Wonder Boy Collection (Review)

Jul 13, 2022

Wonder Boy has a storied history. Starting in arcades and moving to Sega consoles, Wonder Boy evolved during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The Wonder Boy Collection by Bliss Brain and ININ collects part of that history and evolution. The 4 games in the collection reflect Wonder Boy’s arcade roots and the two Mega Drive/Genesis games reflect the growth and development of the series. Unfortunately, this collection is not complete. Dragon’s Trap and Monster Lair are not included. While this is not a complete collection, the four games present map the history of the series well .

Published by: ININ and Bliss Brain
Released: June 03, 2022 (Playstation, Switch, Xbox)

Wonder Boy - 1986 Arcade

The original Wonder Boy arcade game holds up well as a straight forward platform action game. As an arcade game, the timer counts down but picking up fruit as time back. Consequently, players juggle tight platforming and picking up enough fruit to stay alive. Fortunately, the fast past gameplay is still enjoyable. The game tests player’s platform skills with precise jumps with little room for error. Wonder Boy was ported to Sega’s home consoles the SG-1000, Master System, and Game Gear. Unfortunately, the ports of these titles are only included in the physical release and not the digital collection. Hudson licensed and ported the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System as Hudson’s Adventure Island.

Wonder Boy in Monster Land - 1987 Arcade

Wonder Boy in Monster Land changes the genre of Wonder Boy from an action platformer to an adventure game. The side scrolling perspective remains, but the game adds weapons, equipment, and items. Monster Land plays more like a simple RPG than an arcade game of the era. This shift in style created a unique arcade experience at the time. As an arcade game, there is still a timer that can be refilled by picking up hourglass items. The original Monster Land was ported to the Master System where it feels more like a contemporary of The Legend of Zelda: Adventures of Link. Unfortunately, of the four titles in the collection, Wonder Boy in Monster Land does not hold up for modern audiences. It is an evolutionary step for the series and vital to the direction future games would take. As a historic artifact it is worth experiencing though.

Wonder Boy in Monster World - 1991 Mega Drive / Genesis

Wonder Boy in Monster World is not the first Wonder Boy game to release on the Sega Mega Drive. In Japan, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair came out at the end of 1990 and released in Europe in 1991. Although, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair was first released in arcades and later ported.

Wonder Boy in Monster World is the first direct to console game in the series. The inclusion in this collection as the first game developed for the home console market is significant. However, the gameplay and enemies are direct evolutions of the original Monster Land. So much so, that playing them back to back in this collection only amplifies the connection. Wonder Boy in Monster World was significant when it released for the Genesis / Mega Drive as a continuation of a long running series. It was the first time game in the series on the console in America. It tried to blend the cute character charm of Mario with the adventure of Zelda. Modern audiences will find the gameplay stiff and dated. But the significance of the game remains.

MONSTER WORLD IV - 1994 MEGA DRIVE / GENESIS

Monster World IV is the highlight of this collection. Instead of Wonder Boy, the game stars Asha and breaks from the Wonder Boy title. Monster World IV is the last of the series until the 2019’s spiritual successor, Wonder Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. Monster World IV was a Japan only release until it was included in the late 2000’s on PS2 and Wii. In 2021, a 3D remake, Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World, was released on modern consoles.

Fortunately, the original is a tight, creative action adventure game that still holds up on its’ own. The variety of worlds, puzzles, and combat encounters create a deep and engaging game that stands as some of the best on the Mega Drive / Genesis. Modern audiences with an appreciation for 16-bit games will find a lot to enjoy. The bright sprite work stands out from the rest of the collection as the final evolution of this series.

Overall Wonder Boy Collection

What is included in the digital Wonder Boy Collection provides touch points of the series’ history. The arcade evolution to console. The maturation of console design in Monster World IV. The collection includes limited text about each of the games’ in their historical context. Unfortunately, knowing that there is a complete Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection that includes 21 titles (each game and various ports) makes this collection feel lighter than it deserves. For gamer’s with nostalgia for the series, each title will bring back fond memories. For gamers that appreciate gaming history, the Wonder Boy Collection documents the growth and development of the series. Even if it is more succinct than it could be.

Score: 7.5

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