Before I started this series of reviews, I was completely unaware that there even was a fourth 8-bit Adventure Island game, which isn’t very surprising since it’s never been released outside of Japan.
Adventure Island IV features a lot of changes to the standard Adventure Island formula. Instead of a straight platformer, AI4 takes place in a Metroidvania-style open world. The witch doctor kidnaps your five dinosaur pals and later your girlfriend and you must travel through six zones collecting new weapons and items and defeating bosses to rescue your friends.
Higgins (technically Takahashi, I suppose) controls similarly to previous games, except that your can no longer hold B to run and the height of your jumps is no longer determined by your speed. One-hit deaths are gone too. Instead you start with two hit points and more can be added by finding heart containers. Your primary weapon is throwing bones, which function the same way as axes in previous games (axes can be unlocked later and do more damage), but you also have a wide variety of other weapons and items which are unlocked by defeating bosses and can be swapped at any time via the pause menu.
There are six zones in the game, each having a miniboss to unlock a weapon or item to help you progress (hammers can be used to smash rocks, torches can light up dark areas, etc.) and a main boss that will unlock an additional item and free one of your dinosaurs. Once you free a dinosaur you can go to a ranch near Higgins’ house to bring one them with you, and you can switch between riding your dinosaur or using your normal weapons with the pause menu. However, if you get hit while riding your dinosaur, it’ll disappear, and you’ll have to go all the way back to the ranch to get it back.
If you lose all your hearts, you’ll be sent back to Higgins’ house (where you can also rest to restore your hearts and get a save-password at any time) but you’re given a teleportation egg at the beginning of the game that you can place on pedestals throughout the world to create a warp point, so you don’t need to replay the same area over again.
You can only access one zone to start with, with additional zones being unlocked in order after you defeat the previous zone’s boss, so there’s no opportunity for sequence breaking. However, you can revisit previously unlocked zones at any time to search for heart containers that weren’t accessible your first time through.
There are a number of minigames that can be found throughout the game. Some of them are mandatory to progress, while others let you win various items to restore your health or a compass that will tell you which direction to go, though navigation is still pretty easy without it.
Thankfully, Adventure Island IV ditches the geometric art style and frustrating level design of the third game, and builds off what the previous games (particularly the second one) did right to create something familiar to fans but at the same time unique to the series. Of the four 8-bit Adventure Island games, it’s probably the easiest thanks having multiple hit points, but there’s still plenty of challenge, especially in boss fights.
If you’re a purist, the game is for the most part playable for non-Japanese speakers, but I still recommend downloading the English-patched version which can easily be found online.
Adventure Island IV is my second-favorite entry in the series so far. Adventure Island II is still the best one, but if you’re a fan of series and have never picked this one up, give it a shot because it’s a lot of fun.
Final Rating: 4/5