Last year we covered the Wonder Boy Collection, which was a rather bare-bones package containing a mere four fantastic titles. It was greatly presented for sure, but was missing a lot of key titles and was rather pricey for what it was.
Now, as ININ always do, we have yet another collection that renders that other one obsolete. This time instead of containing a meagre selection of games, it now includes every main classic entry along with the various console iterations of each.
As is normally the case with collections, we’ll be covering each title one by one to tell you how they fare. However, as this is a lazy attempt at reselling consumers the same old games, we’ll also be repackaging the same old reviews for the games that were previously included as well as the newly added ones for this collection.
It’s worth bearing in mind that this collection also contains the same addons as before, which include save states, rewind, tweakable difficulty settings, a gallery, and even maps for each and every entry. There’s a lot of love poured into this collection and it stands out as being one of the better assembled collections on the Switch, despite the rather hefty price tag.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
I have a lot of nostalgia for the original Wonder Boy. As one of my handful of Game Gear titles, I found myself playing the first couple of worlds pretty often during car journeys. I’d get as far as a boss or two and then it was time to turn it off.
The version I played in this collection is the arcade release, so I was blown away by just how impressive it looked when I first booted it up. It looked phenomenal. The default button mapping was a little bit wonky, but after a quick swap around I found myself good to go – and it was just as fun as ever.
Wonder Boy feels a little bit like an auto runner to an extent, mainly because you’ll find yourself holding right pretty much 99% of the time as you jump over or throw hammers at incoming enemies. There’s a timer constantly ticking away that forces you to keep moving, so the pressure is constantly on – especially in the later stages. Killing enemies or collecting fruit will help add extra time, but a lot of the game will be down to either good reactions or memorisation. Movement can be a little floaty, making it tricky to make precise jumps, but at least you have the rewind in this if you don’t want to start back from the next checkpoint due to a simple mistake.
It’s a pretty addictive game that will suck you in, but it does go on for a little bit too long. After revisiting the same locations on multiple occasions and fighting the same boss again and again, you’ll probably have had enough long before the credits. The difficulty also gets a little bit too much in the later stages, with some occasional silly pixel perfect jumping later on. Finding all the dolls (no easy feat) will unlock a final world, but by that point you probably just want to get the game finished. Wonder Boy is a really fun game to play, it’s just not a fun one to actually beat.
WONDER BOY IN MONSTER LAND
The sequel marks a turning point for the series, as the game ditches the gameplay of the original for something resembling more of a traditional action RPG. The story follows on from the main game, with Wonder Land being at peace for a substantial amount of time – until the MEKA Dragon comes and starts causing trouble. The people turn to Wonder Boy, who is now a teenager, and give him a sword telling him that he has to go face the monsters.
After acquiring your sword, the game quickly shows off what to expect from the game: extremely close quarters combat and some rudimentary platforming. What makes this more of an RPG is that you can collect coins from either defeated foes or hidden around the level in order to purchase upgrades from shops. Shields will help block attacks, armour helps reduce damage, boots increase your general agility, and so on. It can be quite tough trying to scrounge money together, but the upgraded equipment is certainly worth it.
Unlike the SEGA Ages release on the Switch, this version contains the arguably visually superior arcade version; as such, it was designed to suck money from the player. The main way it does this is by being punishingly difficult at times. Some enemies and bosses are incredibly hard, and one later boss was so tricky that I doubted that I’d even be able to do it with rewind. The close ranged nature of the combat combined with some extremely punishing enemies make the game pretty challenging as it goes on, and the kicker is that there’s an hourglass in the corner continually ticking away with it taking a heart from you every time it runs out. It does remove some of the fun from what could have been an excellent game otherwise, but thankfully the rewind function does help alleviate the stress somewhat. A cheap solution, but one I would recommend doing since the game hardly plays fair!
WONDER BOY III: MONSTER LAIR
One of the new titles that didn’t make it into the previous collection, and Monster Lair was somewhat of an oddity to me as someone who had never even heard of its existence before. It’s a title that feels like it is having somewhat of an existential crisis due to it being a n awkward mix of the first two Wonder Boy games.
Playing as the sword wielding Wonder Boy from the second game, you find yourself in an auto scrolling platforming game reminiscent of the first entry. It’s all simple platforming with the enemies proving to be the main obstacle, that you can blast away with your projectile firing sword. If you defeat a set of enemies, you’ll be rewarded with a temporary power up that changes your attack type to something completely different, ranging from a spreadshot to a whirling fireball of death. It’s quite addictive and surprisingly fun too.
What makes the game even stranger is that after reaching the end of the platforming stage, the game transitions to a side scrolling shoot ’em up level using the same power up system as the platforming stages. These stages are somewhat clumsy and don’t control anywhere near as well as the platforming stages, but they’re also not particularly difficult either. Where these stages really excel are with the boss battles at the end of the stage, and each one offers quite a unique and memorable fight.
WONDER BOY III: THE DRAGON’S TRAP
We already covered Wonder Boy III, right? Well, yes and no. Wonder Boy, for some strange reason, had two third entries and they couldn’t be any more different if they tried. Whereas the other one offered a rather simple auto scrolling experience, this one offers a fully fledged Metroidvania-style title. And it’s an absolute beauty!
Whilst I may have been spoiled slightly by playing the excellent remake first, the original version of Dragon’s Trap is still pretty impressive. Dumping you at the start of Wonder Boy II, you face yourself against the fearsome end boss with a laughably high health bar and powerful sword. That laughing comes to a stop once the Dragon dies and you end up falling for the titular dragon’s trap and end up cursed. Stuck now in Dragon form, your aim is to become a human again.
Except things aren’t that simple. As you journey around, you’ll end up in a multitude of different forms from midgets to seamen, all of which offer their own playstyle and allow you to reach places you couldn’t before. For the most part, changing into a new form will force you to adjust to their new movesets (although later on you will be able to switch at will), and it feels quite refreshing – if a little tricky. The game may be more linear than a normal Metroidvania, but it really has that same vibe and is very rewarding due to the great level design and tight controls. It may be a little difficult and require careful analysis of enemy patterns to stay alive, but stick with it and you’ll find the best of the Wonder Boy franchise right here.
WONDER BOY IN MONSTER WORLD
Wonder Boy in Monster World is a game that I have owned on the Mega Drive for many years. I’ve also had it on various SEGA collections throughout the years, and now I am finally forced to play more than the first five minutes. This version, unlike the other three games in the collection, doesn’t offer anything new compared to the one already available on the Switch, but at least it’s available on a much tidier front-end than the Sega Mega Drive Classics collection.
Tom-Tom is now gone-gone, replaced with Shion, instead. The timeline isn’t clear, but presumably generations have passed since the events of the previous games (including the ones not included in the package) and the has now been renamed as Monster World. Regardless, monsters have invaded the land, ravaging the towns and even kidnapped the princess of Purapril. The Fairy Queen Eleanora has prayed for help, and you respond to the call.
The game starts off feeling a bit like a remake of Wonder Boy in Monster Land with the opening screens being almost identical, but with a shinier coat of paint. The art style was a little bit off-putting at first, as I much preferred the look of the previous title, but it does get better after progressing through the starting areas. Towns, caves, forests, and the like all have a rather charming art style and that extends to most of the enemies too. Whilst some foes, like the snakes, look a bit crappy, I liked the look of most enemies . especially the beautiful looking bosses.
The game plays very similarly to Monster Land for the most part, but with some key differences. The timer is gone now (yay) and the difficulty in general has been toned down somewhat, whilst still remaining a challenge. There are some tricky sections, including a pretty stressful underwater section around the halfway mark, but nothing is even close to the obnoxious areas in the previous games. Another difference is the revamp in the inventory system. Instead of having items that you can purchase upgrades for, you buy different things and can equip them as you please via your inventory. This allows for items that are useful based on certain circumstances. The spear, for example, is a really strong weapon near the start; however, you’re unable to use a shield with it. It feels a lot more refined and works really well in practice.
I had a great time with Wonder Boy in Monster World, and ultimately preferred it to the previous two arcade entries overall; however, it’s still not my favourite in the series nor this collection.
MONSTER WORLD IV
The final game in the package is easily the most visually impressive. With absolutely stunning Arabian aesthetics and intricate animation, it truly is a sight to behold. It almost seems to good looking for a Mega Drive title. Having zero experience with the game prior made this one a rather pleasant surprise, as it is easily the standout title in the collection.
The game itself offers quite a departure from the previous entries in any ways. Not only is there now no longer a wonder boy (as made clear by its omission in the title), but the gameplay leans far more towards the platforming than the RPG side of things. Whether or not that is something you will like will be down to your preferences, but the platforming in this game has seen a vast improvement compared to the relatively straightforward nature of previous entries.
This improvement is largely down to your monstrous pet that you acquire near the start of the game. With a tap of the left bumper, you can grab a hold of him to shield you from falling dangers, you can use him to float across gaps, or even to enable a double jump. Whilst those are his basic functions, he can also interact with various things in the environment to aid your traversal. It all feels pretty satisfying, especially as there’s quite a lot of variety in each dungeon as to how he used.
The RPG element of the game largely boils down to collecting money to buy new stuff. It becomes a replacement, and you’ll have to buy back anything you had previously. Accidentally bought the Thunder Shield before the Flame Shield? Well, looks like you’ll have to do the second dungeon first unless you want to throw money away. The RPG mechanics are a little bit too streamlined, but at least there’s never any reason to grind money like there was in the previous game.
The game also simplifies its combat too, with your sword being the only weapon on hand throughout the entire game. To compensate for this, combat also feels far better and enemies are far more interesting to fight than in previous entries. Bosses in particular stand out as being a high point in the game, with some interesting (and sometimes difficult) attack patterns to figure out.
Despite having some disappointing simplifications compared to previous entries, Monster World IV is still a fantastic game and probably the best of the four available in the package. It’s nice to be finally able to play the game, and it’s just as good as I hoped it would be.
The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection brings together all of the classic games under one roof and feels refreshing when compared to the lacklustre previous collection. A hefty price tag will no doubt put many off, but don’t let that stop you from at least wishlisting it. These are all amazing games in their own right and are well worth playing!