Revisiting Adventure Island

Revisiting Adventure Island

A 2D action-filled tropical paradise

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Retrospectives on

When it comes to fast-paced retro platformers, very few games stand out in my memory as being as enjoyable as Adventure Island. Pull up your grass skirt, grab a stone axe, and let's eat as much fruit as our stomachs can handle!

Adventure Island 2 screenshot
Nothing can stand in your way when you have dinosaurs on your side

Master Higgins' NES debut

Playing the original Adventure Island is one of my fondest memories of gaming in my childhood. I loved all things tropical from sipping on a Tahiti Treat to wearing Hawaiian shirts. So, when I first booted up Adventure Island to see a little chubby dude in a grass skirt (known as Master Higgins) run across the screen with the title trailing behind, my face lit up. Playing it for the first time blew my mind. The bright colours, cute enemies, catchy music, and satisfying power-ups made it a joy to play. Similar games feature time limits to rush you along but Adventure Island has a hunger meter that requires you to constantly snack on fruit. I loved this change of pace as it forces you to react with precision in order to grab food and avoid tricky enemies while running at full speed. It's such a great game that holds up beautifully.

Every great game deserves some sequels

Of course, I found out later that Adventure Island is simply a NES adaptation of the original Wonder Boy. This may be the case, but its sequels carried along the same basic gameplay formula while Wonder Boy carved his own path. Adventure Island 2 allowed you to carry items between stages which added a layer of strategy to the experience as you could now plan ahead for tricky situations. It also boasted a selection of dinosaur pals that Master Higgins could ride. One of them can fly which is just awesome while another one is extremely handy in the new underwater stages. Adventure Island 3 didn't add much to the equation although the imaginative stages and ability to crouch definitely makes it a worthwhile game. Master Higgins could now ride a triceratops and throw a boomerang, too.

Unfortunately, Adventure Island 4 never came out here. I have a NES/Famicom converter and I'm still trying to get my hands on a copy but it's just too darn expensive. From what I know, it's a lot more open-ended as opposed to just working your way through linear stages and that sounds awesome. I hope I can get my hands on a copy one of these days!

New Adventure Island screenshot
This cave may be spooky but it sure has a delicious selection of fruit

Tropical action on the go

I also played the Game Boy games quite a lot. The first one is a portable version of Adventure Island 2 while the second one (Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise) is a pocket-sized Adventure Island 3. They're not as special as their full-colour 8-bit counterparts but Aliens in Paradise did feature a password system which was quite handy in case the batteries ever ran out.

Adventure Island becomes Super

Between Adventure Island 2 and 3, there were a couple of 16-bit games known as Super Adventure Island for Super NES and New Adventure Island for TurboGrafx. Both of these felt like updated versions of the original seeing as all of the innovations introduced in 2 were now taken out of the equation. However, the improved graphics made for great eye candy at the time. Out of the two, I prefer New Adventure Island because Master Higgins' sprite makes gameplay feel kind of clunky in Super Adventure Island.

Years later, Hudson Soft released Super Adventure Island II which took me by surprise. It was like an RPG where you can explore the world and actually save your progress. It also had Metroidvania elements in that certain items granted access to new areas and encountering enemies is reminiscent of Zelda II. Wearing armour and brandishing a sword made it a huge departure for the series but it remains one of my favourites due to its addictive game world. I remember spending hours in the casino area.

Master Higgins returns

Although Super Adventure Island II was considered the last in the series, Adventure Island: The Beginning debuted on WiiWare 14 years later in 2009. The graphics were in 3D but the gameplay remained 2D which was quite disappointing. Master Higgins' generic 3D model wasn't even half as fun to control as his 8-bit form. Also, the music wasn't catchy and it ended up being a big let-down. However, it's still a fun 2D platformer but it's definitely not the worthy sequel that fans were eagerly waiting for.

Adventure Island: The Beginning screenshot
3D Master Higgins is far less charming than his 2D counterpart

That about wraps up the entire history of Adventure Island. Will there ever be a sequel? Considering there's a new Bomberman game coming out for the Nintendo Switch and a Wonder Boy sequel on the way; I hope that Master Higgins will paddle his raft back into our living rooms again soon. Anyway, thanks for reading my take on this silly series of platformers. Have you played Adventure Island? What are your thoughts on the series? Let's chat in the comments below!

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