Game Review

Adventure Island: The Beginning Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

Higgins is back after a 15-year break. Is he still the master?

As you might know, Adventure Island is a bit of an odd series. The main character Master Higgins is actually a real person, although he's only well known in Japan. Ask anybody there about Takahashi Meijin (Master Takahashi) though and they'll know him for sure - he's a legend over there, down to his ability to press a button 16 times a second. Hudson Soft hired him and turned him into their promotions guy, causing him to make a ton of public appearances back in the 80's and making his popularity soar. One day, while trying to think of a new character, they had a brilliant idea - why not use him as the star?

This spawned the Adventure Island series, which, although originally not very original (the first game was just an edited version of Wonder Boy) eventually introduced new gameplay elements which made it stand out from the crowd. Aside from a Japan-exclusive remake of the first game on the GameCube though, the series hasn't had a single new game since 1994! For this revival, Hudson Soft decided to go back to the very basics - but was that a good choice or not?

Adventure Island: The Beginning plays almost exactly like the original game. As Master Higgins, your job is to traverse four worlds, each with four levels, to defeat the evil King Quiller, who has kidnapped the love of your life, Tina. In each level you simply try to reach the end, mowing down enemies with axes, boomerangs and other weapons. The game's main gimmick is that Master Higgins is a bit overweight - unless he keeps eating food scattered around the stages, his stamina will gradually drain, and when it's all gone, he dies!

It soon becomes obvious that this new instalment has been made easier to appeal to new players. In the original games, a single hit from anything would kill you instantly; now, the only thing that will immediately end your life is fire. Taking hits from enemies will only drain some of your stamina meaning it's much, much easier to make it through the game.

The weapons which you can initially get, namely the axe, boomerang, and spear function just like their original versions. The axe is strong, but instantly falls to the ground, meaning you have to get close to enemies to hit them. The boomerang can destroy campfires, rocks and boulders, while no other weapon can, though it's weaker than the axe, and the spear flies a long way, but is also pretty weak.

In each stage you can find Gold Melons - there's a total of 100 of them (92 of which can be gotten in the game's regular stages), and once you've found some, you can use them to buy new items. This is where Hudson made their first slip-up, as you can buy upgrades for the starting weapons. Once you've fully upgraded them, not only will they pretty much destroy anything in one hit, but you'll be stuck with them - it's impossible to disable them once bought, meaning you're stuck with overpowered weapons until the game's end.

If that wasn't bad enough just take a look at the rest of the stuff you can buy. There are three entirely new moves for Higgins, which allow him to double jump, float in the air and hang from ledges, which are really only meant to be used to get more Gold Melons. But, these new moves, coupled with the upgraded weapons, just end up making the challenge in the game non-existent. You can also extend your stamina bar from nine blocks to fifteen, and the duration of the invincibility item can be boosted from ten to fifteen seconds. Like the weapon upgrades, none of these can be disabled, meaning the game gets easier rather than harder as you progress.

In the original Adventure Island, you battled pretty much the exact same boss eight times, and, well, that hasn't really changed here - of the four bosses, only the final one poses any sort of challenge: the others all have an obvious weak spot, meaning you can often kill them before they even get in two (easily avoided) attacks!

Once you first start up the game you'll see a "???" option when you go to the main game. You might be hoping that this is some sort of "Classic Mode" with none of the new features, but the truth is disappointing - it's just a multiplayer mode in which you take turns playing!

Graphically the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The environments all look pretty nice, but Master Higgins's animations are wonky at best, sometimes seeming as if there are frames missing from each one. Another seemingly massive oversight is that there is no widescreen display option; if you've got a widescreen TV you'll be left with black borders on both sides of the screen! Audio-wise the game is also pretty disappointing, with only the same three songs during the entire game. In fact, the main game and the mini-games use the exact same music!

That's all the letdowns though, as the game also has more than enough good points. The main game, while easy, is still pretty fun; collecting all the Gold Melons is a nice challenge, and it's just plain fun running along, mowing down everything with axes. To add some replay value there are four shallow but fun mini-games (including one that tests your button-mashing ability) and online leaderboards, where you can upload your best scores and times from both the mini-games and the main game. All mini-games can also be played with another person.

Another nice if slightly unnecessary addition is the "Master Higgins Feats". Essentially just like Xbox 360 achievements and PS3 trophies, these are awards for accomplishing certain tasks. Every time you achieve a certain number of feats you'll be given new grass skirts and caps for Master Higgins to wear, including a red cap so you can make him look like he used to! Some of the feats are incredibly hard though; one of them asks you to equal Takahashi Meijin's superhuman button-mashing record of sixteen shots a second!


It's a difficult task to judge Adventure Island: The Beginning. On the one hand, the gameplay is virtually unchanged from the original game and it's still lots of fun to play, even though it's incredibly easy now. Sadly you just can't help but notice all the oversights, such as the lack of a widescreen option, the jerky animations and the lack of a "classic" mode for the main game. It all makes you wonder how on earth Hudson Soft could have neglected to include such things. Still, any fan of the old games will like this, and even if you weren't a fan, you might still enjoy it. Let's just hope that Master Higgins's next adventure is a bit more polished.

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User Comments (56)



Objection said:

Another case of a WW game that's decent enough but could have been so much more if they had taken a little longer to polish things.



Philip_J_Reed said:

I was hoping for something a little more impressive, but I might get this just for the sake of having another good platformer to play around with.

Actually, in that case, maybe I'll just wait for Cave Story.



Kokstra said:

Widescreen isn't really an oversight, it's just that most developers want to keep their platform games 4:3, that way it's more challenging because you can't see all the enemies coming. Nintendo did the same with Wario Land Shake.



Bahamut_ZERO said:

What a disappointment. Ah well.

But seriously, get 16 shots a second! Master H is the only person in the whole frickin world that can do it! Hard achievements are fine, but impossible. Seriously?



warioswoods said:

To me, the text of the review doesn't quite match the score; everything you mention essentially points to this being a rather lazy update with:

  • no substantial updates to the gameplay
  • a few minor changes which do nothing but destroy any semblance of a challenge
  • mundane graphics with badly worked out animations
  • poor overall presentation (music, cheap mini-games)

The only significant positive point you make about the game is that it is very similar to the original Adventure Island and therefore still somewhat fun, although that is undermined by the counter points about its now non-existent difficulty and poor presentation. I don't see how this is even up to the quality we'd get from a cheap fan-made game that copied the old gameplay and used a quickly thrown together 2.5D engine. Nothing I'm reading (or seeing) above justifies the 7 to me -- maybe a 5 would make more sense. But apparently I'm missing the essential element of Adventure Island nostalgia.



Corbs said:

Well I have to get this being the huge Adventure Island fan I am. I was hoping the score would be a bit higher, but that's the way the ball bounces.



Drake said:

It's a good game, it just feels a bit rushed. I think the lack of a classic mode with one-hit kills and no weapon upgrades/new moves is the biggest oversight.



KDR_11k said:

It's still a nice platformer even though it suffers from Zelda Reverse Difficulty Syndrome (the reason I've been advocating the abolishment of hidden permanent upgrades for a while now, better players will get more upgrades and then find an EASIER game while weaker players will find a HARDER game, completely opposite to how it should be). In the end not all flaws matter equally and Adventure Island is not flawed enough to be a bad game because it's still fun.

I suppose you could look for a way to cheat at the 16 shot thing .

Widescreen support wouldn't make sense anyway, the game has to be fair no matter what hardware you use so there's nothing widescreen could do.



Wesker said:

Great Review! I think for 1000 points it sounds like a really solid game. I'm sure I'll get some good value out of it and I would love to see more platformers on WiiWare so I'm gonna support this. Wiiware shouldn't just be for wacky new ideas, I'm glad Hudson are bringing us more traditional games like this for the service.




Good revw, helps me decide whether I should purchase this or not. Seems "decent" but as you said, very unpolished.



warioswoods said:


"It's still a nice platformer even though it suffers from Zelda Reverse Difficulty Syndrome (the reason I've been advocating the abolishment of hidden permanent upgrades for a while now, better players will get more upgrades and then find an EASIER game while weaker players will find a HARDER game, completely opposite to how it should be)."

I have to agree with you there; that's something I've been thinking about for a long time. On the one hand, it's an important part of the gameplay in a title like Zelda for you to improve your character by finding heart containers etc., and searching for hidden caves or other areas wouldn't be as enticing without the benefit of an upgrade. On the other hand, it is certainly true that it ends up making the game easier for those who are better to begin with and who know how to find these things.

I think the perfect solution I'd like to see is simply to have adaptive enemies and bosses who base their difficulty on your level of upgrades. That way, you could essentially maintain the joy of seeking out upgrades while promising the completionist player even better foes to wrangle with for their efforts. Now, that's not to say that adaptive enemies would be such an easy thing to actually implement...



KDR_11k said:

I think the perfect solution I'd like to see is simply to have adaptive enemies and bosses who base their difficulty on your level of upgrades.

No. No. NO.
Auto-levelling enemies are a terrible idea, they completely undermine the concept of upgrading. What's the point of an upgrade if your enemies grow equally to compensate for it so you'd end up the same or even worse off than without it? As with Oblivion people would determine min-max strategies that would give the maximum power boost with minimal enemy boost. Someone who doesn't know about those could end up grabbing the wrong upgrades, making enemies stronger without a corresponding increase in his own strength.



warioswoods said:


I completely disagree, although I believe what I was proposing is very different from what you're referring to. I certainly wouldn't want the enemies to compensate so much that you could end up worse off; instead, since we started this by referring to Zelda, where the bosses pretty consistently have 2 or 3 "phases" that they go through, what I'm envisioning is a chance, for instance, to fight a 4th phase for the boss if you have exceeded a certain level in your upgrades, or some kind of expansion of the battle. I don't want every critter you pass to pick up strength at all, since the point of upgrades is to no longer have to waste your time fighting weaker enemies, leading to faster travel through the areas you've already visited, which is one advantage of upgrading that meshes quite well with the gameplay needs of a completionist. Having extra challenges built into a dungeon or boss battle based on your level, however, would be a great reward for upgrading and would avoid the enormous letdown that always comes when you completely slaughter the boss due to all the time you've spent hunting for heart containers.



Ricardo91 said:

Meh, I wasn't interested in this game much anyway, the real kicker being the graphics.



Corbs said:

Oh and I've gotten 20.9 button pushes per second on my Hudson Shooting Watch. So the 16bpps can be done, you just have to do it a certain way using the rub method.



Omega said:

I can not understand why some complain about the supposedly "too easy" difficulty of some games. I can only speak for myself but the least games I have are too easy. From about 200 games, I am unable to complete about 20 because they are too difficult. These 20 I see as bad bargain. On the other hand, I have rarely perceived a game as too easy.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am not the type of hardcore gamer, like some others here. I enjoy doing other things too. I'm really glad that Hudson decided to make the game not as frustrating as the first Adventure Island was. For me, this could be a reason to buy it. I write it on my list of interesting games.

@DJGOYO (#4): Don't you agree with Marcel's opinion about the easy difficulty? Why do you think it is hard?



Homer_Simpson said:

I had a feeling you'd be reviewing this Marcel, after I saw 'Drake at the top of the main game highscore list .

Anyway, if you have a problem with the upgrades making the game too easy, just don't buy them until you have completed the game. They are there so if someone is having trouble with a level, they can replay easier levels and collect melons, then buy upgrades to help them to advance more easily. Really, there is no point in complaining about an entirely optional system.



quakster said:

The game isn't that easy, unless you're comparing it to the older ones. I have to admit, the unlockables do make the game a lot easier, but they're there for you to get if you can't proceed or want to try making high scores. (Quack on the leaderboard.)



Omega said:

Mega Man 9 has also optional items like Beat Call, Shock Guard, Guard Power Up etc. that make the game easier if you want. What do you think is more difficult to complete: Mega Man 9 or Adventure Island: TB?



accc said:

Yeah I don't see what the big deal is if the upgrades are optional. If they were forced that would be another thing. I've been playing Crash Bandicoot 3 recently and the last 2 warp rooms are an absolute cakewalk because the game gives you ridiculous powerups that make it almost impossible for you to die.



KDR_11k said:

Mega Man 9 has also optional items like Beat Call, Shock Guard, Guard Power Up etc. that make the game easier if you want. What do you think is more difficult to complete: Mega Man 9 or Adventure Island: TB?

Mega Man compensated for the availability of upgrades by filling all levels with tons of instadeath so an error will usually circumvent your upgrades.



Martin1 said:

Can someone please give some hints for the lastest boss (castle), the second phase? And which is the best weapon for him?

Another question: is there somewhere a list of all Master Higgins Feats and what you have to do for this?



Omega said:

Corbie said in his MM9 review that it has a rather brutal difficulty. (What I can not confirm.) And Marcel stated in his review, that the challenge in Adventure Island is non-existent. So, can I conclude that Adventure Island is much easier than MM9?




I agree that games should be made accessible in terms of "ease" in some cases but I think they should all have adjustable difficulty settings too to appeal to the core gamers.



Omega said:

Yes. But apparently most developers are too lazy to give us such a luxury.



Kirk said:

I love the original gameplay and I just wish the graphics and presentation on this version didn't suck so much.

I think the original, especially on Master System, is still a simple but pretty game. This however is kinda ugly.

The artist need a good smack around the head for letting crap like this get out.



Alfred_ENG said:

Thank you for the review. I have played this game alot. This is a HARD game not easy. It is fun to play. I hope people give this game a go. It will grow on you. I think it's as good as Mario 2D games. It has high replay value. Online scoreboards. I think it rocks. I am glad i bought it.



Alfred_ENG said:

@ 6 Zane
It's not a kids game. I know it looks like one but it's not. It's rock hard. No one on here will complete this game 100%. Or be ranked number one in world on the leaderboard. The reviewer is wrong. It's not easy. I have played this for 3 or 4 days now.



nosugarjustquakster said:

Whoever that Japanese guy on the top of the leaderboard is, he must either be cheating or have figured out some sort of trick with the chicken legs, because seriously 600.000 points.



Drake said:

Honestly, compared to the older Adventure Island games it's incredibly easy. If you've played them you'll notice it immediately

And now we're both beaten quakster, some guy somehow got 70000 more points than us!



Martin1 said:

How do I unlock the second gameplay mode ("???")? I have completed the normal game with every map.



Drake said:

I think you have to beat the special stage. It appeared after beating the final boss for me but I'm not sure what the requirements are, maybe get all Gold Melons?



Wesker said:

This game is wicked awesome, it really cheered me up cos the weather where i am is awful. Sir Francis has major skills on this game, if you want proof check out the leaderboards, what a geek;-). Thats why he only gave it 7/10 ha ha




I am still unconvinced by the game. I'm sure its a decent platformer, but the whole presentation as someone pointed out, is a turn off. I may download it at a later date when I am short of things to play and have spare ninty points....which very rarely happens to be honest! 7/10 mark doesn't turn me off, it actually encourages me to conside rit. The content of the review and another together wioth footage slightly turns me off.



Wesker said:

Sorry I think i was smoking something when i wrote my last comment. It's a good game, try not to be put off by the presentation. The gameplay is fun and thats the main thing. Also I doubt most gamers would find it as easy as the reviewer did so i would ignore that part of the review if i were you.



KDR_11k said:

Yeah, I still die plenty of times. Bosses aren't hard so far but the levels can still kill you easily. Still wish the manual would explain things like the different weapons and possibly even the water melons (I presume they're for fast traversal of a level?).



Wolfcoyote said:

It's still decent looking enough to give it a shot. I just want to know when it will come out for the US...



MrPuzzlez said:

Is it me, or is it when you're near the end of the edge of a platform or bluff and you try to press the A button it either hits or misses, thus letting me fall to my doom?

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