The Wonder Boy and Adventure Island games have seen releases on just about every 8 and 16-bit console you can think of, not to mention a few remakes on some of the more recent systems. Having said that, if you want to play the best the series has to offer, you need only download New Adventure Island on the Wii Virtual Console to see all that this series has to offer. New Adventure Island somehow takes a simple-to-use control system and builds a wonderfully creative and unique platformer around it. Who would have ever thought that an island boy in a grass skirt could be such an effective protagonist for a side-scroller, but Master Higgins handles the job with ease and proves that you don't need Mario or Sonic to have a terrific and enjoyable platforming experience.
In New Adventure Island you have a health meter that is constantly depleting as time ticks by during each level. If you walk, your meter depletes slowly and if you run it depletes more quickly. It also depletes every time you use a weapon or if you run into certain obstacles that are in your way. The only way to keep replenishing the meter is to grab the fruit that's strung throughout each level. If your health meter runs out before you reach the end of the level, you'll lose a life. You can also lose lives by running into enemies or certain deadly obstacles in the game as well. There's danger at every corner but there's also many helpful items around in case you need them.
As you progress through each level, you'll come across eggs laying in your path. If you break them open, you'll be rewarded with various weapons and power-ups. Master Higgins can use four different weapons that include: an axe, a boomerang, a spear, and a torch, each with its own unique flight pattern and level of effectiveness. You have to find out which weapon is the most effective in certain situations and make sure you grab it. There are also power-ups to aid you along the way including a floating fairy that will make you invincible for a short time as well as a skateboard that allows you to ride through the level at a much faster rate of speed. As the enemies and obstacles in each level get more deadly, you'll come to appreciate and depend on these helpful items more and more.
Each island has 4 areas. You'll have to traverse each of these areas at which time you'll come face to face with the island's boss. The bosses are all half-human/half-animal, and will gradually become tougher as you get further into the game. Each boss will require you to carefully choose your weapon before you enter their lair to do battle with them. The weapon you choose will greatly affect how you're able to attack the boss, so choose carefully. The control system in the game is extremely smooth and responsive, and makes executing the many pinpoint jumps a breeze. It's also very easy to only have to use two buttons to perform all of the necessary commands. This allows you to focus more on the task at hand instead of trying to figure out a complicated control system. Even the boss fights are very playable and all have very distinctive patterns to figure out in order to defeat them. It may take you a few tries, but every boss in the game is easily beatable once you become familiar with their attack patterns.
Visually, New Adventure Island is among the best the Turbografx-16 has to offer, a testament to just how powerful this souped-up 8-bit system really was. Every island has its own unique look and style, and the graphic quality just seems to get better as the game goes on. Multiple layers of parallax scrolling and some of the most vibrant environments you'll see in a game from this era, all combine for a very impressive graphical experience. No other 8 or 16-bit system could dare touch the huge number of colors the Turbografx-16 could display onscreen at one time and this game is as good an example of that as any. If you don't believe it, compare some screenshots of this version of the game against releases on other systems and you'll see what we mean.
Although the soundtrack in New Adventure Island is quite off-the-wall, you'd be hard-pressed to find a higher quality musical effort in any other Turbografx-16 hucard release. It's impossible to even describe the music in the game, but trust me, it fits in perfectly with the game's quirky theme. What few sound effects are present are great, there just aren't very many of them. It's probably just as well, as they'd only take away from the outstanding music being played throughout each level. Considering this game had to run solely on the built-in sound chip of the Turbografx-16, it makes the musical production even more impressive than it already is.
It would be easy to sit here and rave about the smooth play control, the vibrant visuals, and the outstanding soundtrack all day, but what makes New Adventure Island such a treat is that, at its core, it's just an absolute blast to play. It has a well-balanced difficulty curve that gradually progresses, and it has a simple enough control system to make the game challenging without being overly complicated. New Adventure Island is the type of game that will remind you why you love video games in the first place and a game that proves that sometimes less is more. It's hands down one the best Turbografx-16 Virtual Console releases and a game you'll find yourself coming back to time and time again.