Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Super Adventure Island Review and VC Launch Party

This morning I played through Super Adventure Island in honor of it's release on the VC, and to write this review with a fresh perspective.

Super Adventure Island has great music, before everything else, that really stands out. Too bad it only lasts 15 levels because it's one of the high points in the series. As of May 30, 2011 gamers can purchase this classic for 800 Wii Points on the Wii VC. Even though other titles in the series prove much more adventurous, this title has some redeeming qualities and it's nice to see Hudson continuing to support the VC (Legendary Axe I & II please).

Once again, you are Master Higgins on an Island of Adventure! An evil wizard turns your GF to stone, chase him down and kick his ass to beat the game. Hudson was making purposefully archaic games before it was cool, but it's hard to tell if they thought the simple design and short length were good design choices or if they thought gamers wouldn't noticed as long as the entire thing was shiny.

No dinos. Only 15 stages over 5 Islands (Adventure Island II has over 80 stages spread across 8 Islands). Admittedly, Adventure Island 2 (and 3) take forever to beat. You have to dedicate an entire morning/day/night to beating those games. The return to a more Wonderboy/Adventure Island 1 design isn't an inherently bad decision.

The awkward controls, tiny enemy hitboxes, and momentum physics make the game a real challenge. Once mastered, you'll probably still make mistakes.

Overall the game is punishing. 3 Lives and 3 continues and you have to start over. You get a 1-Up every 50,000 points (about every 2-3 levels). Hudson intends to make the player practice for a few days before beating this game, not surprising considering the $70 price tag it had as a Super Nintendo Launch Title.

This game was hyped about as much as you could hype a game. Surprisingly, gamers generally like this game, and many have fond memories of owning only this, Super Mario World, and maybe a handful of other carts for the SNES.

Master Higgins likes to get wet, and Super Adventure Island is no exception. But the water stages were so much more elaborate and enjoyable in Adventure Island II. On the SNES it feel likes the devs rushed some water levels to give the game variety. These levels are easy breaks from the otherwise hectic gameplay.

Super Adventure Island is actually the 3rd game in the series. Adventure Island 3 came out much later, but it's actually the 5th in the series. New Adventure Island is actually the 4th, and it takes the same formula as Super Adventure Island, but improves the graphics and play control even more, and one of the true TG-16 classics. Except the very first game, Adventure Island, isn't even properly part of the series because it's just a graphics hack of Wonderboy. That means the "real" first trilogy of Adventure Island games looks like this:

1. Adventure Island II
2. Super Adventure Island
3. New Adventure Island

And I'm not surprised that these are probably the best in the series. Adventure Island 3 is repetitive, Adventure Island: The Beginning has been collecting dust inside my Wii, and the Japanese PS2 games look pretty bad as well. The two metroidvanias: Super Adventure Island II and Adventure Island 4 were both amazing, and Hudson really should release those as well, especially the masterpiece #4, which is easily one of the greatest games on the NES.

If you're still interested in Adventure Island, you can read the detailed history of the tangled series by clicking here.

My only major complaint with Super Adventure Island is that most of the enemies are either terribly boring or plain ugly. Water monsters fly around non-water levels, and the strange balloon seals are the stupidest fucking thing ever created. The bosses, however, really shine and show homage to one of the most memorable Adventure Island II bosses, the Hermit Crab. Too bad they ripped the ending fight straight out of Super Mario Bros. 3.

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