Developer Hudson Soft launched a new series of video games in 1986 with the release of Adventure Island (co-developed by developer Westone as a Nintendo version of Wonder Boy) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was also remade in later years as Super Adventure Island for the Super NES and New Adventure Island for the Turbografx-16. The game follows the adventures of a baseball capped, loincloth wearing hero named Master Higgins (aka Master Takahashi in Japan) as he travels the land in search of his girlfriend, Tina, who was snatched away by the evil Witch Doctor. The game is a standard run-n-jump platformer with a great amount of difficulty and frustrating moments.

Master Higgins's main attacks include throwing stone axes or fireballs. These weapons can be found inside large eggs that are found on the ground. When Higgins kicks the egg it cracks, revealing the prize inside. The collected weapon is available for use until our hero dies, and then he has to recollect it when he repeats the level. Other items inside eggs include skateboards (for faster movement), milk (two kinds: red and white), Honey Girl (the invincibility fairy), a ring (worth points), 1-ups, and the evil eggplant that saps energy off of the life meter. Speaking of the life meter, it gradually ticks down as the level proceeds and Higgins must collect the fruit scattered around the level to keep the meter filled. White milk will refill the meter all the way, while red milk will refill and extend the meter. Higgins will die if his meter runs out or if he takes a hit from an enemy or hazard. During all of this madness our hero should also try to collect the secret pots that provide a point bonus at the end of the level. Each level has one pot in it. Some are hidden, while others are out in the open.

There are a variety of enemies to be found in the game, although most of them tend to repeat patterns. Snails are found in the jungle levels, octopi in the seas, spiders in the woods, and so on. At the end of every fourth level our hero faces off against one of the Witch Doctor's forms, and if Higgins can hit him in the head enough times with a weapon, the head will fly off, a new one will appear, and the doctor will flee to the end of the next set of four levels. This continues for eight worlds, meaning that it takes 32 levels to finish the game.

As mentioned earlier this game is quite difficult. Aside from the one-hit kills and overwhelming amounts of enemies in some levels, the biggest challenge in this game is that it lacks continues in a traditional sense and there are no passwords or save game abilities. To earn continues Higgins must find the secret Hudson Soft Bee that is hidden inside an invisible egg somewhere in the first level. If it's collected you can continue the game after a Game Over by holding Right on the Control Pad and pressing Start.

Adventure Island was a fun jungle romp in its day, but in this era of gaming many players demand more from their games. The graphics in the game are quite simple compared to the sequels in the series, but the series did get off to a good start. Recognizing the faults in this game helped Hudson Soft refine the formula for the game's sequels on the NES, Game Boy, Super NES, and Turbografx-16. The original Adventure Island is typically found in the usual used game shops and online auctions, although you are more likely to find one of the sequels than you are the original game. Also be aware that the Game Boy title Adventure Island is actually a port of the NES's Adventure Island II.

Adventure Island is an almost prototypical platformer. Its graphics are cartoonish, its music is catchy, and its action is kinetic and non-stop. While the game is challenging, it also is light-hearted enough that even after multiple defeats, the player might want to try just one more time. The game play is intuitive enough, but is spiced up by the inclusion of various power-ups. Along with differences in gameplay, the game also takes the player to a variety of different worlds, each thematically different. It also spawned a host of sequels, each keeping the basic game mechanics while expanding on the basics.

Most of what could be said about Adventure Island could be said about Super Mario Brothers, the most influential platform game of all time. If you were to find someone who have lived in a video-game free cave for the past thirty years and had them sit down and play both games, I don't know which one they would prefer. In production values and gameplay, they are both great platformers. But a generation of children grew up playing Super Mario Brothers because it was bundled with the NES, and it got enough momentum that it infiltrated popular culture and its tropes and themes and music are familiar even to people who never played it. Adventure Island, and its sequels, while well-regarded by video game enthusiasts and hobbyists, is not well known in a general sense.

It can probably never be determined whether this was because some flaw in Adventure Island itself (too difficult? not enough diversity? graphics too silly?) or just the circumstances of it competing for public recognition against the juggernaut that was Super Mario Brothers.

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