January 5th, 2004 | Nintendo GameCube | Review
Takahashi-Meijin no Bouken Jima
You just can't keep a good pudgy dude in a grass skirt down.

BY HUDSON, 2003

25 WORDS OR LESS:
Master Takahashi (Higgins) is back in the mix in an updated interpretation of the NES classic.

Also on PlayStation 2

Island of the damned

With the Famicom celebrating its 20th birthday, the Japanese have been quick to capitalize on the memories surrounding Nintendo’s classic console. From retrospective books to DVDs to GBAs, there’s no better time to get retro. Ironically, as we celebrate a product that revitalized video games, the industry is currently slumping, which leads companies to put more time behind sequels and revivals of proven franchises. We’ve seen it most recently with the Sega Ages series, which presents old Sega classics in 3D with less than stellar results. Hudson doesn’t seem to be doing quite as bad, with the second half of their Hudson Selection line a lot more interesting than the first.

Vol. 4 is Adventure Island, originally released in 1986 for the Famicom and — as any well-read gamer will tell you — is really just a port of Sega’s Wonder Boy. Strangely enough, Hudson’s version became the one most remembered, likely because of the Famicom’s popularity but more likely because of the name attached (see sidebar). Stranger still, the Wonder Boy series deviated in favor of arcadey action RPGs while Adventure Island mostly stuck to the formula of the first game. But however you may remember it, Adventure Island is back for one more go, and it’s as much a classic as ever.

Not to mention as hard as ever, too. There’s a reason they put Takahashi-Meijin in this game; this is a pro’s product. While the control and physics are pretty much unchanged, and having to catch fruit to replenish the slowly-draining health/time meter is managable, it’s still the nasty level design that gets you in the end. But thank the gods that someone had the common sense to include a new easier difficulty setting. Even though it only lets you take one extra hit, it can be a godsend for some (most … all) of the later levels.

Revisiting this game can even reintroduce you to your your tempremental side: missing a jump, tripping over too many rocks, ramming into an enemy … it all leads to frustration, but it also drives you to practice because somehow, it’s just so fun. As a kid, the most you could do is yell and bite the controller, but now, as a grownup, you can angrily and defiantly scream "FUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUU" at the television. But then, instead of just throwing down the controller and walking away, you press Start and go and screw up all over again. That, right there is purity.

The first thing noticed about any game is the graphics, moreso in a remake. The new Adventure Island is definitely a visual improvement on a basic level, but it’s not the best way they could have approached it. Takahashi is charming with his Mr. Driller-esque makeover and the claymation-y 3D graphics are surprisingly detailed, but maybe too much. Whereas the original game opened up in a bright-colored forest, the forest in the remake is much more dark and rainforest-like. In fact, many of the levels aside from the "cloud" ones are uniformly dark-colored, which kind of takes away from the boppy light-hearted atmosphere. On the upside, the menu interfaces and between-level maps are a nice modern touch, and the remixed music is well done and inoffensive.

There’s a few extras in the game, as well. First is the Challenge mode, which tests how far you can get through the entire game without dying and in the shortest time. It’s nothing you couldn’t challenge yourself with already, but I suppose it’s better than having no extra mode at all. Then there’s all the historical unlockables in the Gift Box, which you can earn by making sure you get most of the fruits (over 90%) in every single level. If it sounds hard, it is, especially since the game doesn’t tally your collecting in easy mode, forcing you to go the hard route if you want the goodies. But with the first item being a fully-functioning Shooting Watch that lets you match up your button-pressing records with the Meijin himself, it certainly isn’t all for naught.

It’s easy to figure out who Hudson is targeting with this new Adventure Island, but at its budget price it also reaches to a wider audience that may not, unforunately, take to the simplicity of the control and the above-normal difficulty. On the other hand, too many people were raised on the wonder of the Famicom to forget what games used to be like, and this remake is just as addictive and playable as anything on the market today. You’re no doubt one of those people, and to you I say try it. It’s called a classic for a reason. Ray Barnholt

Information

Hudson Soft

A Meijin good time

With no Wonder Boy name, Hudson turned their Famicom version into a starring vehicle for resident pitchman Toshiyuki Takahashi, a.k.a. Takahashi-Meijin. He was quite the gamer, posessing incredible nerve control that allowed him to push a button 16 times a second, becoming a hero to Famicom-crazy kids and a pop culture icon to the rest of Japan. Though his star faded, the games went on throughout the ’80s and ’90s, even holding the honor of the last ever Famicom game with Adventure Island 4. Amazingly, Takahashi is still at Hudson, working as a manager and more than happy to tell you all about the company’s latest games.

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