Thursday, August 28, 2014

Super Adventure Island II (Super NES, 1995)

The best of the Adventure Island series, in my humble opinion, is this little-known gem. It's a vast departure from the side-scrolling Mario clones that make up the rest of the series, integrating RPG and adventure game elements. It's sorta like Zelda II: Adventure of Link, but vastly better.




Higgins and Tina finally have some time to themselves, and Higgins doesn't look infuriated for no reason. Perhaps Tina finally made with the head. Just once in a while, Tina! Higgins doesn't ask for much, dammit!

Unfortunately for them, it happens to be hurricane season and they get separated. Again. Will Higgins and Tina ever live happily ever after?

This is self-explanatory. Tina hit her massive head on something and that was that.

Coincidentally, the SAME EXACT THING happens to Higgins and his gargantuan melon. What a masterful plotline!

Oh, and if a freak storm and amnesia weren't enough, the masterful story continues by having a giant bird swoop down and nab Tina.

Higgins washes ashore on Waku-Waku island near a castle, and the wisened old king needs his help. It seems that Tina was the king's wife-to-be.

...which means that amnesiac Tina met the king and they got engaged in the span of a day. Not too sure what this addition of the plot is meant to accomplish.

This isn't much of a castle, is it? It's two rooms and the king's throne appears to be in a closet.

The other room is an inn run by famed lady-pleasurer Taloon Gertner, of Dragon Warrior 4 fame. Abumbum-chicka. Abumbum-chicka.

"WELL...WELL...well. It is I, the quintessential studmuffin, now residing in Waku-Waku Island. That Tina is quite a piece of ass, is she not? Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Taloon 'I'm like a Rubix Cube, the more you play with me, the harder I get' ...Gertner."

Higgins sleeps at Taloon's inn, and as promised, has a wet dream about Tina. They don't know each other...which makes it even hotter.

Here's the overworld. I mentioned that this game is a lot like Zelda II, and I wasn't kidding. You traverse an overworld, go into various side-scrolling dungeon mazes, and collect weapons/armor/spells/items as you go through the game. The graphics are vibrant, the music is excellent, the RPG elements are super-appealing, and unlike many games of this nature you never really get lost because it does such a good job indicating what to do next.

The one real negative about this game is that you can get into random battles on the overworld. These random battles send you to the same screen (this one) every time, where you fight three or four enemies and then return to the overworld. Since the game doesn't have experience points, there's very little reason to fight these battles and they only serve to waste time. At this early stage when I don't even have a weapon, they also waste precious life energy.

Higgins (w/ humongous dome) faces off with vicious plant life in the first of the six islands that comprise this game's action. This island is your standard "plains" type world, with lots of trees and grass. There's a TON of stuff to get here, but the vast majority of it isn't accessible until later in the game as you get more items and abilities.

In the vein of games like Zelda II and Castlevania II, you get a fair amount of hints. The difference is that they're usually in the form of these stone tablets.

The pause screen is...not what you'd expect from an Adventure Island game. Looks more like an RPG menu.

Before too long I get my first weapon, the Silver Sword. It's your standard, run-of-the-mill sword. As the game progresses, you get some different-colored elemental swords.

Here's the first boss, a creepy pedophile version of Whispy Woods. The second weapon, the Dagger, makes quick work of him. It's notably weaker than the Silver Sword, but it fires straight ahead like a beam.

The boss music in this game is heavily-synthesized, but it's an interesting beat. Doesn't seem like it'd fit the game too well, but somehow it does.

Scattered throughout the game are life bottles and magic bottles that add to your total life and magic meters. Collect 'em all! I never have in the three or so times that I've played this game. There are something like 14 of each and they're well-hidden.

Between stages, Higgins goes to Taloon's Honeybee Inn for more cutscenes with Tina. Since the game doesn't tell you who is talking at any given time, these cutscenes get confusing very quickly.

Next up is a boss fight in a cave. Not sure what the deal is with this lizard, but he seems very upset. It's probably the easiest fight in the game once you realize just how rapidly you can strike in this game while having your attacks continue to count. Victory gets you...

 ...the item needed to proceed to the next island, the ice island. You have access to the fire island after the tree boss, but you can't get very far there without items from the ice island.

 Hiya-Hiya island is my favorite area in the game. It's RAD, YOU GUYS.

 We get a high-definition, high-res, full motion video cutscene 1995 style as two super-realistic legs stomp by and kick down the door to the island for our hero. I want to see the rest of this bizarrely-proportioned Ice Giant.

The ice island not only has great visuals, it has awesome music. The soundtrack of this game in general is far better than you'd expect.

In the background is The Wall, of Game of Thrones fame. Does that mean Higgins is Khal Drogo?

 The first order of business here is to find the next sword. The Fire Sword is a significant upgrade offensively and lets you break ice blocks.

It's also an awesome red color. After the snowy outside area, you end up going into an ice castle full of sasquatches.

If you're lucky, you may also run into Paul Heyman. Higgins: Not a Paul Heyman Guy.

 After finding the Fire Armor and the Fire Shield (my first armor and shield) and some more life bottles, I go head-to-head with the next boss. This mammoth is actually a difficult fight because his charge attack requires precise timing to avoid.

 A magical moment follows, as Higgins journeys into the desert to find the magic wand. Now he can cast spells. The spells themselves are unlocked simply by getting enough magic to use them. There's an exit/outside spell, a wing/return spell, a minor heal, a full heal, two overly expensive and thus useless attack spells, a temporary invulnerability spell, and a spell that slows enemies down temporarily.

 Next up is the fire island, Boa-Boa. This is another really memorable one, complete with funky music.

 
This area is home to the ice equipment, which turns Higgins aqua blue. Supposedly, ice armor is stronger against fire attacks while the ice sword does more damage against fire creatures, but I wouldn't be surprised if they simply had higher stats than their predecessors.

The next boss is a vicious mutant koopa. That's something else this game has that Zelda II didn't: Big, memorable boss fights.

 Said turtle is apparently rocket-propelled. Animal Control had to be brought in. It wasn't pretty.

 Another semi-boss fight in a cave, as Higgins goes face-to-snout with a 'roided-up tiger-man.

 The Shovel is very Zeldaesque, and lets you dig to access some new areas. Unfortunately it also leaves you mostly-defenseless while using it.

 Higgins also crouches while shoveling, making it easier to get into narrower areas. Still, for the most part, you want to be in "shovel-form" as little as possible. Whip it out when necessary, then switch back to a sword post-haste.

Higgins gets flushed down a toilet jumps into an ocean whirlpool to get to the fourth island.

The fourth island, Puka-Puka, is probably my least favorite in the game. The name is highly appropriate given how I feel about it. It's the super generic island themed island. It's also a confusing maze of overworld whirlpools, and the music isn't even funky. It's probably the place where a lot of players stop playing, unfortunately.

This island is super-notable for one thing: The Casino. You can play a bunch of minigames here to farm gold and buy the best equipment in the game. The Boomerang is an overpowered projectile weapon, while the Light equipment set is hands-down the strongest out there. The fact that you can get it as early as halfway through the game is kinda weird. Then again, it would literally take hours to farm enough gold for this equipment in the Casino. Most likely quite a bit more time than it would take to just play through to the end of the game without any of it. This is strictly for the powergamers.

 As for the minigames, you've got your standard slot machines and craps, plus you can bet on races Chrono Trigger style. While these minigames are fun, the huge amount of time that it takes to work up gold from them kinda excludes me from doing this. The Light Sword costs 50,000. The armor and shield cost 30,000 and 10,000 respectively. The Boomerang costs 15,000. The only thing from here that most normal players will be able to get is the one Life Bottle in the shop, which is a mere 1,500. Perhaps by the endgame you'll have enough to come back for the Light Shield, but that's about it without massive farming.

Onward to the island itself. It's generic and boring, like I mentioned before. Most of it consists of finding switches to lower the water levels while being completely lost in the maze of whirlpools. In this island, you find the Thunder Sword as well as the puke-green Aqua Armor/Shield that you'll be wearing for the rest of the game. Probably. It's are the last armor/shield combination that you get in the normal flow of the game, and pales compared to the Light equipment. There are a couple more swords in the main story, at least.

The sound of Japanese girls moaning in the distance can be heard as a tentacle roars out of the depths. BOSS FIGHT TIME!

 This fight is quite a PITA. If there's any point in the game where players are likely to give up, it's probably this fight. Or the final boss. When I rented the game as a kid I couldn't beat the final boss.

Course, if you get the Light equipment, this fight is far more manageable. Maybe they bumped his difficulty up to compensate for some players grinding out Light equipment. Though I'm guessing very few players did that.

 The fifth island is a desert-themed island with a pyramid. It's much more interesting than the generic beach island, and the game's lull has officially ended. Oh yeah, and rad music has returned.

 The pyramid itself is a straightforward dungeon, much like the ice castle. Much-needed after that ridiculous maze on the previous island.

 The Legendary Ax is more or less the weapon from the earlier games in the series. It's metal rather than bone, but other than that it fires in the same exact arc at the same exact rate. It's also quite powerful, easily out-damaging the Thunder Sword.

 The boss here is a mummy. It's one of the easier fights in the game if you have the Ax, but watch out for his trailing CLOTH OF DOOM.

At this point I need to return to each of the five islands and find a spell hidden away on each one. Now that I have the Elven Flute, I can play it in various mausoleum-esque rooms to unlock extensions of each island.

It's also important to make sure that all five of the world-switches are hit, each of which causes a different type of block to fill in. Think Super Mario World.

Here's one of the spells in question. Each island has one. For the most part, it's fun to go back and replay the islands to get all of these...aside from the aptly-named Puka-Puka. Man, I hate that place.

 That said, Puka-Puka actually has one of the coolest level-extensions once you get to it. You ride a bubble through a bunch of spike-lined corridors reminiscent of a Mega Man game.

 I find something in the pyramid that I missed the first time around... and the other two times I played this game in the past. I didn't even know this existed. It's a much-needed upgrade to the Thunder Sword. Still can't hold a candle to the Light Sword, but the Crystal Sword is a nice stopgap measure at this point in the game. Wish I'd found it earlier. Weird that there's no Crystal Armor/Shield to go along with it, and I suspect that the developers ran out of time late in the game's development cycle. The Aqua equipment just doesn't seem like it was supposed to be the top-tier of armor, considering the defense disparity between it and Light armor. Also considering the multiple extra tiers of swords that exist between the Thunder Sword and Light Sword.

 Tina and Higgins finally remember each other, just in time for Higgins to go to the last island and save her. So... the whole subplot of her being engaged to the king was completely unnecessary, right?

"Chickachicka" says Taloon while toking a doobie.

 Here's one of the useless attack spells. They damage everything on screen, but absolutely obliterate your MP. Given that most enemies take a maximum of two hits to bring down with weapons at any given point, these attack spells are utterly pointless.

Another interesting optional weapon is the Fireball. It projects a pair of rotating flames that damage anything that gets near you. Unfortunately they do very little damage (not enough to even stop most enemies), so unless you're running through one of the first couple of islands this is a terrible weapon.

With all five spells collected, it's time for the final dungeon. Whew, this game is longer than I remember.

The final area is very atmospheric, with some serene visuals. It's quite memorable. The music is excellent here, and fits the mood perfectly.

 The atmospheric, zen mood soon gives way to flying squirrels that fire their poop every which way while looking way too happy.

...no, I'm not kidding.

Here's the Power Sword, yet another sword upgrade. Right after I found the Crystal Sword, too. This is the strongest sword in the main story, though the Light Sword is still better. Note that this sword is purple. Does this finally answer my question about whether purple lightsabers are the best kind?

For the record, the sword colors are:
Silver - Silver
Fire - Red
Ice - Blue
Thunder - Yellow
 Crystal - Green
Power - Purple
Light - Gold

The Power Sword lets you break through these blocks, at least, and the final dungeon is worth doing a second time to get a the several life/magic upgrades hidden behind blocks.

Here's the eagle that kidnapped Tina in the intro. WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?

It should be noted that before this I took the time to go buy a Light Shield from the Casino. Only Light equipment that is affordable with the money you get from the main story, really. As you can see, it's gold. Wish I could get the armor too, because puke green isn't really a good look.

It's a fairly simple fight, but the eagle does a huge amount of damage if it hits you. Much like those non-bosses in the caves earlier, you can register a bunch of unanswered rapid-fire shots on him with good timing.

Higgins finally saves a sleepy Tina...and strips off all his armor, apparently. He isn't wasting any time. I wouldn't either, given the horrible luck that this couple seems to have.

BUT WAIT! The bad guy finally shows himself. He then proceeds to go on and on about how I will now see his TRUE powers. And how he kidnapped the king, who continues to be completely unnecessary to the plot of this game. Oh, and he ALSO kidnapped the queen, who we have never even seen.

During this monologue, I find myself asking... Why? Why do all this stuff? Are you just a jerk?

Another, more malevolent boss door is higher on the mountain than the original boss door that led to the rabid eagle. Go up here and ring the Sky Bell that the eagle had and you're whisked away to the real final boss. Looks like I've got 9 of 12 heart containers and 10 of 14 magic bottles. Not bad at all; enough to survive the final boss.

The final boss is a several-part monstrosity and is HANDS-DOWN the most difficult part of this entire game. Might have mentioned it already, but when I rented this game as a kid I simply could not beat this guy. Not sure who the hell this is, but he looks like the much-nastier big brother of the bad guy from the first SNES game. Maybe it's the same guy, only beefed-up. Who knows.

As the battle continues, he splits into an upper and lower half. It's hard to grasp the true form of his attacks, but once you know what's going on it isn't super-difficult. The key is to learn how to avoid his rotating fireballs. For the top half at the end of the fight, ducking actually works to avoid his swoops; it's much more effective than trying to jump out of his way on the horizontal plane.

Win, and... a giant eyeball materializes? What is this, a Dark Matter fight from a Kirby game? Seriously, it's an awful lot like one.

That or a Link's Awakening final boss. In any case, this is another fight that can be extremely challenging until you figure out the attack patterns. Doesn't help that you have to do these two fights back-to-back. Apparently we're on the moon for this one, and I officially have NO IDEA what is going on.

Take out its claws and it sprouts a bunch of litle legs and a scorpion tail. This is the kind of horrifying abomination that Toad sees when he closes his eyes.

"The devil's hands have been busy!"

"SEE HOW IT SKITTERS."

Victory is a matter of being super-aggressive and just wailing on this thing. Tricky part is getting close enough that his tail stabs go over you, but not close enough that you bump into the boss. No matter how many magic bottles you have, you only get one full-heal during these fights (8 MP), so you have to make it count. I barely survived on my third try... I can definitely see some players giving up on these final battles and Casino-farming for hours to get the Light equipment at this point. That stuff is almost required for these final battles unless you're really patient with learning the intricacies of the fights.

TINA IS SAVED! ...again! ........any more bad guys going to pop up and inexplicably rant about how they want to make everyone miserable for no apparent reason?

Cutscene! ...and she's suddenly blonde? What the hell? Higgins looks like he's about to unhinge his jaw and swallow her face.

Tina has quite the 'bod going on there. Higgins is totally going to tap that in a few minutes. Still, the way she completely bears no resemblance to her ingame self here is bizarre. It's like they needed to replace her actor for the last scene, Brandon Lee style. ...but didn't pick someone who looked like her. Just terrible editing all around.

She inexplicably turns back to her regular hair color as she and Higgins take off in a hot air balloon that happened to fly past them. Where is the original pilot? Were they killed by their own deadly cargo of Xenomorphs?

One thing is for sure: We can all breathe easy again, because they quickly mentioned in the ending that the Completely Unnecessary King was also rescued. As was the Even More Unnecessary Queen who we never even saw.

Great, awesome, rad game here. Check it out.

4 comments:

  1. A copy of this game should be available in every community! It genre-bent way before that was cool.
    Do Higgins and Tina have other friends? Tina is a good gaming name btw, fits in dialogue boxes and everything.
    Now that you mention Zelda 2, didn't the recurring boss in NES Adventure Island resemble a Zelda 2 boss?
    Higgins got RIPPED in this version. Seeing his muscular back made me feel bad about my workout plan.
    So even after forgetting everything Higgins is a good dude who helps people.
    If the king already has a queen why does he need another woman to marry? He's a polygamist?! Egads!
    Waku-Waku is an onomatopeia for being excited. Hiya-Hiya is one for being cold.
    I gotta say Higgins is way better at rafting than skateboarding.
    The way Higgins holds stuff up is not bad.
    I read that dream line as Tina's first, and I appreciated her genre-bending in calling Higgins beautiful. The other way around WORKS TOO, SURE, I GUESS.
    I really enjoyed these tunes too. The instruments weren't up to Square level but the compositions were solid.
    The Magic reminds me of the Force in the Star Wars games.
    Higgins is a Neanderthal? Well, Neanderthals have been getting positive historical revision recently.
    I too love that background you pointed out from the final area. We need more of that.
    The squirrels are probably throwing acorns bro.
    Bosses that make you think are the best kind. Learn pattern recognition better than at school!
    Whoever messed up Tina's hair and distracted everyone during the important ending scenes should...feel remorse about it!
    Great post, thanks, hope Higgins and Tina are happy and surrounded by Tigens now.

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  2. Best thing about the Fire Armor? HIGGINS FINALLY PUTS ON SOME DAMN CLOTHES.

    That isn't poop, those are acorns!

    They really changed things up in this one, and I like it.

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