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Many fans were left unsatisfied after Adventure Island III rehashed the storyline, graphics, and gameplay of Adventure Island II. Whereas your Marios and Sonics typically include new features and so forth in their sequels, Hudson Soft seemed content to let Master Higgins replay the same game over and over again. That is, until 1994's Adventure Island IV for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This time around an evil presence has eaten/kidnapped Higgins's dinosaur pals and our hero is set loose into a large world filled with gameplay more in the collect-the-items style of The Legend of Zelda series with a bit of the side-scrolling-platformer elements of Super Mario Brothers mixed in. Higgins's world is no longer divided into linear areas and worlds, but is instead one large place. He can come and go as he pleases from place to place, gathering new weapons and defeating bosses. Items and weapons collected are accessible at anytime from a new in-game-level inventory screen, passwords record progress, and the one-hit kills and time/life meter are gone. The catch? Adventure Island IV was only released in Japan.

Master Higgins begins his quest with only a simple throwing bone that behaves much like the ax from previous games; it fires in an arc motion. As the game progress he can pick up other weapons, such as the boomerang and bubble gun, and some weapons can also be used on the environment to put out fires or water plants. There's a big hammer for smashing rocks, a surfboard for skimming along the water, a spear for stabbing, and so on. Beating certain bosses released one of the captured dinosaurs who can then be called upon as in previous games. In the traditional Zelda style there are hazards and blockades that can only be removed with certain weapons, and these weapons can only be won from certain bosses that are blocked by certain hazards, and so on in one big loop. However, unlike the Zelda series there are no hints about where Master Higgins should go next. While in-game freedom is almost always a good thing, in this game the freedom is actually a drawback as you'll find yourself guiding Higgins through dozens of hazards only to find a blockade that cannot be opened until much later. There is a rudimentary map/compass system, but it is not effective enough to replace your own hand drawn maps.

As mentioned earlier the time/life meter from the previous games has been replaced. Master Higgins no longer has to race through a level while gathering fruit before the meter runs dry. This time our hero gets his own dedicated life meter that does not diminish with the passage of time. Collecting eight fruits refills the meter by one heart, taking a hit from an enemy costs one heart, heart containers add new units to the meter, and a hunk of meat refills the meter entirely.

Adding to the overhaul of the Adventure Island series are the new sprites and music. Master Higgins has been redrawn to be smaller and shorter, there are minor animations in the background (such as bright lava pits reflecting in a dark cave), and there's readable text to be seen. Of course, being the game was only released in Japan all of the text is in Japanese. If you come across the ROM of this file on the Internet for play in an emulator then you'll probably also come across a English translation patch of the game. This patch is not essential to playing the game (it's not a major text-heavy RPG by any means), but it does help to have it so that you know what's going on. If you're looking for the actual game pak of this game, then good luck to you. It's Japan-only release at the end of the NES's life means that you are probably not going to find it at used game stores outside of Japan. That's a shame as this is one of the better entries in the Adventure Island series. So what became of Master Higgins? His next original game was Super Adventure Island II.

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