Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World
Developer: Artdink, MONKEY CRAFT
Publisher: SEGA, ININ Games, STUDIOARTDINK
Genre(s): Action, Platformer, Role-Playing
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 28/05/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World is a remastered version of Wonder Boy IV released in 1994. It is an action-platformer, meaning the player needs to navigate side-scrolling gauntlets of platforming. There are specific levels for the player to traverse, and enemies to battle along the way. Along with a blue Pepelogoo, become the hero the town needs in Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World.
Setting the Scene
The story featured in Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World is basic. Simply put, the guardian spirits of the world have been captured by evil. Asha has the power to save the world and must liberate them from their prison. Though nothing special, the story has a few surprises and establishes the premise of the game well. Unfortunately, some seemingly heart-wrenching scenes, such as when Asha’s mother gets lost are discussed swiftly and without heavy emphasis. This creates an impasse between Asha and the player, as when her mother is discovered to be missing, she does not even shed a tear. The story sets the scene well but is not outstanding. If the gameplay is good, a mediocre story does not hinder the game.
In addition to a central story, the developers included non-playable characters to discuss various things with Asha. It was often enjoyable to hear what they had to say. While most of the dialogue was geared towards helping the player progress, occasionally, the dialogue was funny. For example, a certain type of non-playable character repeated the same type of dialogue constantly. One of these characters said that they forgot the words, poking fun at their dialogue’s repetitive, textbook nature. Moments like those stood out but were not incredibly abundant. Most of the dialogue was strictly informative, or plot-based. Either way, the conversations with the non-playable characters were enjoyable.
Another sound game design decision was made when barricading the player’s progress. Instead of including locked doors, the developers frequently included non-playable characters that would stand in front of entrances. They would never say that they are blocking the door on purpose but continued with their normal dialogue. This decision immersed the player in the world, as the non-playable characters sounded less robotic. Moreover, when the developers blocked a door for something that the player can do immediately, the person standing at the door would give the player guidance tailored to the task they need to complete, leading them in the right direction. The developers handled the dialogue well, as it both interests and guides the players.
Despite the underwhelming story decisions, if the gameplay can stand on its own, the game can still be good. Unfortunately, various minor setbacks pile up, and Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World provides a mediocre gameplay loop.
Asha has two movement speeds: a walking speed, and a running speed. These allow the player to navigate the map at the speed they are most comfortable with. Additionally, she is equipped with a sword and a shield. They both function properly and are enjoyable to use. One of the best feelings in the game was bombarding the enemies with a combination of aerial attacks and fleeing just before they can attack. The player is readily equipped for any enemies that come their way.
Not only is Asha prepared for combat, but her unique blue Pepelogoo remains by her side throughout her journey. This creature flies with large flapping ears. It offers Asha a double jump and minimizes the effect of gravity when Asha is holding on. Not only that, but it can push buttons for her, and even collect items. In concept, travelling alongside such an adorable creature seems magical. However, it certainly has its downsides. To leverage the Pepelogoo, Asha must whistle at it. Then, the Pepelogoo moseys over to the player, forcing them to wait. Once Asha grabs ahold of the Pepelogoo, she is granted a double jump. Areas often require the double jump frequently, thus burdening the player with unnecessary tedium. Though this did not ruin the experience, the implementation of the Pepelogoo makes the game feel rigid and boring. The levels without the Pepelogoo had significantly better flow.
So, she is a Fighter?
Additionally, the enemies felt simple and easy to counter. The player rarely had to monitor their health, as enemies had little health, and Asha had a lot. The player can afford to take a hit, especially when that means killing the enemy. Despite fitting structured archetypes, enemies were designed well, and the variety of enemies ensured the player was informed on how to counter a wide variety of enemies. Unfortunately, due to the leniency in the health system and considerable invincibility frames, players could manage to ignore certain enemies if they did not enjoy battling against them with minimal consequence.
Similarly, the boss fights were far too easy. They often had one or two patterns, and once they were discovered, the boss could be taken down easily. Moreover, the player would often be at full health because many boss fights are placed near a vending machine where the player can purchase health. This means that the bosses are subject to the same issues the basic enemies are, and the player can suffer damage at little consequence. Even if they receive considerable damage, they can simply use their healing items, and continue fighting. Even still, the bosses were a terrific element of the game. Some had unique concepts and even when they did not, the bosses telegraphed their attacks well, making the player feel powerful for learning their patterns. Though imperfect, the bosses added some much-needed variety to Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World.
Monster World Building
Some of the level designs were innovative. However, overall, the level designs were not always enjoyable. For example, one level focused on memorizing different passcodes while searching for artefacts. Unfortunately, managing both tasks at the same time requires the player to both navigate every corridor and memorize passwords. Attempting them at the same time alongside fighting enemies will have players forgetting where they explored, and what the passwords are. This level tried to have the player use their memory too much, and it will frustrate the player. Alternatively, a similar level still focused on searching for artefacts but instead of requiring the memorization of passwords, the level had secret doors, encouraging the player to closely observe their surroundings. This coupled nicely, as both require careful observation of the surroundings, but the player can focus on where they need to go. Though some levels were not great, some play fluidly.
The developers of Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World also implemented collectables into each level. The player can collect items to restore their health, gold bars to sell for profit, and life drops. Collecting ten life drops will upgrade the player’s total health by one. These collectables encourage exploration and were an excellent addition to the game. However, the health upgrades provided such a large advantage that the challenge was diminished. Regardless, these collectables incentivize exploration and motivate the player to explore every section of each level.
Being a Hero is Hard Work?
One of the most innovative design choices the developers made was how they implemented difficulty. Instead of giving designated spots for the players to save, the player can save their progress whenever they please (with some exceptions). This offers lower-skilled players a safety net, allowing them to save frequently and minimize their risk. However, saving too frequently begins to feel like cheating, and as though death has no consequence. The player is given no guidance on how often to save, and the game does not dictate when a good time to save would be. This lack of direction can frustrate some players, as they need to make their own difficulty. With some prompts that ask if the player would like to save, this system would be accessible to newcomers while still giving structure to the game. In the current state, it is functional, but it fails to motivate players.
Stevie Wonder Boy
The music design featured in Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World is spectacular. Nearly every track was stand out and delightful. The developers knew this and included track titles on the screen when a new track played. This UI is helpful and brings the player’s attention to the song. Moreover, the game is voice acted by Ai Fairouz. This adds realism to the dialogue, and it is a pleasant addition. Unfortunately, the character frequently makes high pitched moans while platforming. This sound is grating at times and can frustrate the player. Even with the annoying voice lines in-game, the voice acting and music more than compensate for it. The music design was excellent.
What a Wonderful World
The presentation and visuals featured in Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World are also excellent. The game showcases animated cutscenes, and each is vibrant and gorgeous. The character designs and sprites are excellent as well. A surprising amount of detail is shown in the characters. Unfortunately, the developers included certain cutscenes that cannot be skipped, and they hinder the flow of gameplay. When placing a bomb, or opening a chest, the player must watch the same cutscene every time the event occurs. This breaks the flow of gameplay, especially because these cutscenes are time-consuming. Even though occasionally it impedes gameplay, the visuals greatly improve the quality of the game.
Overall, Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World is an extremely polished game that will offer a good experience for many players. However, the tedium associated with progression and the simplicity of the game in combination with the short runtime (around four hours) leaves much to be desired. I enjoyed my time with Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World on the PlayStation store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.