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.
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).  -_-

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.

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!  =)

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