Bad Guys Anonymous


Welcome to yet another edition of Bad Guys Anonymous. If you’re new to the weekly (I swear!) column, hello! The whole deal here is that we take a quick look at one of the anonymous henchmen from classic games that, for the most part, has been rather overlooked by gamers. They’re encountered, they’re conquered and then they’re never thought of again.

The catch? It has to be the very first bad guy players run into.

This week’s entry is all about one minor bad invertebrate from one of my personal favorite games on the NES, the snail from Adventure Island.

Master Higgins, that’s you, starts his tropical adventure on what appears to be a gorgeous island. This land, littered with delicious fruit, floating hearts and dinosaur eggs filled with tomahawks and skateboards, is also home to what I consider to be some of the best classic gaming tunes from the NES era. Have a listen.

The snail is yet another simple enemy from the hallowed halls of gaming’s past. Rather than one that dies with a swift boot to the head, the snail requires players to either jump over it or hit it with a tomahawk. For those used to 2D platformers like Super Mario Bros., having the weakest foe invincible when it comes to head stomps was a bit of a shock. The snail, despite its lame characteristics, actually acted as one of the first points of separation between Hudson Soft’s 2D romp and the one that put Nintendo on the map.

In Adventure Island, you’ll find the snail after you grab a heart, eat some fruit and bust open a dinosaur egg. That egg houses a tomahawk power-up, and you’ll obviously need that to do your murder. It also could have spilled out a salt shaker, something any snail would fear more than a mere throwing ax.

As for Adventure Island II? It’s odd, but I never noticed this until doing research for the edition of Bad Guys Anonymous that you’re reading right this instant. The opening moments of Adventure Island II mirror those of Adventure Island almost exactly. Master Higgins runs into a piece of fruit or two, bursts open an egg for his tomahawk and meets a snail.

Adventure Island II

I’m sensing a trend. With Adventure Island III, one would have thought that Hudson Soft had done the opening fruit, fruit, egg, snail bit to death, right? Wrong. Our first enemy, after Higgins scarfs down a banana and busts open an egg, was the snail.

Adventure Island III

By the time Master Higgins graduated from his three adventures on the Nintendo Entertainment System, he was ready to move on to the SNES with Super Adventure Island. Of course, the opening enemy there? Also a snail, though these guys sported a pointy shell and were able to move.

They still die when hit with a well placed tomahawk, though. What doesn’t die when hit with a well placed tomahawk? Let’s be honest with ourselves… nothing. Nothing doesn’t die never. Figure that one out.