Wonder Boy Collection
Developer: Westone Bit Entertainment
Publisher: Bliss Brain, ININ Games
Genre(s): Arcade, Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 03/06/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Quite the Collection
The Wonder Boy Collection is a package of four games. It includes Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV. Do these retro revivals warrant a pickup considering the newer games they now have to compete with? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As I began my adventures in each of the four Wonder Boy games, I was introduced to a basic plot. Typically, the plots revolved around saving the world from monsters. Though they were nothing special, I never expected them to be. At the same time, while there were some references to the other titles between the games, each game stood individually. There was no order I needed to follow to understand the plot in any of these games. While playing them consecutively for the review left me feeling a bit disappointed that there was no overarching theme between them, I think largely this was a fine decision. All in all, the storylines in these games facilitated the premises for the game but did not do much apart from that.
Seeing the Sights
Similarly, each game showcases an excellent soundtrack. Slaying enemies makes satisfying sounds, collecting items is triumphant, and the music kept me moving through each stage. While each of the games had its own soundtrack, they were both distinct, fitting the themes of their games, and they sounded like they belonged in the Wonder Boy Collection.
The visuals were also excellent. Each of the games has vibrant pixel art and it looks fantastic. The enemy designs are crisp and clear, the locales are generally vibrant, and apart from some issues in Wonder Boy, each of the enemy attacks are telegraphed clearly. Though the games themselves look nice, there is an odd border surrounding them with each of the four characters. There was no option to turn this into a black background and there was also no option to play the game in widescreen. The lack of options here was a bit disappointing but nothing that ruined my experience. Overall, the games all looked excellent.
Instead, where the games did begin to feel different was in their gameplay. Wonder Boy was a challenging arcade game featuring skateboarding, permadeath, and a vitality meter that I could replenish by collecting different fruits. The premise is simple. I needed to reach the end of each stage. Having only played Monster World Asha in Monster Land before playing this collection, I was pleasantly surprised by the fast-paced and frantic nature of this game. Still, it was not perfect. The game is brutally challenging but not necessarily because the enemy and obstacle designs are tricky to master. Sometimes floors would fall out beneath me for no reason or enemies would chain attacks together before I could act. Plus, due to the small screen size, enemies and traps would periodically appear before I had a chance to react. Still, despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed my time with this game.
Unfortunately, I did not have as much fun with the second title in the collection. Much like the first title, there is a timer to keep me moving through the levels. Though I was not disappointed by its inclusion in the first arcade title, it took away from my experience in Monster Boy in Monster World. Many of the levels encourage exploration but since I had limited time, I was constantly battling with myself over whether I had the time to play the game. I was able to get through most regular levels relatively painlessly and though I never felt the mechanic enhanced my experience, I was not overly displeased with it.
However, this entirely changed once I began the final section. The developers included a maze for me to navigate before reaching the final boss. Regardless of how many times I tried, I was unable to explore far enough to reach the boss without this timer killing me. Of course, there are ways to get more points and unlock additional hearts, but it felt like such a useless mechanic solely used to drain quarters at the arcade.
Even before this grievance, I did not think Monster Boy in Monster World was particularly exciting. It plays like a traditional action platformer. None of the characters or boss designs were particularly unique and while I received enhanced weaponry and armour, apart from increasing the damage I could deal or the damage I could receive, none revolutionized the way I played the game. I ended up feeling like the game was fine, but nothing more than that.
Third Time is the Charm
While the previous title failed to keep things interesting, Wonder Boy in Monster World introduced plenty of new mechanics on top of the last title and removed the timer, meaning there was a greater emphasis on exploration. I thought this worked well for the series and exploring different locations was cute and rewarding. Now, there were different weapon archetypes, more unique boss fights, and death did not send me back to the beginning of the game. Still, it was not perfect. A lot of the game felt quite slow and now that the game was nonlinear, I often got lost and needed to search for a while before finding where to go. Similarly, the game hides items required for completion throughout different segments. While this is fine, I only knew I was looking for the items after I had passed some of the locations.
Additionally, the final boss is overwhelmingly difficult. In comparison to the other creatures fought in this game, it seemed out of place. Though this was not the largest issue, it left a sour taste in my mouth at the end of the game. While I liked a lot of the adjustments made in this game, once again, the game was nothing I am rushing to recommend.
Girls Get it Done
The final game in the series built on the strengths of Wonder Boy in Monster World while mitigating the weaknesses. This time, Monster World IV features a female protagonist, Asha. This game was very similar to Wonder Boy in Monster World, but there were a lot of quality-of-life improvements. I could save far more frequently, there were no required hidden items, and all the boss fights were fair. This game also features the Pepelogoo which severely slows down the pacing of the game. Jumping still takes too long. I still felt the sentiment but having played the game already, I was more prepared and knew where to go. Apart from some minor grievances like being unable to run airborne, I thought this game was a lot of fun. The locations are distinct, the enemies were interesting, and many of the boss fights were memorable.
While each of the games have their own problems, there were also some issues with the games overall. The games still reference a “C” button, a button not used on the Nintendo Switch. This made it really confusing to select the correct button, as they were not rephrased to represent the updated button. Additionally, across games, the “C” button would not be consistent. It was frustrating to not only have to learn but relearn the input for a button because the instructions are not clear.
On the other hand, the package also allows for the creation of save states, a rewind feature, and a fast-forward button. All of these worked well, and they were incredibly helpful, especially the fast forward button and save states. Many of the animations took a long time and waiting to read text or save took an absurdly long time. The fast-forward button maintained my pace.
Overall, the games in the Wonder Boy Collection are pretty good. I liked being able to see the progression from arcade difficulty to that used in modern titles as well as experience wildly different experiences within the same franchise. Though it was fun to see so many adventures, half of them failed to stand out or be memorable and there were plenty of frustrating aspects, especially considering permadeath and frustrating level designs.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3 out of 5
You can purchase the Wonder Boy Collection on the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.