Released: September 1988
US Cartridge ID: NES-TB-USA
Genre: Action Platform
Supported Peripherals: Controller
ROM Size: 512 kilobit
Mapper: CNROM (32k PRG, 32k CHR)
Hudson’s Adventure Island, the first game of the long running Adventure Island series, is a conversion of Sega’s 1986 arcade game, Wonder Boy. Hudson sought the rights to develop a Nintendo port of Wonder Boy from the original arcade developer, Escape; Escape, however, only held the rights to the game itself, with Sega retaining sole legal ownership of the featured characters. Sega went on to publish Wonder Boy completely intact on its own home systems, and subsequently granted Activision the rights to publish home computer conversions. Hudson, changing the title, the music, and replacing the main character sprite, released the facelift on the NES as Hudson’s Adventure Island.
Adventure Island stars Master Higgins, based on Hudson’s 80s front man, Takahashi Toshiyuki (better known as Takahashi Meijin, or “Master Takahashi”). Extremely famous in Japan, Takahashi was known for being able to hit a controller button sixteen times a second, for having a starring role in a Toho film that featured Hudson’s Star Force, and for singing in the band Runner. Deciding to capitalize on his fame, Hudson redesigned Wonder Boy‘s main character Tom Tom’s sprite to resemble Takahashi in caricature form.
According to the packaging and manual, Princess Leilani has been kidnapped and taken to Adventure Island by an evil witch doctor, and Master Higgins must save her. Upon completing the game, the ending refers to the rescued girl as Tina (which seems to have been an oversight by those responsible for those localizing the game), though an unconvincing attempt to fix this mistake appears in the US version of Adventure Island II. In order to save the damsel in distress, Master Higgins must complete 32 stages, broken down into sets of 4 stages per level.
Adventure Island’s endemic life constantly threatens Higgins as he fights sentient stalactites, bipedal pigs in bikinis, and more. Upon completing each of the four stage subsets, he faces off against the witch doctor. The witch doctor’s head falls off each time he is defeated, only to be replaced in the next encounter with a new head bearing resemblance to either the face of a monster or that of a wild animal. In defending himself, Higgins can throw axes (and flaming bolas, if found), or grab a skateboard, allowing him to move quickly through each stage (though at great peril to his well-being, since he cannot stop while on it). Most power-ups are trapped inside hidden eggs strewn throughout the stages.
In the series’ first outing, Adventure Island‘s (Wonder Boy‘s) primary innovation takes the form of the “vitality level,” represented by a row of hash marks that sits below the player’s score. This bar constantly decreases, and can only be refilled by grabbing the pieces of fruit that appear throughout most stages. Effectively used as a timer, the falling energy level urges the player to rush through each stage at breakneck pace. If Higgins runs out of energy, he’ll die and be sent to the last passed checkpoint. In addition to running out of energy, Higgins can also die by making contact with an enemy, unless he is riding a skateboard (which will absorb one hit, though he’ll lose the board). Higgins starts with three lives, and there are no continues (unless the player manages to find the “Hudson Bee” and input the correct code). The game is relatively easy in the early levels, but the difficulty level goes through the roof nearing the end, happily plastering the screen with cheaply placed obstacles, enemies, and trap eggs, all while barely providing enough fruit to sprint to the end of the stage before Higgin’s vitality runs out.
Hudson’s Adventure Island is bright and colorful, and most of the sprites succeed at being excessively cute, though they flicker heavily in later levels. The music is catchy, easily keeping pace with the frantic onscreen action. The controls are good, though Master Higgin’s awkward jumping requires practice to effectively avoid obstacles. Early on, the game is extremely fun – the ridiculously sharp spike in difficulty about halfway through, though, serves to ensure that the majority of players will never see Adventure Island‘s latter half.
|Hudson’s Adventure Island
|Adventure Island Classic
|高橋名人の冒険島 (Takahashi Meijin no Boukenjima) /
Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island