Oh, Hudson. How I miss you now that you are gone. I never paid you any attention when you were around, and it is only too late that I decide to go back and discover your games...
One such game is Adventure Island: The Beginning, a Wiiware game that came out all the way back in 2009, when the service was still fresh and exciting, and the possibilities, endless! I cannot say that AI:TB caught my eye back then: the graphics in screenshots looked horrific, and I had no real love for the franchise. Still, in preparation for playing the original Adventure Island which I had been promised was one of the most difficult games ever on the NES, once you hit the later levels, I decided to play this remake which was said to be significantly easier.
There are a few things that I realized when I actually sat down and played this game: first, it is not in any way, shape or form a remake; and second, its supposed easiness is greatly exaggerated.
The game retains all of the elements of the classic game: you avoid obstacles, eat fruit to fill up your constantly depleting vitality meter, shoot tomahawks at snakes (it is you or them) and occasionally hop on a skateboard to blaze through levels at breakneck speeds.
There are significant changes, however, the most noticeable one being the physics: Master Higgins no longer slides around like he used to. Don't take this to mean that he is more responsive, no. In fact, he feels "heavier" than ever before, a very strange feeling. You would think sliding around less would mean great things for the gameplay, but I can't help but think that it's to the game's detriment. The original had this frantic feel that the sliding around contributed to: don't even think of stopping, buddy, you won't be able to! Here, this feeling of great momentum is gone. I suppose it doesn't make the game necessarily worse, simply different. The levels are now more based on killing the enemies than narrowly jumping between two of them.
What does make this game necessarily worse is the sometimes unresponsive jump. I have figured out what I am "doing wrong": when you throw your weapon, you cannot jump until the animation is complete. It is a valid design choice, I suppose, that prevents spamming the attack button like you could in the original game. That attack animation seems to go on for a fraction of a second too long, however, and led me to fall to many, many cheap-feeling deaths. I don't think someone like me raised on games like Mega Man can ever fully get used to this new rhythm. Still, these issues became more noticeable and problematic only in the late stages. In the early ones less focused on tight platforming, the game is great fun.
The game adds a few more "modern touches" to the classic formula: there are golden melons strewn around the levels for the player to find and collect, and then exchange at a store for new abilities and improved weapons. Some of these abilities are as game-changing as a double jump. It seems weird to me that such a power-ups would have to be bought, instead of earned naturally playing through the game, but okay. I guess it is not strictly necessary to have it to finish the game, so those who would rather have a more classic experience can choose to ignore it. Good luck with that!
In terms of presentation, there is no denying that the jungle levels are as ugly as they appear. Thankfully the later, simpler environments, while not beautiful, are less distractingly yucky. The music is as catchy and upbeat as expected, but decidedly compressed-sounding. Hey, this is Wiiware after all.
At 800 Nintendo points, I would say the game is a good value with its 16 levels. The trouble is that the original game's 32 levels are an even better value. And then there are other, better retro revivals than Adventure Island on the Wiiware service, such as Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. Still, for the platforming junkies who have exhausted these other possibilities, I would say give The Beginning a go. It is a good, although occasionally frustrating, time.
Just watching the video I can see this is a totally different game than the original, such that the game is Adventure Island only in name, and not in gameplay. It sounds like a pretty standard platformer. Too bad the environments are so ugly, considering we've seen much nicer looking graphics in other WiiWare titles.
Nice review! And..surprisingly quick to come out. Judging from a few gameplay vids, the game looks like fun but more of a sequel than a remake. I guess that's a good thing, except that it seems to lack some of the classic elements of the series, such as dinosaurs and the more frantic, platform-based pace. Looking forward to hearing what you think of the original!