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Part I: Higgins In Da House!

Adventure Island
(NES/MSX/PS2/GC/GBA, 1986)

The series started here, where we were first introduced to Master Higgins, the frond-sporting pot-bellied hero whose beloved girlfriend, Tina, gets kidnapped in the first of many situations, this time by King Quiller, an anthropomorphized rhinoceros who seems to have a thing for human women. The character of Master Higgins is based on Takahashi Meijin, famed as being the face of the developer (Hudson Soft), and a gaming guru and master. Of course, Master Higgins (and the entire gameplay style) is also based off of that of Wonder Boy, a Sega-based game who sold a rights license to Hudson Soft.

Adventure Island required Master Higgins to endure eight worlds of mayhem, each divided into four levels, which is THEN sliced into four smaller sections that connect into one long level. The gameplay basically involves continuous running through each world, dodging enemies or defeating them using an axe (and later, fireball) weapon. Master Higgins can also break eggs that you find along the way, most of which have favourable treasures inside, such as Honey Girl, the invincibility fairy, or a skateboard for shuffling along more quickly. If an eggplant pops out, though, he'll lose health as you go until that mad vegetable flies away. Speaking of health, this is one of the few series where the health bar just naturally decreases over time. In order to replenish himself, Master Higgins must grab as much fruit as he can; sometimes it's in grand numbers, but other times, fruit is more scarce and he must ensure he does not take any other damage in order to survive that world safely.

Adventure Island is quite a difficult game, but it can also be quite stimulating with its constant flow of action! It also helped pave the way for many sequels, although it would be several years before the world would see more of Master Higgins. Adventure Island (known as Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima in Japan) was remade for the PlayStation 2 and GameCube in 2003, and the game was also re-released in 2004 in its original state on the Game Boy Advance as part of the "Famicom Mini" series.

Adventure Island II
(NES, 1991)

For the second time, your girlfriend is kidnapped -- by the same villain! Master Higgins must don his cool hat and leafy dress and return to the wilderness for more adventure. Adventure Island II for the NES was produced a full five years after the original, but the improvements are easily apparent. The graphics are far more crisp and refined, as is the music. Master Higgins still sports that goofy look on his face, though. In Adventure Island II, you actually get to visit eight different islands in search of Tina and encounter a wider variety of scenery, including new underwater travel. There is a much better variation of bosses this time around, so you won't feel as though you're basically fighting the same character over and over.

The mainstays of the game mechanics are still there: using an axe to defeat enemies, breaking eggs to find items, eating fruit to stay alive, grabbing a skateboard for faster movement, and even dealing with that rancid eggplant! But Adventure Island II brings something else to the table: dinosaurs. Yeah, that's right: dinosaurs. Typically hidden inside eggs, a card will pop out with one of the four suits on it (you know, hearts, clubs, etc.), which corresponds to a dinosaur; collecting the card will automatically summon the dinosaur and you'll be riding it immediately! The blue dinosaur (er, sorry, "camptosaurus") can fire electric shocks from its tail; the red camptosaurus breathes fire; the pterodon can fly and release bombs on the unfortunate creatures below; and the elasmosaurus will help you swim more easily. And the marvelous thing is that you now have an inventory to access between stages (which are no longer interconnected), where you can save dinosaurs and weaponry for future use. You may also find an egg with a key in it that will allow you to access special bonus areas or, better yet, an opportunity to skip to the next island.

Adventure Island II was a solid improvement over the original without being too unfamiliar, and its success helped the series to continue even further and even span other consoles.

Adventure Island 3
(NES, 1992)

Poor Tina. After a couple of kidnappings and rescues, she has been dumped by Master Higgins! I didn't know you could be that selective on a seemingly deserted island, but I guess Jeannie Jungle just had more to offer. She's not that much tougher, though; while snuggling on the hot sands of the island with her main man, Jeannie Jungle is abducted by an alien spaceship! How about that? Looks like Master Higgins has another quest ahead of him.

Eight more islands lay ahead in his path, and if you've played Adventure Island II, you know exactly what to expect, since this is basically more of the same. The graphics are quite similar and the gameplay is pretty much in line. I guess new music is the main draw. The only new additions to Adventure Island 3 are the tripetaurus, a fifth kind of dinosaur that resembles a triceratops but is able to easily roll around and knock enemies out of your way, and a boomerang weapon. Oh, and there are invincibility crystals to collect and save for a special occasion. So, not much else new to report. Still, if you loved Adventure Island II, you'll find much to enjoy here as well.

Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima IV
(Famicom, 1994)

Master Higgins' beloved dinosaur friends have been captured by a mysterious spirit in the sky! Go get 'em, Higgy! Taking a different route, Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima IV was not a standard platformer like the first three games of the series, and instead it featured more non-linear exploration through a rather large world. Master Higgins would need to locate items scattered throughout the island and use them to progress and defeat the newly-arrived evil beings. He also has a standard heart meter at the bottom of the screen as opposed to the constantly decreasing meter of previous games; he will be able to collect additional hearts to increase his overall strength. Other features include the ability to place an egg on a pedestal and teleport there from other locations, and the use of dinosaurs once again (if you rescue them first, of course). You'll also have a wide variety of items/weaponry to obtain (there's a whole submenu dedicated to these things) and use as you see fit. Classics, like the skateboard and boomerang, are still here, but you'll also find new items such as a hammer, surfboard... uh, umbrella, and... uh... a "big hammer". Must be better than a regular hammer, I imagine.

A password function was included to help players retain their progress, and thankfully, the passwords are short. This game also has the distinction of being the last game ever officially released for the Famicom.

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