Hudson's Adventure Island
Platform:  NES
Players:  1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

    You've got to love Hudson Soft.  They've made some of the greatest cult hit video games of all time and have always been among one of my favorite publishers.  Known more for their TurboGrafx-16 / PC Engine titles to most, the company did some great work prior to getting into bed with NEC to create that 16 bit powerhouse.  Hudson was founded in 1973 by the Kudo brothers, Yuji and Hiroshi, to develop and sell software for the Altair computer.  By 1978 they became the first vendor of game software in Japan.  In 1983 when Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan, Hudson was the first outside company to invest in game development on the new platform, becoming the first third-party developer for the Famicom.  The company gained tremendous notoriety when their first Famicom title, an enhanced version of the classic computer game Lode Runner, sold over one million copies.  This success was followed up by the first game in the extremely popular Bomberman series.  Originally created for the MSX and ZX Spectrum computers, once Bomberman was adapted for the Famicom (and later the NES) it spread like wildfire and cemented Hudson's position as a top game developer on both shores.  Among those first releases for the Famicom / NES was Hudson's Adventure Island, a game that would become a long running series both in Japan and abroad.

    Ironically enough Hudson's Adventure Island isn't strictly a Hudson Soft property.  Hudson struck a licensing deal with another developer by the name of Escape to publish their arcade game Wonder Boy on the Famicom.  The problem was that Sega had published the original arcade Wonder Boy as well as a Sega Master System (known as the SG-1000 Mark III in Japan) version that Escape had also developed.  This meant that Sega owned the rights to the characters and the bosses which prevented release of the game on the Famicom due to licensing and publishing restrictions.  However Escape still owned the rights to the game itself as well as the designs for all the standard enemies.  So Hudson changed some of the sprites, wrote a new soundtrack, and tweaked the gameplay until enough of a new game existed to get around the things Sega owned the rights to.  The "new" game was renamed "Master Takahashi's Adventure Island" in Japan, known as "Hudson's Adventure Island" in the USA.  All sequels and subsequent Adventure Island games, however, were developed purely in-house by Hudson.

Description:  Princess Leilani has been kidnapped by the Evil Witch Doctor and imprisoned on Adventure Island in the South Pacific.  It's up to Master Higgins to transverse Adventure Island, defeat the Evil Witch Doctor, and rescue her.  In the tradition of early side scrolling platformers such as Super Mario Bros., Hudson's Adventure Island is a game that requires precise jumps and fast reflexes.  There are eight areas, each consisting of four rounds that have four stages each.  However things aren't as simple as just running to the right.  Master Higgins' energy level constantly depletes, even when at rest.  Luckily fruit appears throughout the game, eating it replenishes Master Higgins' energy level but you must constantly collect fruit to prevent from dying.  At the end of each area you battle the Evil Witch Doctor who spawns a new head after each encounter and then awaits at the end of the next area.  Power ups are provided in the form of eggs, some of which are clearly visible but most are hidden.  If your weapon seems to be impacting something invisible, jumping in that area will reveal a hidden egg.  Master Higgins' standard weapon is the Stone Axe which are quite abundant on Adventure Island.  The Stone Axe has a nice gentle upward arc when thrown and skilled players will be able to pick off enemies hiding behind rocks and fire with ease.  If equipped with the Stone Axe, some hidden eggs will reveal the Fireball weapon which can destroy rocks and boulders.  However the Fireball doesn't curve up and over the way the Stone Axe does.

There are also some unexpected items that are found in eggs.  The first being a skateboard which allows Master Higgins to travel faster than he can run.  The downside is that while he is able to slow, he is unable to stop or turn to the left.  If hit while on the skateboard the skateboard will be lost but Master Higgins will not die.  A small fairy named Honey Girl is also hidden in some eggs.  Master Higgins is granted invincibility for the short amount of time when Honey Girl flies along side him, allowing him to destroy anything in his path including fire pits.  Without a doubt the most critical item to be found in an egg is the Hudson Bee at the end of area 1, round 1, stage 4.  Encased in a hidden egg just before the end of the first round, the Hudson Bee grants the player unlimited continues, which is about the only way anyone can complete this game.  However not all items found in eggs are good.  A few of them contain an Eggplant that will swarm around Master Higgins and deplete his energy until he is nearly dead.  If you come upon an Eggplant you best either stay on top of fruit collecting or try to get to the end of the round as quickly as possible.  When only a few energy bars remain the Eggplant will leave, then it's time to quickly rebuild your stamina.

What begins as a simple looking platformer quickly turns into one of the most challenging games ever designed.  The later stages become brutally technical and memorization becomes key.  Without a doubt this game features some of the most challenging platforming sequences to ever be created - bar none.  Feeling up to the challenge?

Graphics:  With a game based on an island paradise, you would expect vibrant colors and Hudson's Adventure Island doesn't disappoint.  Backgrounds are nicely detailed with good color depth and have absolutely no flicker.  Enemy sprites are nicely detailed as well, nothing spectacular but they fit in well with the cartoon look of the rest of the game.  Master Higgins only has a few frames of animation but they flow very nicely, once again keeping up the animated look of the game.  Some may find disappointment in how every cave level looks like every other cave level and so forth but for this era it's to be expected.  What does disappoint me, however, is how the end of area boss is essentially the same each time.  Sure, his head is different and each time they require more hits to kill but it's still the same body sprite.  With how difficult this game is you would at least expect to be rewarded with some cool looking bosses to battle but that is not the case.

Sound:  I know I'm in the minority here but I love the music from this game, I always have.  From the moment the power button is pressed and the title theme begins to play, I am taken back to my youth when this game was originally released.  Each round has its own background tune and on the approach to an end of area boss the music changes once again to the boss theme.  Sound effects are somewhat lackluster, mainly because the music overpowers pretty much everything else.  Sure there are the usual beeps and pops when killing an enemy or jumping but they really don't stand out.  It still works fine in the end.

Play Control:  Control for this game has always been something of a debate.  To begin with, Master Higgins is rather drifty in how he runs around.  Holding down the B button while moving causes him to run and the A button causes him to jump.  Pressing A + left or right on the directional pad will make him jump higher.  This is all well and good until a few areas in when the game begins to become a platforming nightmare.  Precision and memorization become the name of the game and getting used to Master Higgins' drifty running and jumping are a requirement.  You have to become one with the controls or you will get nowhere fast.  Even once you adapt to how the game plays, the stages near the end are still some of the most difficult platforming encounters to ever be conceived.

Replay:  I can't see why anyone would ever want to play this game after completing it.  However I also can't expect anyone to understand that until they actually complete the game.  Yeah, the areas near the end are hard, but nothing compares to area 8, round 3, stage 4.  This is the most difficult platforming area in all of video gaming, the end of 8-3 seems nearly impossible.  You must perfectly run and jump along a series of platforms that drop off the moment they are touched.  That's not the hard part though, in fact this little area is recycled from earlier in the game.  The reason why 8-3-4 is hard is because there are three bats that swoop down as you're jumping across the platforms.  Oh, and this area auto scrolls up and to the right as well.  It took me weeks of going through this one little part until I got passed it.  Along with the help of some other gamers I've figured out a real strategy however.

Pick up the axe at the start of stage 4, let the first boulder roll above you.  Run and jump over the remaining fire pits and boulders, they can be jumped over in a single pass each.  Move over to the cliff so that the last fire pit is JUST off screen.  Get all the way over to the left and then run full tilt, making running jumps as you go, spend as little time as possible on the platforms.

Jump over the first bat.  The second bat is taken out with one shot while on the platform below him.  On the jump to the platform that the third bat flies across, toss a pair of stone axes, one should kill him just as you land on the platform.  The trick here is to ignore your reflex to jump over the bat, by the time you get up to him he should be dead and that extra jump will eat all your momentum, causing you to miss the final platform.  Don't worry about the last fire pit, tripping over it will reveal the bonus pot and cause no hurt to Master Higgins.

After that and the disappointing ending, this game will be placed back on the shelf permanently.

Final Verdict:  I suppose one could say that I'm a bit conflicted with this game.  I like it, I really do, it's a lot of fun.  Then again after completing it and realizing how nearly impossible the final stages are, I never want to touch it again.  When you do complete the game you get a congratulatory screen and little much else.  What really annoys me though is that in the manual all eight faces of the Evil Witch Doctor are shown, then a big question mark representing the final boss in the game - "King Quiller."  One can only assume that this game was rushed out to market before fully completing the original design plan because King Quiller doesn't exist.  Also you don't rescue "Princess Leilani" at the end, instead you save "lovely Tina."  This could be chalked up to localization blunders of the day however.  Even if not dedicated enough to play to the end, it's still a game nearly anyone can get some enjoyment out of.
 

Written on 09-08-06 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net
Last amended 09-14-06 by David, insanedavid@classicplastic.net


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