Why is Master Higgins in constant need of bananas and other food? Why is there a skateboard in an egg? Wait… Master Higgins rides a dinosaur – but I thought they were extinct?! Not on this island!
There are definitely some quirky, yet fun things about Hudson Soft’s Adventure Island games, and there is no denying that quirkiness led to a lot of the charm that is present in the series. Let’s take a look at the history behind the creation process of one of Hudson Soft’s most well-known characters, Master Higgins, as well as his first three outings on the NES.
Chapter Two: Long Live The Bee
One of the most unfortunate stories of the last year happens to be the demise of Hudson Soft, one of my favorite developers, as they were absorbed completely into Konami. After the announcement, I decided that I needed to spend some quality time with Master Higgins and relive the fun of the Adventure Island series.
From Wonder to Adventure
Most people know about the 1986 arcade game, Wonder Boy, and that it was developed by Escape (now known as Westone Bit Entertainment) and published by Sega. Probably a few less people know the fact that Sega had an unique licensing agreement with Escape that meant that Sega had the rights to the name “Wonder Boy” and the rights to the characters in the game, but Escape kept the rights to everything else. The licensing agreement that Escape had with Sega made for an interesting collaboration when Escape and Hudson Soft began production on a new game, a game that would eventually be known as Adventure Island.
Without the use of the name and characters from Wonder Boy, Hudson decided the new face of the game would be their own employee, Toshiyuki Takahashi, who earned the title of “Takahashi Meijin,” or “Master Takahashi,” because of his ability to press an NES controller button sixteen times in a second. Toshiyuki Takahashi started his career at Hudson Soft in 1982, but it wasn’t until 1985 that he became an executive at the company.
Master Higgins is Born
Hudson Soft took the premise of Wonder Boy’s story, and altered it to feature Takahashi Meijin as the main character. In 1986, Takahashi Meijin no Bōken Shima (Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island) was released on the Famicom and MSX computer systems. In September 1988, the North American market saw the release of Adventure Island starring “Master Higgins” as the main character.
The plot of Adventure Island involves Master Higgins attempting to save his girlfriend, Tina (known as Princess Leilani in the instruction manual), from the clutches of The Evil Witch Doctor. Besides Master Higgin’s main concern of rescuing his beloved Tina, the man has an insatiable hunger – he literally has to eat every few seconds or else his life bar starts to decrease.
The way Master Higgins acquires items is interesting – he cracks open eggs. No weapon? No problem! Just crack open an egg and acquire a stone axe. Want a somewhat modern form of transportation? Well crack open another egg to find a skateboard and start jumping over all of your enemies in style. I’d like to point out is that this is a man without a shirt, but not without a heart.
Unfortunately for poor Master Higgins, he falls into a recurring cycle that I refer to as the “Mario syndrome.” What I mean is that no matter what obstacles Master Higgins overcomes, he will always have to save the lovely Tina over and over again. The three NES games are fairly similar in their gameplay and story, albeit with slight differences. The second game allowed different routes to be taken – along with a varied location where you actually fight a boss, and you had the ability to ride on dinosaurs. The third game had the main antagonists as aliens that kidnap poor Tina, but essentially the story is the same – Tina is kidnapped, and Master Higgins comes to the rescue. The one thing I can say about the series is that it stayed true to the original concept (well Super Adventure Island II was different gameplay wise, but you still had to rescue Tina).
While replaying the games, I remembered how frustrated I would get with Master Higgins and his inability to run and jump with any sort of precision due to his crazy legs; ultimately sliding off a platform to his death. What I remember a little more fondly, however, was my desire to press on – to defeat another boss on my quest to save Tina. My mother would come strolling around the corner into my room after hearing my frustration and tell me it was time for bed, and I would simply answer her with a slight tone of desperation in my voice… “please, mom, just 1 More Area.”
Thanks for the memories, Hudson Soft.