|Adventure Island II|
In 1988 Husdson Soft brought Adventure Island to the NES and many remember it being a somewhat modified version of Wonderboy on the Sega systems. After the initial releases both games received sequels that took each franchise down a different path. While Sega evolved Wonderboy into an action/RPG series, Hudson kept the basic formula of the original game and added some new features and improvements for the second edition released two year later. Do these new additions make this another trip through paradise?
In this seuqel you once again take the role of skateboardin' islander Master Higgins who's out to do battle with the evil witch doctor. After rescuing Princess Leilani in the first game, the doctor strikes back by kidnapping her sister Tina, so it's Higgins to the rescue. Pretty much your basic platform setup.
In this game Higgins has to clear out eight different themed islands each containing a number of stages. The gamplay is just like the original where you have to run through each stage trying the reach the end before the time meter on the screen runs out. You collect fruit to replenish your timer and you can crack open eggs in your path to obtain a hatchet as your main weapon against the various creepies and baddies. Higgins can still find his skateboard to cruise through each stage. However this sequel introduces plenty of new features to the franchise. Your progress is tracked on a world map of each island, and sometimes Higgins takes a different path leading to a reshuffled order of stages. The biggest addition is Higgins' four dinsaour pals that he can ride if he collects a card suit from an egg and each one has its own special abilites. The game also features an inventory screen before each stage where Higgins can store his dino friends and extra hatchets and decide what he needs to bring. However you still die from one hit unless you're riding a dino friend which takes the hit instead. A monstrous boss awaits at the end of each island and Higgins must defeat it in one-on-one combat to continue his journey.
The graphics are a definite improvement over the flat visuals of the first game. The different environments all have a bright, colorful look to them and the fact that's there's many unique stages gives the game some much-needed variety. The character sprites also look much better that the original title with some nice details and good animation to them, through they are a bit smaller in size. The background tunes for each type of stage are very catchy and pleasant to listen to and don't get repetitive, while the sound effects are just there.
As far as the gameplay goes, at its core it does use the same run-n-jump engine as the first title which is pretty solid by itself but the new additions really liven it up. The island-hopping action is very enjoyable and the shorter stages don't make it seem like it's dragging on as much as the original. The dino friends and the inventory screen are welcome features that add a bit of strategy and there's even some secret areas to find. The controls work pretty good and enable just about anyone to jump right into the fray. The game also has a good and fair challenge level; the first couple of islands aren't too hard and gives beginners a chance to get accustomed to the gameplay. However as your progress the game gets harder at a workable pace and the later islands will really test your skills and make you hope you stockpiled plenty of dinos. There are a couple of frustrating moments, especially with the one-hit deaths, though not as many as the first game. You do get unlimited continues, but unless you locate the Hudson Bee in the first cave level you can't restart with your items. (If you do find the bee, hold LEFT at the title screen to resume with your inventory.) Also this game would have benefitted from a game-save feature like passwords since it does get tiresome having to cover the same ground over and over (unless you use the level-select code).
So once everything is said and done Adventure Island II is another great platformer for the NES and one of the top titles in the franchise. The controls make it easy for anyone to pick up and play and the fun gameplay will keep you hooked until you finally beat the last boss, if you make it that far. While it can't quite hold a candle to the heavyweights like Super Mario 3 and others, Adventure Island II still proves worthy enough to be added to your collection.
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