Overview – originally developed by Westone and Sega, ported by Ratalaika Games, with publishing handled by ININ Games and Bliss Brain, Wonder Boy Collection brings 4 titles from the iconic franchise to new platforms. Take on monsters and bosses to save the day in these classic titles from the 80s and 90s. This collection is available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 platforms, with a link to each version of this release at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Wonder Boy Collection that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be breaking each game down into individual segments, with an overview of the story and discussion of gameplay. Starting off with the first game in the series, Wonder Boy (all story details taken from the official Bliss Brain website).
Wonder Boy – 1986 (Arcade)
Story – Help Tom Tom rescue his girlfriend Tina, who got captured by the evil King. Guide him carefully through different areas and battle the devious enemies that await you on your quest. Use a variety of items that help Boy on his adventure. Face the evil King in various battles to reach your aim and rescue Tina!
Gameplay – this action platformer takes place over 28 stages, split into 7 areas of 4 rounds each, with a special area of 4 rounds added if a special requirement is met. To get through the hazards of Wonder Boy, the player must run, jump and dodge many of the dangers that will be thrown at them. The hazards include fires, boulders and residents of the islands like snakes, spiders and octopi. At the end of each set of rounds, there is a boss where the player must hit them in the head several times to beat them.
To help reduce some risks, power up eggs can be collected, which include an axe that can be used to attack, a skateboard and a fairy that provides invincibility for a limited time. But be aware, if damage is taken or the player falls into a pit, these power-ups will be lost and they will need to be collected again. Players must track the Vitality bar at the top of the screen also, split into yellow and red, which ticks down and kills the player when empty, with the only way to fill it is collecting food during stages.
While the gameplay in unchanged, the controls have been modified with this version of the game having a dedicated run and high jump button. This can be jarring for long time players, as the traditional two button set-up is not implemented, meaning that the instinct to hold the attack button to run won’t work. There are basic game settings that can be changed, with adjustable lives and difficulty, but the extend settings don’t seem to work as 30k points give an extra life regardless.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land – 1987 (Arcade)
Story – Years after the adventures of Wonder Boy the beautiful peace in Wonder Land was destroyed once again by the invasion of a dragon with its evil monsters turning Wonder Land into Monster Land. Help Book to fight the monsters, defeat the dragon and restore the peace for the land and its people again. On your journey, you can collect equipment and magical spells to help you in your battles. But beware – every round has a time limit so you got to be quick!
Gameplay – the gameplay for this title established the direction that most wonder boy titles would follow, moving from a simple platformer to an action RPG. The player takes on monsters that have taken over the Monster Land, with snakes, goblins and boss monsters to battle. When the player defeats monsters, they will drop gold and treasures to collect. The money that is collected can be used to buy armor, shields and items to strengthen their character.
To clear each of the different rounds that make up the game, the player must reach the end point and either collect the gate key in battle or clear the boss room. To help the player keep track of damage done to enemies, colored markers will be visible with blue for high health and red for the critically low health. Wonder Boy uses a sword for the majority of this adventure, but there are also special abilities that can be obtained, like fire balls, lightning and bombs.
Now, the player must be careful in battle as Wonder Boy has limited health (shown as hearts), which is depleted from taking damage or letting the timer in the corner tick over. If all the hearts are lost a game over happens, but players can continue by using a credit and resetting their score. Additional hearts can be earned at score milestones, but only the first time they are reached during a game, which can make death a significant set-back.
Like the first Wonder Boy title, there are settings and modifications made to the way that the game works. The settings for difficulty, number of hearts and the extend score milestones are available, alongside the ability to change controls between classic and modern. This setting option gives players flexibility with the way the game feels in action. However, there is an extra feature included called the wiggle jump button, which lets players activate a glitch/secret in the game as a nice bonus.
Wonder Boy in Monster World – 1991 (Mega Drive/Genesis)
Story – Guide the young adventurous Shion and help him on his quest to defeat the evil BioMeka and his army of monsters that are threatening the land. However, Shion is not alone! Accompanied by the 4 spirits Priscilla, Hotta, Shabo and Lotta, he explores thedifferent regions of Monster Land. Collect money, weapons, armor and magic spells to get stronger and defeat the evil!
Gameplay – this is the third sequel in the monster world series, which follows the same action RPG gameplay as the previous titles, but with a search action style interconnected world. Like the previous title discussed, there are monsters roaming the land that can drop gold when defeated, but monsters will stop spawning if defeated too many times. When this happens, the player needs to leave the area and return to refresh the enemies, allowing them to grind gold.
As this game features several interconnected regions to explore, there is an emphasis on interacting with the residents of different towns to gain information and clues. There are also Inns where the player can rest, save their game, refill their health and choose to continue or not. However, these Inns require payment for the player to rest and save the game traditionally, but the save state feature in this game (and the others in the collection) allows the player to save freely.
While in the towns of Monster World, the player can access different shops where they can use gold to buy items and gear. The gear that is available includes weapons and armor that will alter the stats for Shion, with each piece of equipment having its own unique qualities to it. Shion can change equipment freely, with the different gear strength being shown by stars next to three stats. There is also a skill slot system, which allows the player to assign up to two items or magic skills for use.
As well as the towns to explore, there are also dungeons that Shion must explore, collecting the treasures inside while battling the monsters that populate them. The dungeons also contain puzzles for players to solve, like a musical puzzle that requires Shion to play an ocarina via button inputs to open doors. These puzzles can be complex and a little cryptic, requiring notes to be taken in order to solve them and progress further.
Along with the treasures, puzzles and monsters that can be found in the dungeons, there are also bosses that the player must battle. The boss battles can be tough and can be disastrous for the player if they are not prepared, with a full set of hearts being wiped out immediately. To counter this, there are special potion items, elixirs and heart containers scattered throughout the game increasing the total hearts that Shion has.
The battle system itself is a little more streamlined in this entry, with a life bar popping up on screen to show how much strength an enemy has. This appears below the heart containers for Shion, providing a more reliable way to track how much damage a weapon does against each enemy. The health bar is most helpful in combat against the bigger enemies, especially bosses as it allows for tactical use of special attacks and magic.
The last thing to mention for this title is that Shion can recruit companions from different areas, helping during the adventure with unique skills. These helpers are tied to plot points in their location and aren’t able to go outside of a preset boundary, but do provide help in their respective zones. When the player goes outside the boundary or sleeps at an Inn, the companion will return to their “spawn” and can be recruited again.
Monster World IV – 1994 (Mega Drive/Genesis)
Story – The young girl named Asha sets out on her mission to save the four spirits that were captured by the evil wizards. With the help of Asha’s loyal companion Pepelogoo, they overcome every obstacle and fight their way through various enemies! (I have previously covered the Remake of this title, which you can find HERE).
Gameplay – this entry retains the action RPG styled adventure gameplay of the previous titles, with Asha having some unique mechanics that make this title distinct from the others. With the interconnected regions of Monster World replaced with a single main town, reworked combat and exploration/treasure hunting. The biggest change with this title is the introduction of Pepelogoo, a cute blue monster that becomes Asha’s companion for the game.
The combat system for this title is simplified to an extent, with Asha armed with a sword to fight monsters in four directions and a shield to deflect attacks. This gear can be upgraded with money earned during play, increasing damage and defensive power, along with armor that increases Asha’s endurance and health. Improving the gear equipped can make a difference between success and failure in the dungeons of this adventure.
Another change is the introduction of a home base, where the player will return to often during the adventure. The base is the town of Rapadagna, with merchants, a save point and NPC characters to interact with. These features of the town add a little more depth to the world, with different characters changing dialogue and merchants changing their wares. The home base can be fast travelled to while in dungeons, using the lamp that is collected during the tutorial tower.
In this entry the dungeons are isolated from each other, with a medallion required to access each stage from the transportation gates in the temple at the edge of town. Each stage is filled with monsters to fight, treasure to obtain and puzzles to solve. The different zones that are explored each have their own themes, with a frozen pyramid and an underground water temple. To navigate these areas, the player will need to collect keys, go through doors and take on platform challenges to progress.
The dungeons also contain boss enemies that will try to stop the progress of the player, with each of the main stages having a mid and end boss that will challenge Asha to battle. These battles can be challenging, but there is a way to reduce the risk of failure a little. Throughout the game, Asha can collect blue drops which increase her total health by 1 for every 10 collected, this adds extra emphasis on exploring to find as many as possible (they can even be found in chests).
There are also vending machines that can be accessed, with different amounts of hearts and even elixirs inside (special potions that will replenish some health upon fatal injury). However, the most important part of Asha’s tool kit for this adventure is her friend Pepelogoo. During the course of the game, Asha will partner up with this adorable blue monster, which can aid her in various ways, including granting the ability to glide, double jump and help solve puzzles.
Last to mention is the changes made to the save system. In this title, there are NPC characters called the Sages of Save, who allow the player to save when they are encountered. There are two save slots for the player to use, allowing more than one playthrough to be active traditionally. However, if the player wishes to save their game freely, there is the save state feature that lets up to 6 individual saves to be used at any time.
Now with the gameplay for the titles in this pack covered, it is time to move on to the other elements of this collection, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control method for this release has tailored setups for each title, with fundamental changes to the button layouts of games like Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy in Monster Land. These changes do make the games more accessible to newer players, but could be jarring for older players as the traditional 2 button input of Wonder Boy cannot be used. There is also an issue with Wonder Boy in Monster World, as there are input codes for puzzles without knowing what buttons are listed as.
The inputs for each game can be remapped freely, allowing players to set their controls to fit the controller used for each game. The pro controller and Joy-Cons are comfortable to use with this collection, but I would recommend an arcade stick for the two arcade titles and a Sega style controller for the Mega Drive titles.
Difficulty – the games featured in this collection are challenging, with gradually increasing difficulty curves that will push the skills of the player. The arcade titles have simple settings to adjust the number of Lives, difficulty setting and extra life milestones. There are no difficulty options for the two Mega Drive releases. However, there are some features that players can use to help get through tougher areas, like the save/load state system and a Rewind option that can be used in all games.
Presentation – this collection has several options to alter the graphical look for each game. This release has settings to change the aspect ratio, pixel scaling to set the sharpness and add a CRT filter to emulate an old display. The graphical and sound emulation for this bundle is as close to perfect as possible, with no sprite issues or problems with sound effects and music. The overall quality of visuals and sound are very high, providing the most authentic experience that can be attained on modern hardware.
Final Thoughts – I am a longtime fan of the Wonder Boy series, having owned and played versions of the titles in this collection before. That being said, this is a very good collection that offers a good alternative to buying the original titles on discontinued hardware. The emulation is solid, with no issues when it comes to inputs, graphics or sound alongside quality of life improvements like save states and adaptive rewind.
I can happily recommend this title to fans of the Wonder Boy franchise both old and new, with this collection allowing players to experience these classic titles at home (or on the go with the Nintendo Switch). There are some minor issues that I have with this pack, like the inability to use the traditional 2 button controls with Wonder Boy or the lack of button labels in Wonder Boy in Monster World. But these minor flaws don’t ruin the overall experience.
In the end, I give Wonder Boy Collection a final score of 4/5. This collection contains 4 classic titles in one neat bundle, offering platforming, action and even light RPG mechanics for most of the titles. The emulation is excellent, with quality of life improvements like save states and adaptive rewind, making it an accessible way for new players to experience these classics. If you want to check this collection out for yourself, links to this game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
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