurus that can swim in water. Surprisingly, there's an inventory system that allows you to store stone axes and dinosaurs for later use, though it's only accessible prior to entering a stage. Suffice it to say, this is the game's main standout feature, and it's pretty cool.

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As mentioned earlier, there are now a whopping eight islands to traverse. Each island contains a certain number of stages, but how many you play and the order you do them in is somewhat randomized. Basically, you do a bonus "choose an egg" game in between stages for points and potential 1ups, and choosing different eggs usually alters your stage progression. It's an oddity, but this does add a little replay value. As for the stages themselves, there are no longer any checkpoints, but the stages are shorter to compensate for that. On top of the regular stages, there are now underwater stages, vertically-scrolling stages, and desert stages with quicksand. This gives the stage design greater variety than the last game, but things still get repetitive after a while. That's because many of the assets and stage types get recycled later on. Additionally, while easier than the first game, things do get quite hard towards the end. Thankfully, you can continue indefinitely, and finding the Hudson Bee hidden in the first world even lets you continue with your inventory fully intact.

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Similar to the airships in Super Mario Bros. 3, bosses will move to a different stage on the island if you fail to defeat them. If that happens, you'll have to complete the stage you died in again plus the one that the boss moved to. This is annoying, but it does give you the opportunity to play stages that you might have missed. If you fail enough times, the boss will eventually stop moving to different stages, perhaps out of pity. Also, while you can't ride dinosaurs during boss fights, they do aid you during battle if you bring them along. Outside of those things, the bosses in this game are fairly typical. All bosses in the first game were basically the same, but none of the bosses in Adventure Island II are recycled. That's certainly an improvement, though the bosses here still aren't too exciting.

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While far from amazing, Adventure Island II is significantly better than the first game. The dinosaur riding is the main reason for this, though it also boasts better controls, graphics, and stage design. However, even with all of those improvements, Adventure Island II still isn't a remarkable game, especially when compared to classics like Super Mario Bros. 3.

Word Count: 1,076

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