Grass skirts and Dinosaurs

25 Years of NES, Part 8: Adventure Island 3

The NES library is littered with mediocre series that thrived during the life of the system, but fell away during the transition to 16-bit systems or struggled along until the jump to 3-D finished them off.  They are not necessarily bad games, just unremarkable ones.  However, due to the many young players often-limited number of game options, any given NES kid will have special memories of one or tow of these series.  I already highlighted one of mine with Wizards and Warriors.  Another NES game, even though it wasn’t great, I loved was Adventure Island 3.  The Adventure Island series had four entries on the NES and two on the SNES, but lay forgotten until the recent downloadable resurrection (which I have not played).  Forgotten may be the wrong word, because I’m not sure many people noticed it in the first place.  The game was no Mario or Mega Man, but it is a competently created action/platformer that fit solidly into the middle of the bell curve of NES’s library.

While this post is about Adventure Island 3, I feel I need to explain how the series came about in order to discuss it.  Which means I need to explain Wonder Boy (which unfortunately has nothing in common with any sort of Young Nasty Man)?   Wonder Boy was originally an Arcade game created by a company named Escape and Sega.  When it came time to port it to home consoles Sega made a Sega Master System version.  Unfortunately no one cares about the Sega Master System (except Europe and Brazil and who cares about Europe and Brazil).  Escape presumably wanted to make a version for the muck more popular NES, but while Escape owned the game itself, Sega owned the characters and the title.  Escape went to Hudson Soft and they turned the jungle boy main character into Master Higgins, a chubby guy in a grass skirt and a baseball cap and changed the title to Adventure Island.  Then both games got different sequels and developed into completely different series.  Adventure Island continued like a normal series, but Wonder Boy continued to be unusual.  It was followed up by a sequel, then two games titled Wonder Boy 3, one of which was the actual sequel to the 2nd game (Wonder Boy in Monster Land) and Wonder Boy 5 Monster World 3.   Just trying to follow the series numbering can give you a headache.  Then there is Sayuki World, a possibly legitimate port of Wonder Boy 2 that used the Chinese Myth that Dragon Ball does as its base.  Which had its main character turned into a Native American and released in America as “Whoomp‘em” (say it aloud).

Adventure Island 3 was a solid Mario clone.  Most NES games were Mario clones, but the first Adventure Island was definitely riding the plumber coattails.  After the first game, which was pretty basic, the 2nd one added the ability to ride dinosaurs, which is absolutely the most memorable thing about the series.  You could also throw stone axes and ride a skateboard.  Even by the third game, the series had not quite left its arcade roots behind it.  There is still a harsh time limit on the levels.  You have a life bar that decreases with time.  You must collect fruit to extend your life bar and if you dawdle too long you die.  If you are hit it knocks big chunks’ off your life bar.  Fortunately, most levels are very short, but it is still an annoyance.

Master Higgins’ main attacks are throwing axes and new to the third game is the boomerang.  While the boomerang is stronger, both weapons have their uses.  The axe is thrown up in the air and arcs down, while the boomerang is thrown level and loops up and back to the player.  So the Boomerang is better for flying enemies and the axe is better for enemies on the ground.

Them there are the dinosaurs.  There is a plesiosaur that is only good in the water but is almost essential to the under water stages.  There is a pterodactyl that is less useful because while you can just fly over most stages, all the fruit is near the ground and most stages are too long to get through with no fruit.  There are two dinos of indeterminate species, one red one blue, that look identical with similar powers.  The red one can walk in lava and the blue one doesn’t slip on ice.  Last and newest is the triceratops that can roll in a ball, right down holes often.

The game is no cakewalk.  Knowing which dino or weapon to take into each level is important and there is often no way to know without having already played the level.  It is just that this series lies forgotten.  It is not bad, but it is eminently forgettable.

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