Overview – developed by Ratalaika Games and published by ININ Games in collaboration with Bliss Brain, Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is the ultimate celebration of the iconic franchise from SEGA and Westone. This package contains multiple versions of each of the games in the series, with quality of life additions and special bonus features. This release is available on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation platforms, with a link to each version of the game 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 Anniversary 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, it is time to get into the review. As this is a compilation, I will be approaching this a little differently to my regular reviews. I will be providing some details about each game, a basic outline of the gameplay and then discuss the package as a whole. This is because I want players to be able to experience these games first hand if they are new to them.
So let’s get started with the first game in the collection, Wonder Boy.
Wonder Boy – 1986
Story – in Wonder Boy, take on the role of Tom Tom as he attempts to save his girlfriend Tina from the Evil King. Guide the hero through the different areas, avoid the hazards that are in his way and battle the enemies that lie in wait on your quest. Using the items that can be picked up during the adventure, face the Evil King head on and help Wonder Boy save Tina from the clutches of doom.
Gameplay – Wonder Boy is an action platformer that takes place over 28 stages, split into 7 areas that are made up of 4 rounds each. The core objective of the game is to reach the end of the stage, all while avoiding the hazards that appear, enemies that block the way and defeating the bosses at the end of areas. There are items that appear during the stages, including the axe and skateboard, as well as fruits that keep the timer bar active, since the player will die if the bar on screen depletes.
Most versions of the game play relatively identical to each other, with little in terms of content changed. However, the SG-1000 version which is the earliest port of Wonder Boy is VERY different. The level designs have been altered, with shorter areas, different enemy patterns and branching paths. This makes for an interesting and fun change to the established formula. Also, all versions of Wonder Boy have the option for original and enhanced controls that players can switch between.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land – 1987
Story – over a decade has passed since the Evil King was defeated by Tom Tom and he was bestowed the title of “Wonder Boy”, but sadly that peace was not to last. The MEKA Dragon appeared, descending upon the land alongside its minions and conquering it with its forces. The Wonder Land has been turned into Monster Land, with the people calling for their hero Wonder Boy to return, save the world and destroy the MEKA Dragon.
Gameplay – this is an action adventure that takes place over 12 levels in a linear fashion, with the main objective being to beat the bosses of each stage and reach the goal. To accomplish the mission of saving the world, the player must fight the monsters that roam the land, collect treasure and upgrade their equipment to become stronger. This is all done under a time limit where damage will be taken if too much time is taken.
The different ports and versions of this release are very similar, with the only real difference between the arcade and home versions being the graphics and sound. The RPG systems and action is very easy to pick up, with very little difference between the two versions of the game. The home ports aren’t arcade perfect, but are extremely close.
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair – 1988
Story – long ago, a courageous lad named Book defended the Monster Land from evil invaders, with his heroic deeds being passed down through the generations. Many years after the events of the legend, Leo and Princess Purapril hear of the deeds of Book. Determined to prove that they too can be heroes, they set out on an adventure to battle the same enemy that the legendary figure defeated all that time ago.
Gameplay – Monster Lair is an unconventional hybrid of side scrolling Run ‘n’ Gun platforming and side scrolling shooter, with stages split into two distinct game play styles. During the first part of the stages, there is a life/timer system like that of Wonder Boy where fruit must be collected to fill the health bar. There are also weapons that can be collected to power the player character for a short time. The vitality bar doesn’t deplete over time in the shooting sections, but is taken away by enemy damage.
The two versions of the game are identical from a gameplay perspective, with the only difference between the two games being the downgrade in graphics and sound. This is due to the hardware being used as it was ported to the Mega Drive/Genesis. The home version of the game has limited credits and lives, making for a more challenging experience for the player to take on.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – 1989
Story – taking place at the end of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, the hero, Wonder Boy has defeated and in turn been cursed by the MEKA Dragon. Turned into a Lizard Man, Wonder Boy sets out on a quest to break the curse, travelling the land as he searches for the only item that can break the curse. Will Wonder Boy be able to overcome these challenges, or will he be cursed for the rest of his days?
Gameplay – This is the first non-linear adventure in the series, taking the RPG style adventure established in Monster Land and expanding on it. Players can gradually open up new areas of the map, unlock new items and spells, all while fighting monsters and bosses. There are some cryptic elements and back tracking required to progress through the game, but the implementation of the Map system for this game (and all other games in the collection) make it easier to navigate.
There is no real difference between the different versions of this title aside from language. The camera is zoomed in on the game gear version of the game, making it a little harder to see when enemies are coming up and when hazards are going to reach the player.
Wonder Boy in Monster World – 1991
Story – Monster World was a peaceful land, where people lived together in harmony. However, peace was shattered one day by an invading army of monsters from an unknown source. The Fairy Queen Eleanora went to Purapril to seek aid after her town was attacked, but to her shock the princess was missing with the other towns under attack too. Eleanora prayed to the gods for a hero to help, with these prayers reaching a young man called Shion, who sets out to bring peace to Monster World again.
Gameplay – following on from “Dragon’s Trap”, the gameplay for this release has evolved once again. Taking the non-linear approach and expanding it further, introducing assistant characters that can join the player during their adventure within specific zones. There are also puzzles that can be solved by getting clues from others in the towns, and villages. The equipment system has also been improved, introducing more weapons, armor and magic that can be obtained.
This has more of an action RPG system to it than the platform action of the older games, as there is a focus on dungeons, back tracking and moving between towns in order to progress. There is a 16-Bit and 8-Bit version of this release, with the main difference being the visuals and sound. There are enhancements for the 8-Bit Master System version, making the sprites look closer to the Mega Drive/Genesis version.
Monster World IV (Asha in Monster World) – 1994
Story – in the land of Monster World, a young girl named Asha hears the whispers of spirits on the wind, pleading for help from someone. After this, the young Asha embarks on a journey from her home, seeking to find these spirits in need and provide them with help. During this quest, she becomes the master of a powerful journey and makes friends with a mysterious creature called Pepelogoo.
Gameplay – Asha in Monster World is the final title in the original Monster World series, introducing more complex dungeons to explore, puzzles to solve and enemies to fight. There is also a more simplified but responsive combat system, along with the addition of Pepelogoo as a side kick during the game. The gameplay in this entry is more linear, as the dungeons that the player can explore are accessed directly from a main hub town.
To make up for this return to linearity, the dungeons have been expanded and hidden collectables have been added for players to find. These are the “Blue Tears”, a special item that will provide the player with an additional heart for every 10 tears that are collected. This makes for a game that has an increased focus on exploration. Now, there is only one standard version of the game in this collection, with an English and Japanese version available.
Now with all of the games covered, I want to move onto the other aspects of this package. I will be starting off with the extra features for this collection.
Controls – the controls for this game have been altered and enhanced, allowing for players to modify the layouts of each game to fit the controller of their choice. There are also special enhancement options for players to use, changing the way that inputs function. This can allow newer players to have a more streamlined experience, while offering a more traditional feel for players who want to play the games the way they were.
Extra Content – since this is a celebration of the Wonder Boy series, there is a plethora of additional bonus content included in this package. All boxes, manuals and artwork from the home releases in this collection, along with arcade flyers and other assorted materials. There is also an extensive gallery of bonus images, interactive maps that show the layouts of every part in the games and behind the scenes documentation.
Presentation – while the games in this pack maintain their original visuals and sound, there are settings that allow the presentation of titles to be enhanced. There are options for players to adjust the screen size, aspect ratio and add a scaling filter. There is also the ability to add a CRT filter to the different titles, providing a more retro look for those who want it that way.
Final Thoughts – This is an excellent collection and the ultimate celebration for the Wonder Boy franchise. The games in this collection are emulated perfectly, with work on the emulators provided by Ratalaika Games. All of the games are fun, with a variety of playstyles for players to dive into. The fact that there is 21 total games in this collection is pretty mind blowing, as the developer could have just put one version of each game in this pack and called it a day.
I have absolutely no issue recommending the Wonder Boy Anniversary collection to everyone, regardless of if you are a fan of the series or checking it out for the first time. The amount of extra content is an even bigger bonus, showcasing the history of the series through the art gallery. If you already have the Wonder Boy Collection (reviewed HERE), then I still recommend picking this up for more of that Wonder Boy goodness.
In the end, I give the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection a final score of 5/5. This is the ultimate celebration of the Wonder Boy franchise. Featuring 21 games for players to enjoy, alongside quality of life improvements, enhancements and additional gallery content for players to sink their teeth into. If you want to check this release out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 5 version (HERE)