Tag Archives: adventure island

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

Yay islands!Adventure Island 3 is a metaphor for the human condition.

The story of Adventure Island 3 is no epic tale. Master Higgins, a dude in a baseball cap and grass skirt, is chilling on a deserted island the size of a Dixie cup with his beloved Tina when a nefarious alien abducts the hapless maiden. Higgins boards the nearest plesiosaur, and paddles off to save the day. There is no trick or plot twist in this saga, all Higgins has to do to rescue Tina is venture across eight (adventure) islands, battle the occasional Mothra, and then conquer the aliens in an epic battle that involves fireballs and stone hammers. The aliens are not Dr. Wily in disguise, and no explanation is given for their preoccupation with poor Tina; they’re just monsters to be chased, and an excuse for Higgins to ride a dinosaur or six. Oh, and the adventure wraps up with Higgins and Tina back on their original weensy island (compliments of a pterodactyl), so it’s a zero-sum story from top to bottom.

But this is an ‘intenda game, so the story is perfunctory from the very start. What’s important is that good ol’ gameplay, and… Well, there’s not much to see here, either. This is a “NES platformer” at its most basic. Well, no, that would Adventure Island 1, wherein Master Higgins runs left to right and must at all time satiate his crippling fruit addiction. We’ve come a long way from those bygone days: now Master Higgins does the exact same thing, but sometimes he’s on a surfboard! Or a dinosaur! And, despite the fact that almost all stages only advance right and strictly forbid any backtracking, there are rare vertical levels that prove that Hudson does understand scrolling (and they don’t even involve Kid Icarus-esque scroll deaths). And the bosses are pretty neat, even if they’re about as fair as a thumb wrestling match against Eternia’s Fisto. Master Higgins can, at absolute best, suffer three hits (a bonus “heart” powerup plus a dinosaur buddy), and it’s very likely those damn boss monsters are going to barbecue the poor islander before he tosses the proper number of boomerangs. Boss patterns should not change mid-fight with a hero that has approximately zero HP!

This sucks!But all that cruft is neither here nor there. No, what’s important is what Adventure Island 3 represents. What’s important is that Adventure Island 3 is a failure.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a damsel is distressed when she is kidnapped by a giant, ambiguously evil monster. Her man springs into action to rescue her, and must battle across eight distinct lands to save the day. Along the way, he runs, jumps, and even recruits a dinosaur to beat back the nefarious forces of angry clouds and a strangely high number of murderous reptiles. After losing a bunch of lives due to the tiniest contact with random monsters (and the occasional bottomless pit), the brave knight saves his princess. And maybe there was a bonus stage or warpzone somewhere along the way, too.

Yes, obviously, Adventure Island 3 follows the exact same plot and general gameplay as Super Mario Bros. In fact, Adventure Island 2, the first game to feature Master Higgins riding a dinosaur, was released a few months after Super Mario World, the first game to feature Mario riding a Yoshi (and Adventure Island 3 improved on AI2 by… adding one more dinosaur). On a purely superficial level, Massy Hig’s Adventure Islands are incredibly similar to Mario’s treks across the Mushroom Kingdom and Dinosaur Land. Give or take the ability to actually dismount your incredible thunder lizard, you could probably provide the exact same instruction manual for both games. Master Higgins is a cape feather away from being an accomplished plumber.

Spooky!But that’s where the tragedy occurs. On a shallow level, Master and Mario are the same. They run, they jump, and they collect one hundred doodads to earn an extra life. But actually play the games, and the differences become apparent. Mario has a precise kind of momentum, while Master Higgins has a tendency to slip around like a greased up potato man. It’s telling that Master Higgins has to be wary of inanimate rocks, while Mario at least has the decency to vault moving rocks. And that slipperiness pairs poorly with a number of “platforming challenges”. Want to leap across a series of mobile clouds? That’s kind of fun in the Mushroom Kingdom, but over in the Adventure Islands, Master Higgins is pretty likely to fall to his doom after about the second jump. Once you hit an ice stage, things are more slippery, but, honestly? It’s not the same kind of dramatic shift you’d see in Super Mario. Bros 3. Oh, there is supposed to be a dinosaur that cuts down on Slippin’ Higgy? Yeah, that dinosaur is a lie. In fact, all of the dinomounts are lies, as they amount to little more than the difference between Mario and Super Mario. The only dinosaur that isn’t a “fireball” or “slight movement” powerup is the new, green triceratops, and that’s because he offers the ability to roll into a spiky ball for exactly a second before immediately losing that powerup to terrible hit detection. Beyond that, I’m not even certain what the plesiosaur is supposed to do, as he’s just as useless as the frog suit on land, but only marginally better than regular swimming Higgins on the high seas. He doesn’t even get a lightning tail or something! You have to bring your own hammer!

And, when you get right down to it, describing this game, describing Adventure Island 3, is recounting exactly what being a human is. All the proper components are there! You’ve got running! You’ve got jumping! You’ve got a princess and a monster and eight worlds! This is exactly what Mario’s got! This is exactly what that successful guy has got… so why isn’t it working here? I can see Mario’s Facebook, I know we’re on the same level, so why is he so much better than me!? I could be happy! I should be happy! Why can’t Master Higgins be half as successful as a damned plumber!?

Dammit!That’s Adventure Island 3. All the pieces are there, everything that should work is there, but… it doesn’t. Master Higgins is doomed to wallow on his teeny tiny island, while Mario just found out his ex built an entire city for his benefit. Adventure Island 3 is every one of us looking at that green grass on the next lawn over, and wondering what went wrong. And is this where I’m supposed to say something optimistic? Well, I’d love to say it gets better, but have you seen Adventure Island: The Beginning? Yeesh.

I just played Adventure Island 3… don’t expect any hopefulness out of this human for a week.

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s also a Gameboy port that is surprisingly faithful.
  • Number of players: One Master Higgins. Maybe the secret to success is having a Luigi?
  • Port-o-Call: The Gameboy version actually allows you to replay completed stages. I have no earthly idea why anyone would want to do such a thing, but at least it’s an option.
  • Favorite Dinosaur: I guess the blue dinosaur with the powered tail. He’s pretty much exactly the same as the red dinosaur with the fireball that is completely resistant to lava, but… he’s blue? He’s the underdog in a game starring an underdog.
  • Favorite Boss: Despite the inexplicable presence of Mothra, I’m going to pick the Salamander. He’s just like every other boss in this game (float and/or teleport around and lob fireballs), but he is at least on fire. And when he goes blue-flames, it at least looks cool.
  • Blind SallyIncidentally: This was supposed to be FGC #300, but I couldn’t find the rom while on the stream. Turns out it was there in the list, just under “Hudson’s Adventure Island 3” as opposed to in the I section where I expected to find such a thing. Oh well.
  • Did you know? If you see a flower, then that means a wolf is going to attack Master Higgins from behind. I still remember this tip from Nintendo Power.
  • Would I play again: Adventure Island 3 has struck me with an ennui that I can barely describe. So, uh, no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Robocop vs. Terminator for the SNES! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Some good ol’ fashioned cyborg on android violence. Please look forward to it!

FGC #163 Alex Kidd the Lost Stars

Always bouncing!I awoke one morning from uneasy dreams to find myself confronted by a most mysterious sound. It was a voice, originating from some unseen location. It beckoned by shouting, “I am the Miracle Wall!”

“What do you want from me, Miracle Wall!?” I replied.

I am the Miracle Wall!” it replied.

This call and refrain continued for another 45 minutes. Frankly, I just didn’t want to get out of bed.

***

Fun and gamesIt had been a challenging morning, so I decided to go to the local amusement park. I had assumed the mirth and joviality of this accessible fun zone would sooth my weary soul, but I found naught but danger in this former sanctuary. At the front gates, I was greeted by a dog that barked with such force that it drained the life from my body. Past the pup, I encountered walking playing cards straight out of a Carrollian tale. Bottomless pits had developed between attractions, and my only recourse was suspending myself over the abyss via monorail track. The monorail itself tried to knock me from this precarious position on more than one occasion, and I admit I may have… damaged at least one of the conveyances. I pray for the souls that hoped to find simple transportation, but found only carnage. There is little room on those singular rails…

Toward the rear of the amusement park, I was beset by murderous clowns and a gigantic bear balloon that played deadly music. It sounded like a polka composed by escaped Nazis from the depths of Hades. I found it off-putting. But past the bear I found a mysterious present that contained an entire constellation. Recently, I heard tales that the stars in the sky had gone dark, and perhaps this localized shining phenomenon was related.

I vowed then and there to find the remaining lost constellations. Somewhere, off in the distance, I heard a familiar wall bellow its name.

***

SPACE... kinda?This was a space problem, right? I knew the great hero Opa-Opa was docked at our local space port, so I decided to query the spacecraft for clues. Unfortunately, it appeared that this facility had been possessed by the same malevolence that infected the formerly innocent amusement park, and my quest for answers would not be an easy one. Conveyor belts that seemed to serve no purpose than to shove me into awaiting poking fingers did their best to hamper my progress. Doors opened and closed haphazardly, and I believe a pit opened in the floor simply to release slithering snakes. I leapt across pistons and swung from vines made of CAT5. I wondered how this dock could ever support guests that were less acrobatic than I. Was I chasing a space hero that was already at the bottom of some electronic pit?

Luckily, Opa-Opa seemed to be okay, if perhaps lethargic. The electrical trap that nearly singed my perfectly laundered overalls seemed to have damaged Opa-Opa, and he was not in a talking mood. Luckily, Opa-Opa had retrieved one of the constellations in his travels, so I was one step closer to my goal of repopulating the night sky. Opa-Opa pointed me toward a foreboding forest, and a pumpkin that may aid me there.

And if the Miracle Wall had something to say about the situation, I chose to ignore it.

***

Nothing at all...This place is madness, and I fear for the safety of not only my body, but my mind.

This forest greeted me with skeletons. “Fair enough,” I thought to myself, “Scary environs often house spooky reminders of man’s mortality. This is to be expected on a noble quest such as mine.” A demon’s head then hurled fire at me, and, again, I was unshaken. “This is a place of witchcraft and necromancy, but I will survive, for my cause is just.” Then, after leaping across a group of pitcher plants, I encountered…. It…

It… appeared in the guise of a man. A naked man, save a pair of sunglasses. Granted, I could not identify any genitals on this “man”, but it… I assumed it to be a man. But it was not enough that this man was wandering a forest of death as naked as the day he was spawned, oh no, this man was naked and shooting skulls out of his butt. Yes, a seemingly infinite number of skeleton heads rolled forth from his posterior, and…

I cannot take this…

Where did the skulls come from? Why were they so numerous? The dimensions… the physics of the situation where beyond my fathoming. This was an average sized man, not much larger than I. How could he shoot something the size of his own head out of his backside? Why did he choose this location to roll these skulls from his hindquarters? And why, a few feet later, did I encounter another, identical man with the exact same affliction?!

This forest is insanity, plain and simple. I retrieved a constellation from a jack-o-lantern, but I fear even the Miracle Wall cannot soothe my shattered psyche.

***

DampIn a moment of weakness, I admit I may have tried to drown myself. If pure madness had come to my happy world, I was going to go beneath the waves, and dwell with the Dark Ones in the cold embrace of the sea.

Then I realized I was already wearing my snorkeling gear, so, hey, why not go for a nice swim? As I should have expected by now, I was attacked by an octopus, and, shortly thereafter, a cyclopean electric eel. It appears even our waters are not immune to the terrors that have infected our world, and, by the time I encountered a gigantic fish that seemed to exist as five completely separate pieces, I felt nothing at all.

I was also nearly crippled by poisonous bottles haphazardly dumped into our precious ocean. In happier times, I may have believed this to be a sign to take up a more active campaign to clean up our most valuable aquatic resources, but now? I know it’s just one more thing in this bizarre world that is trying to end my quest/life.

I found a clam hiding another constellation beneath the waves. I asked the Miracle Wall how such a thing could happen, but I received the same tired reply.

***

Dinos!Upon leaving the ocean, I found myself on an ancient island. Dinosaurs appeared to roam this isolated patch of Earth, and I learned more than most paleontologists could hope to discover in a lifetime. Did you know that many dinosaurs could fly, and reproduced by hurling quick-hatching eggs at the ground? Or that they lived close enough to volcanoes to be lovingly showered in lava? It’s amazing what you can absorb when observing a creature in its natural habitat.

But I knew this savage land must once have been touched by man. There was an impossibly resilient red balloon that I used to float away from a gigantic, rolling boulder. And a zipline had been erected to aid my traversal of these mountains, too; though, unfortunately, a lazy dinosaur had decided to open his mouth at the base of the line’s descent. Had this creature learned the lay of the land, and decided food would ride its way into his toothy maw? Or, had this monster somehow constructed the whole device for its own benefit? After 65 million years, were the dinos finally smart enough to join society?

No matter, I found another constellation in a dinosaur’s egg. What was I doing smashing open a dinosaur egg? Perhaps only the Miracle Wall knows for sure.

***

What is even happening?I’m… pretty sure I just encountered a world made of teeth, partially digested spaghetti, and gravity defying sandwiches.

I…

There was a baby head rolling…

I…

I don’t want to talk about it.

There was a constellation hiding under a covered dish. It now occurs to me that I have no idea how to get these constellations back into space. Miracle Wall, want to live up to your name?

***

SPACE for realThe Miracle Wall was useless (as always), but Opa-Opa gave me a ride to the furthest reaches of outer space. My prodigious jumping abilities are downright herculean in the vacuum of space, and I’m doing my absolute best to not consider how few atmospheres I’m breathing while I dodge falling meteors. There appear to be space monsters that can knock me over with their roars here in otherwise-pretty-quiet open space, but I’ve learned not to overthink my world or anywhere else in the universe. The Space Soldiers shooting lasers don’t even get a second glance, though those eternally burning space ovens do give me pause.

After escaping an unruly sun, I discovered Ziggurat, a metal pyramid floating in space that is topped with the Statue of Liberty. I do not recall its construction, but it is a shining beacon of… stuff that comes from the American Continent? No, I will not overthink this. My job is to return the constellations to the sky, and, from atop Lady Space Liberty, I do just that.

My quest is over.

***

This morning I awoke to be informed that there are apparently six constellations still missing. I don’t care. It’s my day off.

Tomorrow, I’m going to go Reagan on the Miracle Wall.

FGC #163 Alex Kidd the Lost Stars

  • System: Sega Master System and Arcade. I think it also made it to the Wii at some point.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating, assuming you can get your Master System to do that.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Alex Kidd comes from the old era of platformers when absolutely nothing made sense, and if someone made a stage that looked like maybe the inside of a mouth, sure, let’s make some giant SPACE?teeth sprites. That said, it plays like old school Adventure Island, so you’re encouraged to barrel forward at all times. In fact, I’d say about 90% of the hazards in this game may be avoided if you just outpace their spawn areas.
  • Favorite level: Once again, I’m impressed by how much fun an underwater stage can be on Sega hardware. Did underwater stages only suck on the Nintendo? No, wait, Sonic
  • Powerup: There’s a jump powerup that is temporary and will inevitably fade just before a gigantic pit. There’s also a powerup that will grant twenty “shots” (they’re not fireballs, but they kill things pretty well). I don’t think there are twenty whole monsters in any given level of this game, so that’s a pretty good number of bullets.
  • Did you know? Alex Kidd was originally Sega’s big bad mascot, but he got unseated by a certain hedgehog. They both seem to have a thing for always running, though, so I guess they have a little bit in common.
  • Would I play again: This was surprisingly fun for such an “early” game, but it’s no Mario. And I can always play more Mario.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… F-Zero X for the N64! Race for the checkered flag of the future! Please look forward to it!

FGC #126 Super Adventure Island 2

Can you dig it?The Theory of Evolution has been contested practically from its inception, back when Charles Darwin hopped back on the HMS Beagle and a deckhand started reading his notes and shouting, “Nuh uh!” Since then, Evolution has been a very divisive topic. This is to be expected, as a healthy portion of the population seems to believe that the mere existence of evolution somehow precludes the existence of a caring deity/universe. As such, Evolution’s opponents have composed a litany of “problems” with the theory over the last century, seeking to disprove a scientific theory with “scientific” facts that are primarily grounded in subjective reasoning. Yes, there are problems with the Theory of Evolution, but asserting that no one has actually seen a chimp give birth to a human isn’t going to slay the big bad Science Dragon.

A similar assertion is that Evolution doesn’t make enough “sense”. This anti-theory goes something like, “why don’t we still have tails, they’d be useful!” or “what’s the deal with the pinky finger? Male nipples? Appendix? We don’t need any of that!” In short, if Evolution is responsible for transforming monkeys into big, bad humans, why didn’t it make us, ya know, better? We’re apex predators, and why isn’t that more literal? We should have crazy head spikes and murder claws and laserbeam eyes! Evolution isn’t real, because if it was, we’d have more dangerbeasts running around.

And to that I offer the counterexample of Super Adventure Island 2.

Adventure Island, the original “Adventure Island 1”, is the story of Master Higgins, a half-naked man on a quest across islands to rescue a princess (Tina, her sister, came later). Adventure Island is, basically, the prototypical “endless runner” game. Higgins must keep moving forward and gulping randomly appearing fruit, because, should he ever go hungry, he will die immediately. I think it’s some kind of psychological disorder. Whatever the reason, Higgins must devour all, and will only find assistance in the form of primitive axes Not the other thing(okay) or skateboards (what?), while everything else on the island exists only to one-hit-kill our tropical hero. It’s a hard life.

It’s also Wonder Boy’s life.

Wonder Boy was a Sega Arcade title, and, when Hudson Soft was tasked with porting the game to home consoles, they dropped the titular Wonder Boy, and inserted their own company mascot, Takahashi Meijin aka Master Higgins, into the starring role. This means that, ultimately, Wonder Boy and Adventure Island had the exact same starting point, give or take a baseball cap.

Wonder Boy changed immediately. Wonder Boy 2 aka Wonder Boy in Monster Land became much more of an “adventure” type game. Wonder Boy collected and spent gold, spoke to “helpful” medieval villagers, and even gained a life gauge to weather all those monster hits. While there was a regressive Monster Lair quest in there, by and large, Wonder Boy continued on this adventure trajectory straight on through to Monster World IV, which dropped Wonder Boy entirely for a Wonder Girl, but still maintained the delightful adventure trappings of the franchise.

Adventure Island, meanwhile, iterated only on the established “endless runner” gameplay. In fact, while each Adventure Island sequel did add new innovations, it seemed like each game also dropped a useful skill. Adventure Island 2 introduced an inventory system and the ability to ride dinosaur pals (before Yoshi ever bust out of his shell), but also lost the ability to upgrade powerups and stage checkpoints. Adventure Island 3 added a duck command (eat it, Mega Man), but forsook backtracking and mobile bosses. And SNES launch(ish) title Super Adventure Island picked up gorgeous graphics but eschewed any and all dinosaur pals. Alright, Hop scotchmaybe the games weren’t released in that order, but close enough…

Adventure Island 4 (for the NES) was a departure from the runner basics of the previous titles. It… also never got out of Japan. I’ve never played it. I should look it up some time. I hear there’s an Eggplant Wizard in there.

Super Adventure Island 2 is theoretically (I can’t play every video game!) a continuation of Adventure Island 4’s innovations. SAI2 is an adventure game. Master Higgins drops the grass skirt for a full set of armor, trades his hammer for a sword and magic wand, and rafts around various “adventure islands” in pursuit of treasure and items. Every “stage” has straightforward objectives like “fight the boss”, but also hidden treasures gated behind abilities you’ll earn on other islands. There’s an overworld and a menu screen. There aren’t many “villagers” to speak to, but you can return to talk to the king for tips on betrothed rescuing/wife swapping. There’s an inn that restores health and magic. And if you don’t spend half your time skulking around the map looking for heart containers, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Adventure Island is again, after a few years of divergence, a Monster World game.

And, frankly, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with Master Higgins. Everything that was Adventure Island got tossed in the garbage (Higgins has amnesia, so he doesn’t even remember his strange fruit compulsion), and, in its place was basically The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link 2. Even that Higgins on a raft sprite Dang turtlelooks pretty damn familiar. Considering The Adventure of Link never saw a proper sequel, it was a blast to find similar gameplay on the “revolutionary” Super Nintendo. Pretty graphics, engrossing exploratory gameplay? What’s not to like?

And I’ve been asking that for years, because what do Super Adventure Island 2, Monster World 4, and The Adventure of Link all have in common? They’re evolutionary dead ends.

Wonder Boy/Monster World was just plain never seen again. “Zelda” obviously saw sequels for the rest of time, but none of them seemed particularly beholden to The Adventure of Link’s gameplay. And as for Master Higgins? Well, Adventure Island made it past the SNES in the form of the WiiWare title Adventure Island: The Beginning. It… wasn’t any good. What’s more, it was a return to the “original” Adventure Island gameplay, and completely dropped any and all adventure elements to accommodate Higgins’s enormous appetite. Sorry, folks, 2-D Adventure games just don’t work.

Video game producers are not making games for the hell of it. Obviously, every video game designer, from the staff at Nintendo to that one lonely guy coding Centaur Panty Fighter 2, wants to see their game succeed, and, during production, believes that the game being produced will be accepted. In short, there are dedicated, intelligent designers responsible for Wonder Boy and Adventure Island that both came to the same point of creating 16-bit, 2-D adventure games. And they both completely failed, taking the franchises with them.

Take a look at observable, historical evolution, and you’ll see that it’s a process, and even when it has the best of intentions, well… sometimes it doesn’t quite work. Evolution is Evolution, and part of evolution is failure. Adventure Island might just be Mauritius.

FGC #126 Super Adventure Island 2

  • System: Super Nintendo, though also available on the Wii Virtual Console. Not the WiiU Virtual Console, though…
  • Number of Players: Sorry, no co-op adventuring for you. Just one player.
  • Seriously?The Adventure of Master Higgins: Seriously, this game is biting on Zelda 2 so hard. You could argue LOZ:TAOL didn’t invent the rhythm of “go to dungeon, beat boss, find some random knickknack in subdungeon to access next dungeon, repeat forever”, but when you’ve got a game that also teaches a hero “random magic”, “upslash”, and “downslash”, then similarities start to become apparent.
  • Favorite Island: The “ice stage”, Hiya-Hiya Isle, is a tower containing a “puzzle” that involves tossing an ice block off the top so it can destroy an ice barrier in the basement. I think that’s neat. The stage’s layout vaguely reminds me of Ducktales’ Moon Stage, too, and that’s always a good thing. Also, the boss of the level is a Wooly Mammoth still frozen in ice. Master Higgins… can’t you just walk around that dude?
  • Did you know? There was an anime based on Adventure Island… sorta. It featured the little fairy creature that occasionally helps Master Higgins during his adventures, and she was responsible for banding together a group of random children to rescue a kidnapped Master Higgins and Tina. Bomberman was in one episode. It ran for 51 episodes and a movie. Clerks the Animated Series aired two episodes.
  • Would I play again: Yes. I like this game. Back when I was cashing in points on Club Nintendo, one of my last “purchases” was this very game. Granted, it’s because I had already purchased pretty much everything else offered, but I think I chose this one over downloading a random Castlevania game I also already owned.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ichy and Scratchy the Game for SNES! Another SNES game, this time of… decreased quality. Please look forward to it, I think!

Turtle meat