Super Adventure Island
Super Adventure Island
January 21, 1992
Buy Used Copy
Hudson’s Adventure Island series is a traditional platform gaming series whose protagonist was loosely inspired by Japanese gaming legend Takahashi Meijin (nicknamed 16 Shot for his ability to press a button 16 times per second). The first installment, released on the NES, proved so popular that it spawned multiple sequels, one of which was 1992’s Super Adventure Island, a fun but sometimes frustrating 5-stage action game in which Takahashi’s character (nicknamed Master Higgins), must save his girlfriend from a mad magician’s spell. While the game continued the series’ tradition of challenging gameplay and beach settings, but its major attraction was its soundtrack, a collection of island funk beats, calypso-like tracks, and even some forms of hip-hop, all stretching the SNES’s sound chip to its limits. It came as quite a surprise to gamers that the man responsible for the score was none other than Yuzo Koshiro, who had previously scored a smash hit with SNES gamers with his spectacular symphonic masterpiece ActRaiser. Many of the earlier Adventure Island games hadn’t received much attention musically, but this entry was fortunate enough to get a soundtrack pressing courtesy of Alfa Records.
For gamers more familiar with not just ActRaiser but with other scores by Koshiro, such as Etrian Odyssey and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Super Adventure Island may seem to be a jarring change of pace. As mentioned, the style of this music is one of a dance and hip-hop nature frequently underscored by a jaunty percussion ensemble of snare drums, slap cymbals, and drum machine. Many of the game’s earliest tracks are appropriately Carribean in tone, particularly “The Island of Everlasting Summer” (the longest track on the album), which is carried by both the calypso steel drums and occasional bongo beats.
From there, Koshiro runs wild and exercises with other styles of “hip” music while maintaining a consistent “bounce” for many of the other tracks; the aptly named “Hop Step and Jazzy Beats” comes across as something one would hear at a dance party, while “Blue Blue Moon” veers toward “blues” territory. Probably the most impressive track of the bunch is “Darkside Visitor”, which begins ominously with low chords, then progresses into a slow but catchy and sinister “final stage” sort of theme. The score is capped off by the stereotypical “Hawaiian”, complete with lazy steel guitars and string plucking.
Jaunty though the compositions themselves are, what ties them together is the impressive sound programming. For an early videogame soundtrack, it often veers close to sounding like something one would expect from today’s CD-quality scores. It only proves to be a testament to the abilities of the SNES sound chip, whose soundtracks hold up well to this day.
There is one major shortcoming, however, that sometimes hampers Super Adventure Island‘s score as a whole. For all the catchiness of the tracks, few of them offer much in the way of compelling melodies and too often each track comes across as repetitive. This problem is made more apparent by the album’s surprisingly scanty running time of 29 minutes. The two fanfare tracks that close off the album fly by so quickly that it brings the entire thing to what may seem to be a grinding halt instead of a grand finish. Perhaps this is excessive nitpicking, but the somewhat cold feel one experiences upon finishing the album is unsatisfying.
The entire score for Super Adventure Island doesn’t have the same “aura of instant classic” as, say, ActRaiser, hence why its appeal isn’t as longlasting. Even so, for avid collectors of Koshiro’s work, Super Adventure Island still offers about 25 minutes of high-quality dance tracks exuding of creativity and fun. Not a masterpiece by any means, but enjoyable nonetheless. This album is well worth a listen.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Jon Turner. Last modified on August 1, 2012.