Some time back in 1986 a company had a dream. It was a strange dream to be sure, but it belonged to Hudson Soft. Their dream? To take a game that already existed, change a few sprites around, and release it as their own.
Their dream is the Nintendo Entertainment System “classic” known simply as… Adventure Island.
Now, I hear what you’re saying… I’ve never read Adventure Island… should I track it down and read it?
Whereupon, I answer… You stupid fucker… this is a video game post.
Fair enough. It has been a rather long time since I’ve done one, especially considering my logo and the “Bits” part of my title. Cool! So what about finishing up that Crystalis post first? OK, OK… enough of that.
So… Adventure Island… This game was my bread and butter as a child. I loved it from level one all the way up through level… well, I think Level 4 was as far as I could get. But I loved the bastard. And I decided… let’s take a bit of a walk down Nostalgia Lane and see how ol’ Master Higgins is doing.
And, my god, has he not aged well.
First… some history.
In the sorta-bronze-ish era of video games, SEGA released a console known as the Master System. The system was released as a competitor for Nintendo’s NES and… well, it never quite caught on, at least in the United States. But it had hits and successes, and laid the groundwork for SEGA’s much more popular 16-bit offering, the Genesis (and if you try to tell me it’s called the Mega-Drive, you can fuck right off… we called it Genesis here in ‘Murrica and dammit that was good enough for us).
Anyhow… SEGA released a game called Wonder Boy as an arcade game and an 8-bit port for the Master System and Hudson Came along, took the game almost entirely and pasted their own shit right on top of it.
To compare, one screen shot from Wonder Boy (the blonde kid) and one from Adventure Island (the doofus in the hat and porno ‘stache).
Of course, that would all be well and good if Adventure Island (or Wonder Boy for that matter) was actually any good. And, as much as it pains the child inside of me to say… it isn’t.
Where to begin with this? Well… to start, you’ll note an energy bar at the top. Seeing all those nice bars, you’d think they would act something like the hearts in The Legend of Zelda, right? WRONG! One hit… you die. And get ready to die a whole helluva lot.
So what’s the point of that bar? Dear friends… that is your timer bar. Not very long, eh? Well, worry not your pretty little heads… You can regenerate it by gathering fruit as you run through the level. And here’s problem two…
Collection in 8-bit games isn’t always a chore… Rupees in Zelda games get you items, coins in Mario games get you free lives, rings in Sonic games get you another hit or two of damage, as well as free lives. In Adventure Island… fruit gets you more time to complete the level.
Break out the fuckin’ part hats and streamers.
Now you’re thinking… What about the power ups?
Naturally, all power ups are delivered via the egg network. Yes, eggs. Crack one open and find yourself the proud owner of… an axe! Or a fireball! Or even a skateboard! And don’t worry, Master Higgins is smart enough to wear his helmet and knee pads. Because a middle-aged guy with a child molester mustache could be someone kids can relate to. All he really needs is a skateboard.
Oh and your greatest nemesis also comes from an egg. So don’t go opening eggs with abandon. If you do… you might come face to face with… The Eggplant. And yes, it does have a face.
A face that will haunt your dreams.
A face that turns milk sour.
If The Eggplant flies over a house with a pregnant woman, she’ll miscarry. And, worst of all if The Eggplant follows you, it will tick down your timer, regardless of your fruit collection. I present the face of your DOOM!
But all of this could be forgivable if not for two things…
Thing 1: The levels don’t really change. The layout gets shifted a bit and enemy placement\volume will change, but World x-1 will be Jungle, x-2 will be ocean, x-3 will be cave, and x-4 will be darker jungle with a boss fight at the end. Every. Single. Time. No matter what you do, the backgrounds recycle and the devs just pile on the enemies.
Suck. Big time suck. Challenge does not come from hordes and hordes of enemies. Challenge (especially in platform games such as this) comes from good level design mixed with timing, enemy placement, and
Even then… I could forgive the game, put on my nostalgia shades, and enjoy jumping around Adventure Island again (yes, they actually have the gall to name the island Adventure Island…), but… Master Higgins… once revealed himself to me beside a fire. Here’s the photographic evidence (and know that many Bothans died to bring you this disturbing image):
So there it is. Adventure Island. The bright side of all of this? This enormous clusterfuck of a palette swap actually spawned an entire series of sequels across the NES, SNES, and Game Boy systems that were actually… quite good. Much more fun and original.
If you want a platformer set on a desert island… You’ve got many other good choices. Wonder Boy for one. At least then, you’ll be playing the original version. Then, there’s Joe and Mac on the SNES (OK, it takes place on a dinosaur island, but… it looks tropical!) and the criminally underrated Amagon on the NES (look for a post about that game in the near future).