The fourth and final Adventure Island game for the NES/Famicom was only ever released in Japan, in 1994. Now – thanks to the magic of fan translation patching – the game can be played by people who don’t read Japanese. In fact: Adventure Island IV has been translated into more than just English. It’s also patchable into Spanish, Polish and Arabic, thanks to the efforts of various fan translation groups.
In Japan the game is known as “Takahashi Meijin no Boken Jima IV“, and the full English title of the game is “Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island IV“. It was developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft.
Adventure Island IV is more of an action adventure with RPG elements than previous games. Don’t worry, though, there’s no turn-based combat or anything like that. It just means that you have an inventory of items that you can enter at any time and use different items to solve different puzzles. Adventure Island IV is more like Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap than previous games, which is definitely not a bad thing.
You once again play as Master Higgins and explore large, scrolling levels, entering doors to talk to various characters. Inside some doors are minigames that you can play, and beat, to win new items or power-ups. Inside other doors are bosses that you must defeat to acquire new key items, such as the hammer (which can break certain barriers), the torch (which lights up dark rooms and can reveal hidden doors), the sprayer (which turns tiny mushrooms into big ones that you can then bounce on, allowing you to reach areas that are higher or further away), and so on.
Your health is indicated by the heart meter at the bottom of the screen. You begin with just two hearts in the meter, but can increase it by finding and collecting more. You can also replenish lost health by collecting fruit; if you collect eight pieces of fruit you get one heart replenished. You can also return home at any time to rest and return to full health, and also to acquire a re-start password.
Master Higgins’ default weapon is a set of bones that he can throw, although he can use other items as weapons too. Occasionally you’ll find special items, such as the ring (that gives you a wider, isometric view of the current level), or the warp egg (that can be placed on a plinth, allowing you to warp back to it later; saving a lot of back-tracking). You can also find and release the friendly dinosaurs that were seen in previous games and these can be ridden to help you get around (the red lizard, for example, can walk through lava, and shoot fireballs from its mouth, which are useful abilities).
Adventure Island IV is arguably the best game in the Adventure Island series because it’s more open-ended, more detailed, and more varied than previous Adventure Island games. I certainly had a great time playing it because, as mentioned previously: it reminded me of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, which is a brilliant game.
There’s even a hack available that allows you to play Adventure Island IV as Tina – Master Higgins’ girlfriend, which is neat. It’s great to see the love that this obscure Japanese platform game has received from the gaming community. Fan translations and patches really bring new life to older games that were never given an official release in the West, or other territories.