Monday, July 24, 2017

Puzzle Bobble (SFC) Review

Received: July 22nd, 2016 / Written: July 12th-24th, 2017
Alternate Titles: Bust-a-Move / Puzzle Bobble: Bust-a-Move [  ]
Year: 1994, 1995 | Developed and Published by: Taito | [  ]

Disclaimer: Might potentially contain spoilers
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and puzzling is the game... err, that is, the genre of the game I'm reviewing today...... let me start over.

Image from Wikipedia
On August 1986 a little arcade game by Taito named Bubble Bobble (originally distributed by Romstar in the US), created by the late Fukio Mitsuji, burst onto the scene.  This game starring twin brothers turned Bubble Dragons (Bubblun and Bobblun) by Skel Monsta (Baron von Blubba in the West) in their one-hundred stage quest to save their girlfriends was released to huge acclaim and success thanks to its cute charm, addicting gameplay, two-player co-op, as well as being one of the earliest video games ever to have multiple endings depending on how you did on the way to the destination that it added tons of replay value.  Bubble Bobble was so popular that it wound up seeing numerous upon numerous computer, console, and handheld ports and would mark the beginning of a new (and still ongoing) franchise for Taito.
Image from Wikipedia; Happy 30th Anniversary, Rainbow Islands!!!
Initially the continuation of the 1986 classic began with the 1987 coin-op debut of Rainbow Islands: The Story of Bubble Bobble 2 (also created by Mitsuji) but with the protagonist(s) in their original human selves (as seen in the best ending of the predecessor) that also was well-received to the point of garnering exponential amounts of home conversions despite its two-player mode being alternative as opposed to simultaneous (it's also known for having the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz playing in the background throughout until it was changed for later editions to avoid facing copyright infringement).
Image from Wikipedia
Less converted for systems was the follow-up Parasol Stars: The Story of Bubble Bobble 3, which unlike the other games was originally released on the PC Engine on February 1991 made by Taito (which did see a TurboGrafx-16 release in America that October by Working Designs) while the ports were done by Ocean Software, returning to the structure and formula established by the game that started it all.
The memorable characters in Bubble Bobble were also designed by Fukio Mitsuji, who sadly passed away in December 2008.  =(  After a couple of entries where you played as the human characters the Bubble Dragons made a grand return in the Nintendo 8-bit exclusive Bubble Bobble Part 2 for the Famicom/NES and Game Boy (the latter being known in Japan as Bubble Bobble Junior) in 1993 albeit with a diverse storyline; only this time, the Bubble Dragons were here to stay.

The lovable duo (as well as the monsters from the 1986 coin-op) would make a return to the arcades with the June 1994 release of the puzzler spinoff Puzzle Bobble (or Bust-a-Move as it and its sequels were retitled for all American markets as well as some of the ports in Europe not published by Taito) which would subsequently find itself on the Neo Geo six months later.  The game did so good at the time that in the years that followed it would be ported to the 3DO, the Neo Geo CD, the Sega Game Gear, the WonderSwan,
Go, adorable Bubble Dragons, GO!!!  ^~^
and, of course, got converted to Nintendo's 16-bit powerhouse by Taito themselves; with the Super Famicom receiving it in January of 1995 in Japan, the NTSC SNES edition following suit that March in America as Bust-a-Move, followed by the PAL SNES release that June as Puzzle Bobble: Bust-a-Move in Europe, with Japan receiving it again albeit as a Nintendo Power release on December 1997.  Let's talk about it!!  =D
 
READYYYYYYYY, GO!!!!!!!!!!
Everyone who's played this game in one form or another knows what the gameplay is like, but for those that aren't familiar with it here's the basic gist of it all: as the green Bubblun (strictly player one) or the blue Bobblun (strictly player two) you control a pointer which you can aim at any which angle above you which you'll use to fire up an infinite array of randomly colored bubbles one at a time (with each subsequent one being previewed before getting a chance to use it)--with either shoulder button you can change the angle at a pixel for press to either left or right directions, but mainly you might want to use the arrow buttons for good measure.

Lightning bubble, activate
The essential goal in Puzzle Bobble is to fire the colored bubble at the exact matching grouped color in order to make them all pop (with the minimum amount being three), revealing enemies from Bubble Bobble that were once encased in them (and if you look closely at the differently-colored bubbles you can make them out exactly; clever play, Taito).  What's cool is that not only can you pop the same-colored group of bubbles upon firing the matching colored bubble, but if there were one or more differently-colored bubbles below the group you fired at as it happened then the former bubbles will pop which will make the latter bubble(s) drop down in the process, sweet!  =D

*FWOOM*
In the main Arcade Mode (which comprises of a hundred stages) are certain stages where there will be elemental bubbles which will play in your favor if you can shoot at them regardless of the color you landed with: fire bubbles to explode the bubbles that circled around it, lightning bubbles to make the bolts clear the horizontal row of bubbles (all depends on which direction your bubble was shot from), and then there's the water bubbles which will cause a waterfall upon popping that it will turn all that it affected into the same color (may or may not pop automatically depending on what color it becomes).

Matching (and Dropping) Bubble Time
With me so far?  So, the gameplay is very simple and intuitive to play, which is a great quality for the puzzler genre and works so well for this entry.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, it might start out easy in the first several stages but it doesn't take long for the challenge to pick up (give or take certain stages in-between that vary in difficulty).  If you take too long to shoot the bubble you'll be given a five-second warning to hurry up otherwise it'll do it automatically.  After every certain amount of bubbles have been shot the playing field will begin to shake, shoot it one more time after the fact and it'll begin to shake erratically, and when you shoot the bubble after that the ceiling will start to descend and lock itself one notch below where it previously was; that's one of the obstacles you have to beware of for various reasons.

Streaming watery goodness
What you must absolutely avoid is a lone bubble crossing the barrier that protects you by all means necessary otherwise you're going to lose.  If the next bubble that you're shooting doesn't match the color of any of the ones above you then you'll have no choice but to place in a spot that doesn't serve as an inconvenience to the best of your skill (and if it comes to that, chances are one or more of the randomized bubbles will come to your aid); this especially rings true when you take the gradually caving ceiling into account.  The key to success in the long run is aim, and a lot of the time you're going to have to make a careful trajectory aim to the group of bubbles of your choice (it can also ricochet off walls).  When you start the game and when you use up a continue there will be a dotted line that'll immediately show you where the bubble will go (the cutoff point being after the fiftieth stage at which point there'll be no more dotted line guides), but when you clear all the bubbles and proceed to the next stage you have to solely rely on your aim to make it through (may take plenty of practice to get the most complex aim just right).
Aside from the normal Arcade Mode there are two extra game modes: Versus Mode where you compete against the computer enemies or a second player if someone's playing with you and Record Mode where you try to pop as many bubbles as you can until you get overwhelmed by the bubbles and can't fire any matching ones anymore.  Don't worry if you lose a life for there are an unlimited supply of continues to back you up or you can choose to not continue if you don't feel like sticking with it (Arcade Mode is the only mode where you can continue your progress via password should you take a break from it).

*POP*
Puzzle Bobble is a very colorful-looking game and captures the charm and quality of the original arcade version really well.  =)  I love when you turn the game on you're first treated to crayon-drawn profiles of Bubblun and Bobblun until it cuts to the title screen with the brightly colored background with animated stars (I like how the title and font design is exactly like the one used in Bubble Bobble before it, it's one of many ways that this game ties into the 1986 arcade classic to good effect), and the in-game Bubble Dragon designs have gotten a slight visual upgrade which is great (Taito worked on the 1994 puzzler arcade hit around the same time as the coin-op Bubble Symphony which also had upgraded designs for both Bubblun and Bobblun).

Alright, ALRIGHT, I'm hurrying, don't rush me!!
.........oh
The way the bubbles are all randomly colored really make this game pop in a visual sense, plus Arcade Mode has got really well-drawn backgrounds and backdrops (with the rectangular playing field being tinted).  Several of the examples that come to mind are the row of trees with the foliage above, the background with all the bubbles going up, the desert-laden area with a sunset, a dark room replete with colorful stained glass windows, a breezy grassy area with a nice cloudy sky, and a beautiful-looking dark sky with a star constellation all around.
After the final stage there are some well-drawn sepia-tone images on parchment paper, and during Versus Mode there are charmingly lighthearted profiles of either Bubble Dragon and the enemies for when they win or lose.  =)

Ah, I'm a sucker for stained glass windows
in video games, they're so good!
Composed by Team Zuntata's Kazuko Umino (the coin-op Cameltry, Solitary Fighter, Mizubaku Daibōken on the PC Engine, The Jetsons: Cogswell's Caper), Puzzle Bobble's soundtrack isn't exactly very big as there are really only a handful of songs, but what is there is very upbeat and comforting to listen to.  The Arcade Mode theme is really relaxing and lighthearted that I personally have no qualms listening to it for long stretches and really it's the only song that plays here until the final stage where its theme is more foreboding and action-packed, the Versus Mode theme has got a friendly and competitive spirit to it, Record Mode's theme is short but sweet, but my favorite song is the one that plays during the credits as it's a newly fun and bouncy variation of Bubble Bobble's main theme which pleasantly surprised me the first time I beat this puzzler as it's a really catchy and memorable theme.  =)  The sound effects are well-chosen such as the bubble popping sounds and I liked the cartoony-sounding tight squeeze sound for when the ceiling space just lowered itself by a notch.

Fish motif
In the options you can select between one of three difficulties; whether it be Easy, Normal (default), and Hard as well as select how many rounds you want to go up to in Versus Mode before proceeding to the next opponent.  While aiming is the key to prolonging your progress, one other thing that would also help is if there is enough room for you to shoot the bubbles because there may be moments where there's little open room to launch them (whether it be to dangerously low ceiling space or a huge abundance of bubbles in your path or both) so you'll have to pay attention when it comes to the more complex trajectory aims (like if there's a gap between two bubbles where the only way to stick the bubble in there is by making sure the aim is not off otherwise it'll just stick in front of one of the bubbles).

Oh no!  =O
When you reach the final hundredth stage in Arcade Mode it actually culminates in a boss fight, but not quite in the way you'd expect as you must hit the bubbly platform enough times in order to make it vanish which will enable him to fall off, however it's not without challenge as every now and then he'll try to make unwanted bubbles appear and obfuscate the target, so pop the matching colored bubbles when you can.  Even if and when practice makes perfect, it'll still be challenging in the long run, so don't give up.  The great thing about Puzzle Bobble is that when it comes to matching the bubbles or placing a bubble in a convenient spot there is more than one solution thanks to the pointer's aim mechanism.

Meanwhile, in the clock tower of Alundra
before being frozen in time by Melzas...
Because this game became a huge hit naturally it meant that there would be sequels along the way (I'll just cover the first few, as there are too many to talk about): on July 1995 Taito released Puzzle Bobble 2 in Japan which initially was released in America as Bust-a-Move Again but when it came to the home conversions for the PlayStation One, Sega Saturn, Windows PC, Game Boy, and Nintendo 64 the localized title would be Bust-a-Move 2 Arcade Edition; on September 1996 came Puzzle Bobble 3 in arcades (which when localized was retitled as Bust-a-Move 3 or Bust-a-Move 3 DX or Bust-a-Move '99 depending on the regional version you played) and got ported to the Sega Saturn, PlayStation One, Game Boy (Europe only), Nintendo 64, and Windows PC (in Europe in 2002) which added new characters to the roster; and finally there's Puzzle Bobble 4 which arrived in arcades in 1998 which when localized and converted for home ports for the PlayStation One, Game Boy Color, Windows PC, and Sega Dreamcast was retitled as Bust-a-Move 4 which had a story mode and a pulley system plus it would be the last game in the series to be similar in presentation to the original Puzzle Bobble as everything that followed went in a drastically different direction.

Nice visual aesthetic
Back when I lived in Italy I remember having first been exposed to this series (albeit as Bust-a-Move) with the third game for the PlayStation One when I tried it once in a game rental/store as a kid, but I would have the most experience when I got Bust-a-Move 2 Arcade Edition later (for the PlayStation One) which I found to be a lot of fun back then (and still do to this day).  =)  Over a decade ago when visiting my relatives in Italy there was this beach that me and my family went to every once in a while to bathe in the sun and go in the water (at least, when you got past the initial coldness of it) where inside one of the buildings there used to be an arcade cabinet that had two games in one; one of them was the original Bust-a-Move which I had the privilege to experience when visiting there before the cabinet was no longer there years later.  Ah, the memories!  <=)

Turn, turn, turn, turn, turn
I was aware of the original Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move being available on Nintendo's 16-bit console, but I'll confess that initially I was a bit hesitant because it would've been a smaller scaled version of what was a big arcade game.  Last year I decided to get past that concern and go for it with the thought that it would be fun regardless, and it is; it wouldn't be until July 2016 that I got the Super Famicart for Puzzle Bobble.  While I would've been okay with playing the localized Bust-a-Move also, in the end I wanted to own the version where both Bubblun and Bobblun were charming the cover as opposed to the version with what has got to be the most unappealing cover for a Nintendo 16-bit puzzler ever (seriously: what the hell is that?).  Why is it that sometimes America got the worst video game covers during the '90s?  -_-

Pop go the red enemies
Puzzle Bobble is an incredibly charming and highly addicting puzzler and in my opinion is (alongside its direct sequel) one of the best games in the genre to have ever been crafted; it's very easy and simple to play yet at the same time is very difficult to master in the long run because the challenge value can be so random and intense at points that it honestly makes the proceedings very exciting.  =)  While I love RPGs and platformers I do consider puzzlers to be my third favorite video game genre as well as my go-to genre when I'm the mood for something simple when taking a break from more complex titles (in and out of comparison).

Time is by your side
Turning Bubble Bobble's concept into a puzzler was a great idea for Taito with the bubble-encased enemies from that coin-op serving as puzzle pieces launched by either Bubble Dragon; it just adds a huge connection.  I like that the backgrounds occasionally change the further you go, there is a cute arcade-like charm to it, and it's very colorful to boot.  It's also fun to find more than one way to connect all the same-colored bubbles if the simple route is not available; careful aiming is key, but there will be moments when you're like "No, that's not where I meant to aim!" because you're either under duress from the barrage of bubbles that threaten to cross the border (whether or not there is a low ceiling space) or because you were you trying to eye the target only to slightly overshoot the mark.  Another fun thing to do is trying to clear the stage in the quickest amount of time possible if opportunity arises.  =)
Image from Wikipedia
Like a lot of people I was very disappointed that Bubble Bobble didn't find its way to the PlayStation Portable compilation Taito Legends Power-Up (how can you omit such a classic?), but it did give us a chance to play what is considered to be its spiritual predecessor in the form of the 1983 game Chack'n Pop where the Monsta and Mighta enemies made their debut who would go on to appear in the Bubble Bobble franchise with the title character Chack'n making appearances in subsequent Taito releases (including the direct sequel to today's game).

Such an in-depth area in terms of shading
Puzzle Bobble only has one major theme playing in each of the three game modes, and I'm sure that the theme that plays in Arcade Mode will be the theme that people will remember the most as it's a comfortingly upbeat and engaging listen but also very short in length so it does loop a lot; the sequels (which would also include this theme on occasion) would have an expanded soundtrack that would offer a sense of variety in that aspect to mix things up.  I can understand why repeated listening of this theme would drive some people insane, but I've personally never had a problem with that piece of music (it harkens back to innocent and simpler times I feel); and honestly I'd rather listen to Arcade Mode's theme over and over again than a single intrusive track from Ape Escape (I know this is irrelevant, but I just wanted to bring it up before I forget since I got to catch up with it this year; for the record, I think Ape Escape is solid enough platforming fare but it's got a terrible soundtrack, I can't believe the higher-ups at Sony thought obnoxious headache-inducing themes that bordered on boisterous would be a good idea).  =<
The beauty of puzzlers in general is that it is a hugely accessible genre regardless of skill level or age; they're not just games made for gamers with lots of experience or made solely for beginners or only for adults or only for kids, these games are made for everyone--that's one of many reasons I like the puzzler genre.  If you're a fan of Bubble Bobble or if you were curious about Puzzle Bobble then I highly recommend it; it's tons of lighthearted fun with lots of challenge value and cute charm plus the most innovatively fun gameplay ever for a puzzler (series).  Nothing can compete in my book, it's that good!  =)

My Personal Score: 10/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. In preparation for Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming (which I saw on the 8th) I've been marathoning all three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies and Marc Webb's two The Amazing Spider-Man movies on DVD to keep the comparisons fresh in my mind even though it's an entirely new interpretation (yes, in the span of eight days--give or take a day or two that I took a break--I watched fifteen years' worth of standalone Spider-Man movies... I know, insane).  I liked Homecoming, I thought it was really good fun with a nice John Hughes vibe about it (we actually explore Peter's high school life and dilemmas) plus Tom Holland is the best Peter Parker and Spider-Man to date; Tobey Maguire I thought excelled more as Peter Parker than he did as Spider-Man while Andrew Garfield conversely I felt was superior as Spider-Man than he was as Peter Parker (I liked them both, don't get me wrong, but in either case one half was more convincing than the other), so I'm glad that Holland managed to capture the best of both worlds here.  =)  And Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes/Vulture I felt was a compellingly effective villain, one of the best MCU villains next to Loki and Ultron.  It ranks third in my top three best Spider-Man movies (alongside Spider-Man 2 and The Amazing Spider-Man).
 
P.S. 2 On the 16th I saw Matt Reeves' War for the Planet of the Apes in theatres which I thought was a deeply poignant and richly-themed chapter in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, as usual Andy Serkis was fantastic in the role of  Caesar and Woody Harrelson's Colonel was simultaneously chilling and compelling as a villain.  Great film.
 
P.S. 3 Took longer than I thought I would with this review, with only the last few paragraphs stumping me as to how I would tackle it; that and had some motivation issues because I didn't want my review to turn out sloppy for I wanted the wording to be coherent and say as much as I can as well as provide context to the best of my ability (I play it by ear--there is no rough draft--I judge how long my review is based on how many screenshots I have and sometimes it's a lot)... that and busy with real life and I was playing and getting screenshots for my next video game review, but that's a surprise.
 
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think; hope you have a great Summer, take care!  =D

Saturday, July 1, 2017

New Adventure Island (TG16) Review

🌴Written: June 28th-July 1st, 2017🌴
Alternate Title: Takahashi Meijin no Shin Bōken Jima [  ]
Year: 1992 | Developed and Published by: Hudson Soft

Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here, passionate about video games, big retrophile, and it's high time for a new review after almost a month of absence.
On January 11th, 1992 the Super Famicom received its first outing for Hudson Soft's Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island brand as well as the third title in the series following the success of the first two Nintendo 8-bit games in the form of the Produce-developed Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima, or Super Adventure Island as it would be known in America and Europe on the SNES come that April and November respectively.
That game wasn't (and isn't) well-regarded by large circles of gamers and is considered by many to be the nadir of the series; what ultimately let Super Adventure Island down was the glaring lack of a running feature for the main protagonist (something that was present in all previous and subsequent games), which meant that the game was a slog to play through--not helped by the fact that it felt very unpolished and stiffly awkward at points (especially when its Super Jump was accomplished by holding down while pressing B on the ground) as well as the fact that it felt rather bland in my opinion.  The only thing it really had going for it was Yuzo Koshiro's hip hop/calypso-driven soundtrack which was its sole bright spot, but it's not enough to salvage what amounted to nothing more than a tech demo for what is otherwise an average game and proved that Produce was wrong for the platforming genre; they would have more fulfilling luck in the RPG genre after the fact (as evidenced by games such as Elnard/The 7th Saga, Brain Lord, and Mystic Ark).

Luckily for the series the year was young for there was a still chance to win fans back and give gamers confidence in the Takahashi Meijin/Adventure Island games again.  That June saw the PC Engine release of Takahashi Meijin no Shin Bōken Jima in Japan, with the American TurboGrafx-16 release following suit later in the year as New Adventure Island.  This time Hudson Soft would be in full control as opposed to just act as publisher, which is great: but is it worthy of the name brand?

This marks a special day for Master Higgins (Takahashi Meijin in Japan, named and modeled after the Hudson Soft spokesman of the same name) and his girlfriend Tina, for they have just gotten married--which despite the franchise's prehistoric setting the people managed to develop the concept of religion, leis, and proper wedding gowns (anachronism can get weird in media).  o~O
This special occasion unfortunately gets ruined when the game pulls a Konami's Haunted Castle on us as a shadowy fiend by the name of Baron Bronsky abducts the bride (and his underlings kidnap the six island children) on the hero's wedding day!
This angers Master Higgins, who raises his shaking fist in the air and sets out with the drive to defeat Baron Bronsky and save his just-married wife.
 
Snake-a-rang
New Adventure Island has you take control of the troglodyte Master Higgins whom you can move to the left and right; he can't duck down like in the last game but that's more than made up for the fact that you can now dash again by holding down the attack button while moving in either direction (yay).  Along the way there'll be fruit popping up which you'll need to consume to replenish his gradually decreasing stamina for you lose a life upon taking one hit, same for when the stamina has been completely depleted or when you fall to the bottom edge of the screen.  Also along the way are eggs which contain either stamina replenishing items like milk and watermelons, a skateboard to ride on until you either finish the stage or bump into an enemy or rock (you can't stop on a board, but you can do a wheelie by holding down the left button and slow down a little), a life, a fairy that renders you invincible for a short period of time, a malicious eggplant which sucks away your stamina for a little bit until it leaves, and also weapons.

Down, down, the spidery cave we go
Initially, whether you start a new game or resume from either the beginning of the area or the halfway point (barring the boss areas, of course), you start off with nothing to protect yourself with so until you get a weapon you must make sure to avoid collision with an enemy and/or its projectiles.  The main weapons in this game comprise of stone axes which serve as the regular weapon of choice, boomerangs which will come back to you after being thrown, and arrows which you can throw straight where it eventually falls down at an angle--sometimes you'll find them appear in midair while other times they might be concealed inside an egg--which you can throw two at a time (and since it's a PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 game there is the turbo button to enable you to throw them in quick succession of each other if you didn't want to tap the normal attack button repeatedly).

Purple bricked wall and motif
There is a fourth weapon which is potent in of itself, but it's concealed inside a hidden egg; should you throw your weapon in a seemingly normal spot and you hear a sound despite the egg not being visible, step in that place and jump up to reveal it; that weapon is the fireball which can burn even rocks and boulders in your path (bear in mind that the fireballs aren't the only things inside hidden eggs).  The catch is that once you grab the weapon you can't take back your old one a la the pre-Akumajō Dracula X iterations of Konami's Castlevania franchise, so if you don't wish to get stuck with the weapon you don't want just avoid it if you can.  Halfway in most areas are the checkpoints as represented by the raised flag with Hudson Soft's famous bee logo; if you lose a life at this point you'll resume from the middle point, but if you use up a continue then you'll start that area from the beginning (using up a continue on say Area 2-3 will have you there until you succeed to the subsequent areas).  The boss areas don't have any checkpoints to speak of, which is understandable given how small and short they are, but it doesn't make them any less challenging.

Avoid the erupting fireballs
The visuals in New Adventure Island are absolutely colorful and do a great job at updating the once 8-bit designs of Master Higgins and his recurring enemies; one could make the argument that they might be a touch too vibrant for their own good, but nonetheless it's very pleasant to look at.  =)  Each area has their own distinguished design and detail that make them distinguishable; among the setting choices are the tropics, the volcanic island, the rocky mountains, the snow-laden forest, and the desert to name a few.  Plenty of the areas incorporate a little bit of depth thanks to the line scrolling and on few occasions parallax scrolling with each individual background layer moving at different speeds (some examples are the volcanic cavern with the lava flowing and the ice cavern with a sense of shine) despite the console's technical limitations.  The foregrounds and backdrops look equally interesting for they help make the game's world pop (especially when occasionally there would be added details like fireballs, rain, and snowflakes depending on the area).
Honestly, the high abundance of color in this game and interesting design choices make the overly shaded Super Adventure Island look ugly and unappealing by comparison.

Things are going to get hot in here
Another asset that really helps this game, which I felt was completely absent in the aforementioned title and only partially present in the earlier games, is that it is replete with charm!  Right from the onset we can see Master Higgins emote at last: when he and Tina emerge from the church he's happy, but when he sees the kidnapping of the island children and the abduction of his wife he's shocked with exaggeratedly bugged eyes until we have a close up of him with anger shown in his eyes with the flame in the background.  He looks and animates good in-game, especially as he runs, bumps on a rock (resisting a pained expression), and rides on his skateboard (which adjust to the slopes); at the end of each area he reacts in a different way depending on how much stamina you had by that point (i.e. giving the thumbs up, sleeping, fanning himself, being exhausted).  When he defeats any of the bosses he stands triumphantly as the people who have been taken away have been rescued.  =)
After the defeat of the first five bosses you're treated to an intermission with Master Higgins celebrating in different ways; they're a nice breather from the adventure for it's just great to see him at his most expressive in the series.
On that note, his "Yipe" expression upon losing a life in New Adventure Island is a lot more tolerable than when he lost a life in Super Adventure Island--I don't know what annoys me more in that one: that overbearingly obnoxious face (as his sprite is lingered on until he falls offscreen), that intrusive sound effect upon being touched by an enemy or projectile,  or the fact that anytime he loses a life he never faces the right direction (it's always to the left).  -_-

Swordfish
Many of the enemies from the first two games make a return for this installment, and honestly they've never looked better: among them the snails, frogs, skulls, squids, swordfish, spiders, bats, and snakes to name some; and as for new enemies there are moles, crabs which occasionally blink one eye before the other, bunnies, bears, dashing ostriches, turkey vultures, and dragonflies to name some.  Each of them look and animate well and plenty of them have their own expressions for when they're disposed of (i.e. the crabs foam at the mouth, the squids' eyes widen apart, the bats become skeletal).  Like the first Adventure Island the bosses are huge and tower over you with imposing enough designs
such as the ones for the boar and the elephant to name a couple, and regarding the bosses in particular they're set against a partially curtained backdrop with a diverse animal motif adorning the columns below them; finally Baron Bronsky's two phases look good.

Invincibility Time
New Adventure Island's music was composed by Keiji Sakata (credited as Nobi in this game) and was the last game he worked on (previously having provided music and/or sound for Mickey's Chase/Mickey's Dangerous Chase, Galaga '91/Galaga 2 for the Sega Game Gear, Doraemon: Nobita no Dorabian Night, and the PC Engine port of Dragon Saber: After Story of Dragon Spirit).  For what it is the music works really well in-game and suit the colorful areas attached nicely, and the melodies are quite catchy; but the sound samples used might not be for everyone's taste when heard out of context.  The tropical cues are good, the cavern and castle themes are ominous, to name a couple, but my favorite song comes from the snow stages where it's energetically comforting and inspiring.  The sound effects are quaintly chosen, and I like that there's a sound that was seemingly lifted from the original game in all its 8-bit sound byte (oddly, it fits here given the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 system's advanced technical prowess).

Ice cool
Each of the first six islands is divided into four areas, with the final one being where you will face the current boss.  The solution, as was the case for the first Adventure Island, is the same for the first six bosses as the head is their weak spot for if you manage to dish enough projectiles towards them they'll be down for the count (the arrow weapon really helps); however the strategy against them varies for they all have their own special capabilities that they can use against you (such as creating a column of ice which attempts to fall down towards you piece by piece, a ball of lighting that spreads the moment it touches the ground, and a rolling boulder).  Once you've got the bosses' patterns figured out you should be fine, but it may take several tries since you must do it all in one health or start over; Baron Bronsky is initially difficult but is very beatable with the turbo setting on as you throw the stone axes in rapidly quick succession next to him (only to get out of the way when called for it).  There are an unlimited array of continues in your stead, which is a good thing because New Adventure Island can be fairly difficult (yet manageable) on occasion.

Snow wolf
When I was a kid I would sometimes play with the plug and play with games from the Famicom and NES on it (not knowing at the time that they were actual games for the most part until the days of the internet) when visiting some of my cousins in Italy; one of the games that I liked (even though my gameplay skills weren't up to the standards of today) was Adventure Island, which is one of the games I got with a top-loaded NES console in 2004 at GameCrazy (RIP) due to my memories of playing it.  Two years later, after having found out about its sequels online, I would get the Game Boy version of the Nintendo 8-bit follow-up Adventure Island II (which removed the numeral in the handheld format for Western distribution, I'm not sure why Hudson Soft did that when the Japanese version on both the Famicom and Game Boy kept it) which I honestly liked a little more than the predecessor with the dino helpers and egg system, but only enough.  I knew of New Adventure Island, which first arrived on the Virtual Console downloadable service on the Nintendo Wii in 2007, but didn't try it on account of being uncertain of playing it (I liked the second game, but not enough to try this one right away) and other games catching my attention--once I started ordering games on eBay in May 2009 I was past downloading from the VC and focused primarily on getting physical SNES carts among others.

Ow
In the Summer of 2010 I ordered Super Adventure Island on eBay for the SNES, wanting to go into it with an open mind given its lackluster reception, but ultimately I ended up agreeing with the consensus in that it wasn't very good; it lacked what made the previous Adventure Island games what they were (no eggs, no invincibility fairy, none of the enemies from the other games, no passing by a flower followed by a wolf sprinting from behind you and the controller of the system you're playing on they leave behind once you dispose of them before they cross to the right edge of the screen, and no running) and felt awkward and unpolished as a whole.  I found it neither fun nor as "super" as the adjective in the title made it sound and frankly was the bottom of the barrel in a series that I wasn't a particular fan of at that point.  New Adventure Island I looked up was better and apparently was polished plus from the screenshots I saw online it looked appealing; but it was too late to go back to the Wii VC as Nintendo Wii Points cards weren't produced anymore (I'm not going to jeopardize my credit information) for I don't own a PC Engine or TurboGrafx console.  On July 2016 Konami (the license-holder for all things Hudson Soft since they folded over in 2012) made a surprise move as they released three TurboGrafx-16 titles on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console downloadable service in America (and Europe): Bonk's Adventure, R-Type, and today's game.  This was a perfect opportunity to quench a curiosity (since once in a great while I download some games on the Wii U VC, provided I have enough eShop points) and would be the first PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 game I downloaded on Nintendo's VC since Detana!! TwinBee back in 2009 for the Wii, and once I played it I came to the realization that I missed out big time.  =)

Fly, boomerang, fly
New Adventure Island felt like a breath of fresh air as far as this series was concerned, and there were many factors that accounted to this: the running was back and therefore added a lot of traction and energy, it had a lot of charm and personality with Master Higgins at his most expressive, there was a huge amount of polish which wasn't the case in Super Adventure Island, and above all it was largely wholesomely fun to play.  When you lost a life in this game you only had yourself to blame for being either overeager or careless, whilst in the caveman's first Nintendo 16-bit excursion when you lost a life it was due to him being a huge target on account of his slow pace and its cheaply unpolished structure (which I found painfully apparent when replaying it again after four years in preparation for this game, and came out more pissed and annoyed than I should have).

Shoot while it's not looking
I'm not saying there can't be slow-paced platformers, there most certainly can, but if you're going to do that then make sure that it's warranted or justified (case in point: I really like ActRaiser 2, a lot of people don't, it's a slow-paced game with challenge value that requires you to go at a slow and steady pace lest you wish to be plowed and overwhelmed by many enemies at once; it's the kind of game where rushing will get you nowhere).  Here's the thing: Adventure Island (and, by extension, the original Wonder Boy arcade game for which Hudson Soft's game was a port but with a different character) was made on the foundation that you could either walk or run, therefore you had a choice (something you were denied in Produce's entry, a wrong that Hudson Soft righted with this game).

Venturing under the sun
It also helped that it was polished because there's a genuine challenge to the proceedings as a result.  This is a pattern-based game which means you should be aware of what enemies are going to do (and with the palette swapped enemies there's a difference to their actions, like purple frogs leaping when you approach them while the green frogs stay in place) when you get close and avoid them and/or their projectiles; often times you may go up slopes as boulders are rolling down which you have to jump over  and down slopes as enemies are littering the way as well as be cautious about fast enemies like the ostriches in the desert.

Hey, is that... Turbo the racing snail?
There is plenty of platforming as how high or low you jump depends on how hard you pressed the button (also, jumps can be controlled in midair), with most platforms being stationary while others may either move or fall down upon landing on it.  Also try not to trip on a rock or you might lose a bit of stamina; and every now and then something new might happen like being stopped in your tracks by a huge fire-breathing skull or a huge bear or trying to evade a turkey vulture and its droppings (ew)--there's always something to keep you on your toes which makes it exciting.  =D

Oh no!
New Adventure Island is the most fun I've had in the series and I liked it so much that it made me a believer; why couldn't the preceding games have been this good?  As much as I love the SNES (and by extension the Super Famicom) console I didn't find Super Adventure Island to be good or fun and if there are people that like that game, more power to them I guess (to each their own), but it doesn't represent the good or great side of the platforming genre for you can do so much better (and really, the only truly positive thing about that one is that it makes you appreciate the other games of the series even more), and just thinking about it makes me upset.  Okay, maybe I'm being harsh; today's game was done by a company with years' worth of experience making platformers and that's why it worked out so well, while Master Higgins' first Nintendo 16-bit outing was done by a company that was out of their field... doesn't mean it couldn't have benefited from so much.  =|
I liked this game so much that I decided to import Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Jima III for the Game Boy and Takahashi Meijin no Daibōken Jima II for the Super Famicom this year.
Mario called, he wants his red hat back
The last of which actually serves as a direct continuation of this game with Takahashi Meijin/Master Higgins and Tina being husband and wife (that is until a series of events unfolds which cause the two to lose their memory of each other which they gradually gain little by little).  Both games, while I didn't think held a candle to this game, I did end up thinking were really good in their own right.  =)  Honestly, I think these three are the best games of the series.

With Konami now rereleasing TurboGrafx-16 (and PC Engine imports) games on the Nintendo Wii U Virtual Console downloadable service it opened up a chance for people to try them if they missed a chance on the Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console downloadable service, however in the span of almost a year they've only been releasing these rather infrequently (which were available in Japan's eShop long before America and Europe) for as of writing this review these are the only PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 games to choose from in America (does this mean that one day Bonk's spinoff Air Zonk may join the catalog?  Only time will tell).  I hesitate to say it's a case of too little too late given the recent release of the Nintendo Switch for there is technically still a market for the Wii U, but you can't help but wonder why Konami took so long to get around to these titles?

Ooh, Nazca Lines on the wall, nice!  =)
Even though admittedly I lost way more lives here than I did in Super Adventure Island (and for good cause: that game had only two continues, lame) than I care to admit, New Adventure Island was still a really fun game while it lasted and was worth it for the challenge reinvigorating the qualities that were lost in the previous game but added so much more to the plate at the same time.  My only regret is that I took so long to arrive to today's game, but there's nothing I can do to change that.  Do I recommend this platformer?  Yes, I do; not only is it the best game of the series in my opinion but it may also be one of the better platformers to emanate from the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 system from what I've played on the Virtual Console.  =)  If you like challenge in these games and a sense of fun then you'll find those here, and if you wanted to play an Adventure Island game that's oozing with charm and personality and polish, then you need to look no further than this one.  It may not have the dino helpers of the second game, but just like the title implies it felt fresh and new.  =)

My Personal Score: 8.0/10
<( ^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^ )>
P.S. I actually considered re-reviewing Super Adventure Island prior to talking about this game since I got to play this game last year, but after having touched Produce's game again I've decided not to go through with it; that's how much the earlier game annoyed me.
 
P.S. 2 Last month I saw Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman in theatres, and it was a really great and empowering superhero film all around (and Gal Gadot was fantastic in the title role, I look forward to seeing more Wonder Woman in DCEU's future).  =)  It was inspiring and hopeful and thoughtful too.  And on June 25th I saw the Studio Ghibli Fest rerelease of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro in theatres (dubbed in English, which was no problem as it was well-dubbed) and I've gotta say that it's a great way of being introduced to this movie (I forget if I saw it as a kid on TV or VHS, but I did know about it); the painstakingly detailed animation was breathtaking in every sense of the word, the story and characters were endearing, and there was a huge sense of innocence and wonder and warmth about it.  I really liked it!  =)
 
P.S 3 More on movies: um, between Rupert Sanders' Ghost in the Shell (which I thought was pretty but hollow), Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant (that I ended up not liking not solely because of a frustratingly predictable twist that undoes whatever goodwill it had before it but because it doesn't do the original Alien justice), and Alex Kurtzman's serious and incomprehensible Dark Universe starter The Mummy with a highly miscast Tom Cruise (who I normally like; Stephen Sommers' 1999 Indiana Jones-flavored take with Brendan Fraser is better and entertaining), I'm starting to think that Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall may have been a better movie than I gave it credit for--yeah it was a bit unremarkable in places and predictable but it was visually arresting and action-oriented and I liked Matt Damon and Jing Tian in it (give or take whatever accent the former was affecting) and fun in places... I just didn't like the subplot with Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe's characters.
 
P.S. 4 Yeah, the skateboarding is anachronistic for the time period, although the cavemen did invent the wheel, so I guess that gives them a pass?  =/
 
Happy 25th Anniversary, New Adventure Island!!!  =D
 
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment (spam will not be tolerated) and let me know what you think; hope you have a great Summer, take care!  =)