I grew up with a Genesis and an NES in the house. We got the Genesis when I was five, and I remember being enamored with the popping colors, increased speed of movement in most games, and that classic sound that imbued each game’s soundtrack. There’s no mistaking it, even with series you know well from Nintendo, such as Castlevania, or even Mega Man. However, I don’t recall ever jumping into the Wonder Boy/Monster World series until playing them on PS3. Having played the recent remakes of the series, I was excited to jump into Monster World IV‘s remake, as that was my favorite of the series from the ports I played.
While I had some knowledge of what I was jumping into, I couldn’t help but think that this game would have the gorgeous 2D design of the most recent Wonder Boy game. However, this time around it’s 3D renders (I get it, the cost for this is way less) in a mostly 2D world, although there are some plane changes that take place, but you’re restricted to an X or Y axis at all times. I kept getting Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero vibes from the way it was approached, without the hand drawn characters. There’s something about worlds rendered in this style that seem so lifeless, as the textures are typically pretty dull, especially in monotonous dungeons.
While it’s been a long time since I played Monster World IV, jumping off the ledge to the left in the opening resulted in a trophy, just like the PS3 version of the game. So I chuckled to myself and wondered how much the rest of the game would mimic that. The answer was, well, most of it is identical. Obviously there are some changes, I’m sure the puzzle solutions have been updated a bit, and there’s voice acting in the game, but overall this is the original game with 3D set pieces and character models.
Starting the game out, I was a bit concerned, as the dialogue had some glaring errors, but nothing a quick patch can’t fix. I get that these errors are minor, but in a game with a fairly small amount of dialogue (especially mandatory), I would expect the cut-scenes to at least be proofed for spacing and spelling. I let this go and moved on quickly, exploring Asha’s hometown and collecting what items I could before getting to the main hub for the four main dungeons. It’s here that some of the questionable dialogue came into play once more, and is a relic of old games in general. You’re stopped from progressing until you acquire some better armor, but what you need isn’t armor at all – in fact, what you need is a living creature named Pepelogoo. The game’s hints are also lacking in assistance, as some will give you information after you already learned what it told you in the screen prior – I know I said several times throughout that it’d be nice to know something it said a few minutes prior. There’s also no in game button prompts, so it’ll tell you to do something, but not say how. There’s a tips screen and controller map if you need it, and I suggest running through it just to get an idea of what you’re capable of doing, but even then I had to experiment. I guess I’ve gotten accustomed to games holding my hand. I will say that Pepelogoo (the blue flying fella) is the most interesting (albeit frustrating at times) portion of the game. You’ll use the little guy for puzzle solving; there are quite a few that you need to hit JUST RIGHT for it to work, otherwise you’ll be stuck.
Each of the dungeons contains a brief intro section, followed by some puzzles, a mini boss, more puzzles, and then an actual boss, although the ice dungeon has three parts. You get a map in the ice dungeon, and I really wish I had one for the ones prior, because I was going in circles for what seemed like forever, although the total playtime when credits rolled was under four hours. However, I think the main reason you get it in the ice level is because every section looks exactly the same. I get that it’s supposed to be a maze, as you’re in a Sphinx and solving riddles, but the design just comes off as a lazy copy and paste job of assets.
Now I know that I’ve been pretty hard on the game, but this is still an enjoyable experience, especially for fans of the series. Building up your character with different equipment and seeing the change against enemies is satisfying, running around the hub and finding secrets is pleasant, and there are lots of hidden nooks and crannies to explore if you’re looking to score the platinum trophy. And for those that are partial to physical copies, you can play the original Monster World IV as well, as it’s included on the cartridge for Switch, and as a code for PS4. The digital version of the game does not include this. I always love comparing the original to the new version with games like this. I know it’s not possible given some of the changes, but it would’ve been neat to be able to switch between styles on the fly like you can with Double Fine’s semi-recent releases of the old LucasArts adventure games.
If you’ve never dived into the Wonder Boy/Monster World series and you want to see what they were all about, these remakes are great places to start. If you’re a physical collector, even better, as you’ll be able to play the old and new version and decide which is better. However, in regards to what Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is and what it does, you’re likely better off playing one of the Shantae games, as I feel all of those improve on what this series was doing.
6 out of 10
- Enjoyable Hub
- Easily Digestible
- Bland Dungeons
- Questionable Dialogue
- Inconsistent Hit Boxes for Pepelogoo
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World was developed by Artdink and published in association with ININ Games, Artdink, G Choice, and United Games Entertainment GmbH. The game is available for NS and PS4. The game was provided to us for review on PS4 and played on PS5. If you’d like to see more of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, check out the official site.
Here at GBG we use a rating method that you are more than likely familiar with – a scale of 1 to 10. For clarification, we intend on using the entire scale: 1-4 is something you should probably avoid paying for; 5-7 is something that is worth playing, but probably not at full price; 8-10 is a great title that you can feel confident about buying. If you have any questions or comments about how we rate a game, please let us know.