Adventure Island Review

Developer: Hudson Soft Publisher: Hudson Soft
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

Boy it seems like this company has a monopoly on games starting with ‘A’. Even stranger is that this is yet another ‘cave boy’ title under the same letter by the same company. Oh well, at any rate, Hudson Soft really hit the mark when they released Adventure Island (sometimes referred to as Hudson’s Adventure Island), leading to one of the most well known video game series from the 8-Bit era. I found it quite fun overall, with some faults here and there that other gamers may have issue with, but it’s definitely worth a look for the casual retro gamer, but with a hidden secret of doom.

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Graphically, they did a great job presenting what they intended on portraying. You have wonderful wooded scenery, seasides, caves and all sorts of trinkets to give it an ‘island’ feel. The color scheme seems a bit drab in comparison to The Adventures of Dino Riki, but generally works well. All of the enemies except for the foxes clearly look as they should with a cute, cartoony appearance and various items, backgrounds and such have been organized to create an overall good presentation. The only issue really is that the graphics, by the time you get to the third or fourth stage, are simply palette swapped to hell and back with only variations in color and object placement to create more difficulty. The bosses in fact, have the same exact body over and over again with only different heads. Have to take a bit off for the repetition, because as the game gets harder it pretty much feels the same. Good, though.

And to provide a fitting atmosphere, Adventure Island comes at you with the perfect soundtrack. It’s probably one of the most easily recognized themes from the NES era, especially the tune you hear in the wooded sections. Great job overall, no real problems with it. They repeat throughout the game depending on the type of level you’re running through, but that didn’t bother me too much because it was predictable but yet long enough to provide good balance and variety. The sound effects are great as well, absolutely no problems for me there, very fitting with the whole scheme. As with the music, these are probably some of the most readily recognized sounds from the NES library.

Adventure Island is a basic platformer that built upon games that had come before with tons of inventive features. Basically, you control Master Higgins and have to save your girlfriend from the evil head of the island, and thus have to run all over the place to find her. The controls may be a bit shaky for some gamers at first because to achive some difficult jumps you often have to carefully time both speed, height and distance in order to pull it off, and as the game progresses and you have a series of obstacles dangerously close, this needs to be perfect. Other than this you have a number of secrets, four stages for each level and eight levels in all. Higgins can chuck stone axes and stones when you get them, otherwise you’re forced to jump over and dodge everything to progress, but eventually they give you what you need if you can make it. At the end of every stage is a boss that’s pretty tame and basically the same thing every time with a bit more hits and moving a bit faster, but that’s it. So overall it comes out quite well and it’s a lot of fun, but not without a few problems that should be mentioned.

To continue in this game you have to find the secret Hudson bee in the first stage and then use a secret code at the game over screen for it to work. Why not just put it there permanently? Seriously. That’s probably why they fixed it later in the series. But fine, not too big of a problem. Unless, however, you’re trying to beat this game on three lives plus any you acquire. Impossible. That’s the big gripe most people have with Adventure Island, the further you get and the more often you lose your weapons, the less likely you have of getting anywhere. They basically just keep rearranging obstacles so that at first you jump over a single stone, but later you have stones set up in sets of four that only have a teeny space in between that you have to hit perfectly, otherwise you stumble over them and then run into something else that kills you. Fine, I like a challenge, but trust me, this game can get quite annoying later on and will tax even the most skilled of players. It’s almost too much at certain moments and requires memorization on plenty of occasions, which gets to me. I like to be able to play with skill and adjust when necessary, not have to memorize every single stinking object before I get anywhere. In addition, the sheer repetition you’ll find here may get pretty old after awhile, this game doesn’t seem to really give enough variety later on to make it enjoyable as you trudge through some of the most difficult jumps in NES history. Plus, the bosses are hardly worth anyone’s time, I wish they did something with them. Other than this, though, it’s a fun game overall, just be prepared for some difficult gaming should you try it out.

The one area of Adventure Island, however, that I feel is in need of a low score is the creativity. Why? Well, few people know that this title was actually, sort-of, stolen from Sega. Sega, a bit earlier, had released an arcade title called Wonderboy, later ported to the Master System, that was designed by a company called Escape. Escape, also working for Hudson, had the rights to certain aspects of the game such as a few monsters and things, but not others like Wonderboy himself. So, technically, they were allowed to redo the game for Hudson as long as they didn’t use those aspects that weren’t under their contract. It ended up pissing off Sega and there was nearly a lawsuit over it. Thus Adventure Island was born, a total knock off of Wonderboy down to some of the most minute of details. Thus, considering that hardly anything was done to program this, in addition to taking some critical things out and nothing added, I have to score low. Creative game, sure, but not if you pretty much stole it. Might as well go all pirate.

Adventure Island is a fun game, but not something I can honestly say I’d want to just sit down with because there isn’t a single code out there that can get you further along so you don’t have to waste time on the easier levels. In addition, it’s a bit too hard for a casual play, unlike Wonderboy, so I have to give a lower score here as well. They removed a complete stage as well as a hidden bonus round that you would unlock by finding all the secret dolls; in Adventure Island called ‘pots’. There’s thus no reason to try to perfect your skills in this game because it doesn’t matter either way. As for game length, considering how many times you’ll likely die playing it, it’s a bit too long for my tastes. Unless you have an entire afternoon to devote to it, don’t even bother. It took me over five hours with not too many mistakes to beat it and I’d never want to do it again after that. The repetition and progressive difficulty makes that not an option.

Still, Adventure Island is an important title on the NES because it eventually leads to a series that went in a different direction than the Wonderboy games, though it still owes its existence to that game alone. It’s a good game to check out if you’re into platformers, but I doubt you’d play it again or perhaps even finish it unless you’re a hardcore gamer or fan of the series. I really have no inclination to check it out again, I’d rather play Wonderboy. But before you go onto Adventure Island II, you might want to give it a look for history’s sake.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 6.5
Creativity: 1.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 5.8
Written by Stan Review Guide

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