title screen["I often import games from abroad and play them. On such occasions, my imagination is sometimes stimulated more as I don't understand the language.” – Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. 'The Gaijin Restoration' is a weekly examination of underappreciated Eastern games that never cross to Western shores. This week's title is Hudson's Adventure Island 4 for the Famicom released in Japan in 1994.]

Hey You Guys!
“Sometime in 1986 my parents rented The Goonies and my life was forever changed...” is a horrible way to start a piece of writing, even something as lowly and common as a blog entry. It’s filled to the brim of faux pathos worthy of a Lyttle Lytton award. Still, I rather enjoyed Goonies and the next year badgered my grandmother during one of her routine baby-sitting sessions into purchasing The Goonies II for the NES, where Annie was a mermaid, Konami Man replenished your health and you met the Fratelli’s miniscule cousin, Pipsqueak.

no alt textIt was my first real Metroidvania, though produced long before that portmanteau was coined. Some dabbles in Metroid had taken place, borrowing a friends cartridge, but never much progress. Though, my mind was blown open and feasted upon by the simple fact that the first worthwhile act in the game involved going left. Goonies II was eventually completed, with a little help from my father, a Zork sorta-guy, who dug the ability based roadblocks and the first person, leave your reflexes at the door, puzzle rooms. I even took a picture of Annie the Mermaid for Nintendo Power (never published.) This gameplay was fantastic, getting intimate with the map, digging out from an inner-core, seeing tantalizing locales that you can’t quite get by yet, etc, etc, what you can read in any recent handheld Metroid or Castlevania review.

Aged To Perfection
no alt textTakahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima IV or Adventure Island IV is a Famicom game released in the geriatric twilight-years of said system: 1994. At this point I was campaigning around Britannia with a boomerang wielding mouse and most of Japan were counting down to December 3rd and the PlayStation. Hudson, developer and publisher, had even spun-off several Super Adventure Islands on the SNES, but it seems that Master Higgins, the rotund adventurer and fruit gourmand was fated to shine his 8-bit nipples one last time.


Unlike the previous games, which consisted of kidnapped girlfriends, linear level progression, skateboarding and the quest for the ultimate Del Monte fruit cup, Adventure Island IV has you rescuing kidnapped dinosaurs (which you can later ride!), a pure Metroidvania world to map and explore, snowboarding and surfing added to the repertoire and, well, even more fruit to collect. (And eventually your buxom bikini clad cosplayer is whisked away as well.) Caveat: no map.

Should. Be. Played.

no alt textThe game is a charm, and though it offers not battery backup, the passwords are short and in English, as well as the menus. The world is diverse but perhaps not a fully realized Pangea; even with a myriad of items its pretty obvious what to do next. A handful of bosses plague you throughout the game, but with multiple hitpoints and odd eggs scattered about offering carnivores delights, Master Higgins, can play Cabana Boy for quite a while. The control is also spot on, and you unsavory types looking to emulate will be missing out on very refined NES d-pad action. It’s a marvelous little gem that I would have hoped for a revived life on the GBA, but maybe now it could lead to the dual-screen world, with a map and some sickeningly sweet peach syrup on the side.

[Ryan Stevens is the associate producer on the various Cinematech shows on G4TV, which showcases many of the games written about here. He's been known to do the collaborative blog thing at That's Plenty. He just got a moped.]