Wonder Boy Collection Review – Not Quite Complete

Wonder Boy comes from a long history of video game characters. Developed by Westone (formerly Escape) for Sega as a platform arcade game with a squat caveman-boy in a grass skirt, the sequels swiftly broke off into action role-playing terrain. Surprisingly, Wonder Boy III has two chronological entries: Monster Lair (an arcade game) and The Dragon’s Trap (originally for the Master System). To add to the confusion, the fifth game in the Monster World series, originally launched for the Mega Drive, is known in Japan as Wonder Boy V: Monster World III. Following that, Monster World VI, the sixth installment, was the 16-bit era’s farewell song, with Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom arriving on Nintendo Switch in 2018.

The Retro

On the Nintendo Switch, the Wonder Boy series has gotten a lot of attention, with remasters of past titles and even a brand new spiritual sequel in the form of Monster Boy. However, we have yet to witness a comprehensive collection of old classics. The two Wonder Boy games that were available on other versions of the Mega Drive collection were regrettably excluded from the Mega Drive collection released a few years ago.

We have four old favorites (two arcade ports and two Mega Drive ports) coming back with some quality of life upgrades with the Wonder Boy Collection. It isn’t the most comprehensive vintage collection, but the games included are fantastic, making this a must-have for retro aficionados or anyone who has enjoyed any of the other Switch games.

Incomplete Collection?

Between 1986 and 2018, no fewer than seven Monster Boy games were released, of which you now only get four. At least, unless you purchase the special Anniversary Edition from Strictly Limited Games for 49.99 euros. This also gives you the games Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair and The Dragon’s Trap.

In none of the versions, you get the most recent Monster Boy game Wonder Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, which came out in 2018 for the PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. This is by definition an incomplete collection, but that does not alter the fact that you get a lot of variety and playing time for the 29.99 euros that the digital game costs you.

The collection gives you a total of easily 20 hours of fun, divided over the four supplied games. All games are playable in their original 4:3 screen format, but also in other formats such as 16:9 and fullscreen. The screen is then stretched a bit to fit. Optionally, this can be supplemented with a CRT filter for a classic look.

Although most of the games in this collection work with imaginary coins that provide credits, you don’t have to worry about continuing. You can rewind if things go wrong. So you don’t have to lose any life in the games. You can also fast forward, which means that you play fast. There are a few handy features that make the game feel slightly different than in the distant past.

Classic Platforming With a Twist

The first game, Wonder Boy, dates back to 1986 and sends you out, just like in the Mario games, to rescue your girlfriend from the clutches of a villain. The game lets you run, jump, and skateboard through different levels with Tom-Tom. Your goal is just like in the Mario Bros games, to rescue a kidnapped lady guarded by a boss. Not very exciting in itself, were it not for the fact that you will die if you don’t eat on the way. Fruit and a whole range of snacks such as milkshakes and cake appear here and there, which have to be picked up.

If you don’t do this, you will slowly starve to death and you will never save your sweetheart. Wonder Boy is a great port that hasn’t been ported for the first time but has been featured in three other collections as well. At the time, the port alone was not flawless, and some platforms disappeared. This time, that is not the case, and everything works wonderfully smoothly in the game.

Unique RPG Action in Monster Land

Another game that returns in all Wonder Boy collections is Wonder Boy in Monster Land. This is the sequel to the original and a game that does things quite differently. The game suddenly no longer feels like a classic platformer but has a number of RPG elements. For example, you have to buy everything in shops such as weapons and shoes to become stronger.

For a game from 1987, this was a pretty advanced system, where your character also changed every time. Unfortunately, the test of time hasn’t been mild on Wonder Boy in Monster World. This game of more than three hours feels quite outdated in all areas and might have been better replaced by one of the other Monster Boy games.

Fortunately, Wonder Boy in Monster World is also present in this collection of games. This is more or less the remake of its predecessor from 1987 and feels more accessible and better in all areas. The game once came out on the Mega Drive and generally looks really cool with its 16-bit graphics. You still notice in the four to five hours of gameplay that you are working with an old game, but with one that can still be seen today.

A Cool RPG Platformer As a Flagship

The absolute topper in this collection is Monster World IV. In this game, you enter the monster world with Asha, a green-haired lady. You set off with this lady to eventually reach the final boss after just under six hours of platforming and puzzling. The game is much more advanced than its predecessors. You can again buy weapons and the like but have to scour a lively world in search of bosses. In addition, you can do all kinds of cool attacks and you even have a buddy with you to help you. In the meantime, the game looks great and can keep up with the times.

Only the adventure may sound familiar because a remake of this game was released last year. Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World got 8 more from us in our review in June, partly because it’s an excellent remake of this game. The fact that we see this (original) game in a new collection feels a bit double.

The Wonder Boy Collection is therefore not only incomplete but also contains a game that only received a complete makeover six months ago. Nevertheless, this collection is a delight for every platform enthusiast. The games you get are unique in their own way and were once way ahead of their time. Just keep in mind that you will be playing games that have not all stood the test of time.

Conclusion

For me, the Wonder Boy Collection was a fantastic trip down memory lane. Over the years, I’ve continued to play these games on and off. Now that I have four of them in a handy Switch collection to take with me when I get the Wonder Boy itch, it’s even better. This is a series of games that stands the test of time, particularly if you enjoy retro adventures. The collection feels unsatisfactorily incomplete, with only single versions of each game and two crucial entries missing. Regardless of whether you are new or old to the series, it is still a worthwhile read.

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