Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom [Review]

Jan 3, 2019

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
Game Atelier

Monster Boy is back and this may just be one of his best journeys yet.​

A love letter to the games of yore, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom joins the modern retro-revivalist genre as both an upgrade to its forebearers and step forward for the series. Players take control of Jin, the titular Monster Boy, as he morphs into six different animal forms and battles evil forces to save the Monster World Kingdom. Check out the trailer below:

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a spiritual successor in the strictest of terms. Taking its cue from the immensely successful Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, this side-scrolling adventure is a great example of using modern technology to upgrade classic gameplay. All of the staples of the Wonder Boy series are here; animal transformations, equipment upgrades, and intense exploration, however, now they are combined with beautiful hand-drawn animations that run in full 1080p HD at 60fps.

The graphics are the high point of Monster Boy. Much like the recent remake of Wonder Boy III, each character is beautifully animated. The backgrounds are all gorgeous, adding a great sense of depth and atmosphere to each different area. This attention to detail is seen on every screen and brings a great deal of beauty to the classic style that is associated with the franchise.

This same care was put into the soundtrack as well. Iconic Japanese composers including Yuzo Koshiro, Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, Keiki Kobayashi, and Takeshi Yanagawa all took part in its creation. With over 40 pieces of music, some new and some reworked from earlier entries, the lush soundtrack took over two years to make and the effort shows. Each area is accompanied with grand string sections propelling you forward and creating a rich and adventurous feel to the game.

Developer, Game Atelier has gone to great lengths to preserve the legacy of the franchise, yet there are a few missteps that bring the gameplay back down to earth. At over 15 hours of gameplay, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom clocks in at just about the same time as its predecessors. While this may seem long, it’s mostly because you’ll often find yourself traversing large portions of the map over and over again. As the game progresses traveling becomes easier but the first few hours feel painfully slow. Similar to most classic games, once these initial areas are toughed out the experience becomes much easier and fun. The menu system is also somewhat clunky and slows down the gameplay during tense moments and puzzles. It’s only a matter of learning to cope with stopping and changing items or forms but for the first few hours I found myself angered over the pause in the action while I fumbled around the item wheel.

Monster Boy is one of the rare titles that is instantly both nostalgic and accessible. As you slash your way through enemies and upgrade your gear, you’ll instantly be brought back to the days of sitting on the floor and playing Sega. Challenging puzzles with old-school self-guided gameplay feed into the addiction of the “one more time” mentality that was a staple of my youth. It’s not often that a game can execute on some many different levels yet Monster Boy exceeds my expectations of what the Wonder Boy/Monster Boy/Monster World franchise can be.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is available on the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and XBOX ONE.

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