Article by Justin Fairchild | December 18, 2010
Adventure Island IV
If there is a soul or spirit in our beloved NES, itís destined to grow happier in its old age. Itís just how people are wired -- despite the physical failings or grey hair we collect along the way, at a certain age we become content and comfortable with ourselves.
This must be how Master Higgins felt coming into Adventure Island IV, the final official Japanese Famicom release. He had never looked better: slimmer, a couple gray hairs perhaps, happy with his long-term paramour. Even better -- while the forces of evil had kidnapped his dinosaur friends, he was relieved to see his lady at home safe and sound. For once, he could take his time grabbing fruit, exploring a pleasantly compact island world, rescuing his imperiled prehistoric pals at leisure, and even strutting his button-mashing skills for the occasional minigame.
While Adventure Island IV takes interesting liberties by featuring a simple hub-like level structure, the game plays like a comfortable, familiar, tight-controlling Famicom platformer in the mold of hundreds that came before. In the context of the contemporary 16-bit console wars and Doom for PC, Adventure Island 4 still feels comfortably retro, an aesthetic largely unaccounted for in console gaming until Mega Man 9 and other digital download purchases gave the idea fresh legs.
Even the unofficial translation to English was a chill process: The gameís sparse dialogue was uncharacteristically stored as plain ASCII text. It was nothing that Steve Demeter of Neo Demiforce fame couldnít handle in a couple weeks, even after he outdid himself by hacking in a professional-quality English title screen.