Wonder Boy in Monster World
for Mega Drive

Alternate Titles: ワンダーボーイV モンスターワールド, III Wonder Boy V: Monster World III
Company: Sega
Year: 1992
Genre: Action, RPG
Theme: Fighting / Sword & Sorcery
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 277
Review by LostInSpace (2024-06-22)

Back in the 8-bit home computer era, I remembered Wonderboy as an obscurity: a little boy in nappies, throwing hammers and riding a skateboard through the levels. But then the successor differs: the hammer was replaced by a sword and the skateboard by knightly armour. A colourful fantasy world provides the perfect setting for constantly improving your equipment with the treasures you have captured. This acts more or less the same way as character development in real RPGs. After this adjustment to the game's direction, Wonderboy developed into a well-known franchise series that continues to receive sequels and remakes to this day.

The fifth instalment Wonder Boy in Monster World and its successor Monster World IV (actually the sixth part of the whole series) were both developed specifically for the Mega Drive console. The concept of a Metroidvania with RPG elements has apparently proved so successful that only the setting (Orient World) and the gender of Wonder Boy (Shion is replaced by Asha) have been adapted. This gendering of course would have caused worldwide outrage in case of the moustachioed Mario.

The story remains nebulous until the end and is only vaguely connected to the other games in the series. There are a bunch of quests which the inhabitants of Monster World lead the hero on to get rid of the monsters in their land. From the generic kidnapped princess to the search for the legendary sword, generic elements accumulate to finally climax in a battle against the elemental threat (spoiler alert) from the cosmos. However, regardless of the evil fiends, the cuteness is always maintained and even skeletons seem cuddly through all the encounters.

If you've never played Wonderboy before, you'll be surprised at the astonishingly limited range: the sword feels like it only reaches a millimetre and the jumps are as short as a Mario with tied feet. The articulation of the character must therefore be very precise and is a challenge in its own right, especially in the slippery ice world.

Three-headed boss

The learning curve also has its quirks: most enemies don't require much skill at first due to their simple patterns. However, the final bosses are disproportionately more difficult – at least in their more resistant version for the English market. Even with optimised equipment, one last heart of energy is often missing. In order to reach other well-hidden heart containers, you may be forced to search for them again in areas that have already been completed. However, the save points at centrally accessible positions help with this.

Other supporting services are provided by little helpers interwoven into the story, such as a fire-breathing dragon cub. A game element that was expanded even further in the above-mentioned sequel to become a constant companion (the Pepelogoo). Spells and the usual healing potions can of course also be purchased.

Ask me anything!

Regarding the widely branching paths, the levels are not only varied due to their respective themes, but also through RPG-ish elements: Wonderboy plays a learnt melody on an ocarina to get through a door. At the end of the Pharaoh level, the Sphinx is satisfied without a fight when correctly answering questions about previously learnt facts about the game world you have travelled through. A way presenting a lot of child-like characters like mushrooms, crabs, penguins or fishes, which may not be to everyones liking. However, the game should not be misunderstood as being just as easy-peasy.

Overall, in my opinion, this instalment has reached a sweet spot in the series, which still retains the retro charm of the first parts and is not yet as overloaded with additional game elements and thus artificially elongated as the successors.

Comments (1) [Post comment]

Wonder Boy in Monster World is an often overlooked part of the eponymous series with a very unique graphics style. This visual impression was the main reason for trying out a Wonderboy-game in the first place. You can easily realize the Japanese origin all over the place, but without – in my case, fortunately – being fobbed off with the usual manga-imagery.