Adventure Island IV
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Famicom
  • Developer:
    • Now Production
  • Publisher:
    • Hudson
  • Released:
    • JP 06/24/1994
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/11/2018.

Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima IV, which roughly translates to Master Takahashi's Adventure Island IV, is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft for the Famicom. It was exclusively released in Japan on June 24, 1994. This was the final game released for the Famicom, 9 years before its discontinuation in 2003. With the exception of a certain spinoff title, all the previous Adventure Island games were released outside of Japan. A fan translation for Adventure Island IV does exist online, though, so English speakers can at least play the game on emulators. The Adventure Island series began with a modified port of the Wonder Boy arcade game by Sega in the late 1980s, but evolved into its own thing from the second title onwards. After that, the Wonder Boy and Adventure Island series went in different directions, with the former incorporating some RPG mechanics and the latter sticking to linear action. However, Adventure Island IV abandoned nearly all unique conventions established by the series in favor of being a bit more like Wonder Boy. The result is one of the best games in the Adventure Island series.

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The protagonist of the whole Adventure Island series is a portly man wearing nothing but a cap and a skirt made out of leaves. He's modeled and named after Hudson's spokesman at the time, Takahashi Meijin, though he's known as Master Higgins outside of Japan. Throughout most of the series, Higgins risked his life to save the girl of his dreams, Tina. The lovely couple finally got married in New Adventure Island, which was released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992. Despite being released after New Adventure Island, Adventure Island III didn't directly reference the couple's union, but Adventure Island IV does, as the two are shown living together in this game. Adventure Island IV begins with the island that Higgins and Tina inhabit being struck with a series of disasters. Shortly thereafter, the evil Eggplant Wizard appears and kidnaps all of Higgins' dinosaur pals, the very same ones that helped him in Adventure Island II and Adventure Island III. Unwilling to let this slide, Higgins departs to save his friends.

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All the Adventure Island games up to this point had many things in common; you died in one hit if you had no protective power-ups and you had to constantly collect fruits to refill a depleting energy meter that kept Higgins from dying of starvation. Neither of that is true in Adventure Island IV. Instead, Higgins has health represented by hearts at the bottom of the screen, and collecting eight fruits now replenishes one of his lost hearts. Like Zelda, Higgins is able to permanently add hearts by finding hidden health upgrades throughout the game. Also, this is the first game in the series that gives Higgins the ability to crawl through tight spaces, climb things like ladders and trees, and pick up and throw objects. These changes better suit the exploration focused design of Adventure Island IV, as they allow you to live longer, reach more areas, and not have to worry about a blasted timer ruining your fun.

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Unlike past titles, Adventure Island IV is nonlinear and features a sizable interconnected world. Much like Metroid, progression through this world requires that you thoroughly explore the environment for items or weapons that unlock the way to new areas. Pressing the select button brings up a map of the whole island, but it's not terribly useful. However, there's a compass item available near the start of the game that shows a more detailed map of the current area, in addition to an arrow that points to your next destination. Thanks to that feature, you're unlikely to ever get lost. Additionally, you get a teleportation egg early on that can be placed on a pedestal to create a warp point. You're only allowed one active warp point at a time, though, so you must bring the egg to a different pedestal if you want to change where you warp to. This makes exploration a lot easier.

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In the beginning, all you have are an unlimited supply of bones that you throw in an arc to damage enemies, similar to the stone axes from previous games. However, there are countless other items and weapons you'll acquire over the course of your adventure around the island. You switch between these items in the menu, and they include the boomerang and skateboard from previous games, the surfboard from Adventure Island III, a hammer that's capable of breaking rocks, a torch that lights dark areas, a water gun that grows plants and douses flames, a spear that lets you hang off wooden surfaces by sticking to them, a snowboard for snowboarding, an umbrella that allows you to glide in the air and can be used as a boat to travel along the surface of water, and more. There are also a couple of consumable items, like health recovery potions, revival fairies like the ones from Zelda, and a ticket that teleports you home. Obtaining new items is always exciting, because it expands what you're able to do.

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The game's primary objective is to locate and defeat all the major bosses in order to rescue the dinosaur pals. Once a dinosaur pal has been rescued, you'll be able to visit the dinosaur village to hitch a ride on it, just like Adventure Island II and III. The dinosaurs are all the same ones from those games, such as a red one that shoots fireballs and is impervious to lava, a blue one that has good traction on ice, a green one that curls up into a ball to destroy foes, one that can swim, and another that's capable of flight. Similar to Adventure Island II and III, it's possible to store dinosaurs in the inventory screen for later use, though they die if you're hit while riding them. If you lose a dinosaur, you must return to the village to get another one. That's kind of inconvenient, but it's good to see that the dinosaurs are back again.

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You start the game at Higgins' house, where the beautiful Tina also lives. Strangely, the two don't sleep in the same bed despite being married. Anyway, Higgins can sleep at his house to fully replenish his health for free, and doing so also gives you a password that you'll use if you wish to quit the game and return later. Luckily, the passwords aren't too long. Something to note is that, when you die, you're sent back to Higgins' house, but the game only remembers your progress up until the last time you got a password. In other words, if you do a whole bunch of stuff and die before returning home to get a new password, you'll have to do it all over again. That's a little annoying, but it's not too bad if you make smart use of the teleportation system.

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At certain points during the game, you'll be able to play mini-games for a chance to win fabulous prizes. These mini-games include a pole climbing race against a monkey, whack-a-mole, shooting targets on a conveyer belt with a water gun, and sumo wrestling on ice with a penguin. Some mini-games can only be played once certain items have been acquired, like how you need a hammer for whack-a-mole. Most of the prizes are optional, but they tend to be rather helpful, like recovery potions and revival fairies. You can usually replay the same mini-game multiple times to refill on any items you don't currently have, but they'll stop offering prizes once you have one of everything they offer. The mini-games provide a nice break from the exploration, but there are a bunch of them that require you to mash the A button like a maniac. Some of these are extremely difficult do without a turbo controller, and even worse, you need to beat a few of them to reach the end of the game.

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Before Adventure Island IV, all the games in the series lacked a certain something. It turns out that "something" was a true sense of adventure, which Adventure Island IV provides plenty of. While Wonder Boy was the overall better series by this point, Adventure Island IV will give any Wonder Boy game a run for its money. It's a shame that one of the greatest games in the Adventure Island series was never released outside of Japan.

Word Count: 1,421

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