Posted on October 24, 2012
My Top 100: #62 – Super Adventure Island II
Of all the folks I know that grew up with 8-bit games, very few of them were as enamored with the Adventure Island series as I was. I guess it all comes down to those moments we spent in video game rental shops, staring at box art to see which one might tickle our fancy the most. I tended to stick to the cutesy platformers, not for any other reason than they just cheered me up. Yeah, I loved me some good Contra-style shootin’, but I would always gravitate right back to those colourful graphics and happy-sounding chiptunes offered by any company trying to duplicate the success of Super Mario Bros.
The series really hit its peak with Adventure Island II on the NES, a game that cast away the shackles of being a Wonder Boy clone and took on an identity of its own. It added a bunch of gameplay elements like the dinosaur pals, varying level layouts, an area map, different bosses to fight, an all-around greater challenge… it truly was an incredible game to play as a kid, and nobody seemed to care that much for it. I was appalled!
Adventure Island III was almost identical to the second one, but Super Adventure Island was a major step backwards for the series. They slapped a new coat of paint on it, took away what made II and III so much fun, and called it a day.
The glory days of Adventure Island were evidently behind us, and I wasn’t too happy about it.
It was ’95, a time where my interest in video games not called Mortal Kombat or Doom was dwindling, and NASCAR was taking over as my obsession of choice. There were the Mega Man X sequels that I was somewhat interested in, but I had my eye on future consoles. The PlayStation, the 3DO, the Ultra 64… I had no real reason to care about the current generation.
Well, Super Adventure Island II made me rethink that. I wasn’t the only one who wrote the series off when the first foray onto the Super NES bombed – apparently, Hudson Soft did as well!
The gameplay underwent a complete overhaul, and it was barely recognizable from its predecessors. Gone was the hectic fruit and veggie collecting to keep from going hungry. Dinosaur buddies were gone, which was fine, as was Master Higgins’ trusty throwing axe. He could actually take more than one hit without dying now, which made some levels in the earlier games a bit frustrating.
In fact, the only thing in common with prior Adventure Island games is the inclusion of Master Higgins and his imprisoned girlfriend Tina. Other than that, it’s more similar to a Zelda title than anything else. You have a top-down map to go from island to island with, and can run into random trouble spots that will bring you to a brief side-scrolling action level. It’s pretty Adventure of Link-ey!
You can also find new kinds of armor along the way, upgraded shields and weapons, as well as a few other items to equip. It’s a linear quest, in that you can only make it to certain parts of the map by completing certain goals. There are a few switches scattered around the islands, as well as other items, that will allow you to get to certain areas that weren’t accessible the first time through prior levels.
It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but Super Adventure Island II is definitely one of those titles that is underappreciated and overlooked by many.