Adventure Island II is a platforming side-scroller that is the aptly-named sequel to Adventure Island, and which was published in 1991. The game is similar to Mario games in a new way, because once again, Higgins must go across eight worlds to rescue his girlfriend Tina. This time, however, he can enlist the aid of some dinosaur friends he rescues.
This game is a definite improvement over the first Adventure Island in a number of ways. One cool feature is that you have an overworld this time; you travel across each of the islands by raft and make it through all the areas on each island, like in a C&C game. This was mainly aesthetic, but it also showed where you were in the process of playing, which was quite helpful to me.
Another helpful tidbit was that this time, any extra hammers you picked up meant that you could store them in your inventory and have them straight off the bat in a level just in case you need it and have a tough time getting it otherwise. This was a relief to me on more than one occasion, and I think it's a good tip of the hat to newer players who have trouble without certain items.
But enough about practicality, let's discuss looks! Not only does this game have a full overworld, but the graphics are just stunning. It's almost hard to believe that this was a direct sequel to Adventure Island! The character designs were realistic and fun to look at; they were as much as step-up from the first title as Super Mario Bros. 3 was from its first title. Even the Honey Fairy, which should look the least realistic due to her size, is equal in clarity to everything and everyone else. That is impressive.
The level design of this game is interesting as well, in the way that they have the same (albeit better-done) obstacles, but it shows its platforming roots much more because you have to do much more jumping as you go along. And boy was that challenging! I can be on a complete hot streak with this game only to lose all my lives from not being able to coast through all the ledges fast enough, or from just plain getting hit by enemies. So, if you want a classic game that will tax the heck out of you in the long run, this is the game for you.
The gameplay is improved as well. As I said before, you have item storage and dinosaur friends this time (although I wish they had a name), which are both insanely cool, but this time around, you also have the Choose An Egg option at the end of every level, which can earn you varying numbers of points or, ideally, a 1-Up. This was a great feature, because it could mean an instant extra life, or a big chunk towards enough points for an extra life. Now they're finally setting up a reliable system for extending your lifespan that was needed for so long.
Aside from the fan-qualm that you can no longer get fireball hammers in this game, there are no actual problems that I can think of for this game.
Even better, it's on the Virtual Console now, so unless you find Adventure Island more appealing, I absolutely recommend this title.