Initial release date: May 28th, 2021
Developer: Artdink Series: Wonder Boy Publishers: ININ Games, Artdink, G Choice, United Games Entertainment GmbH Genres: Platform game, Fighting game, Action-adventure game Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
"Review Copy Provided By PR Hound and ININ Games"
The Wonder Boy franchise was one of Sega’s premier franchises up there with Alex Kidd, Shinobi, Golden Axe, and Streets of Rage which were their answers to many of the heavy hitters from Nintendo. Wonder Boy has seen many different entries that have recently been either remade or had entirely new entries added and it most definitely seems like we’re in the resurgence of the franchise and I’m all for it! In 2021, we have a remake of the 1994 Sega Genesis classic Monster World IV in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World which as from the ground up remake of the original with all new graphics, improved gameplay and more. Does this remake live up to the original and is it worth diving into? Let’s find out!
The story stars Asha who hears the spirits whisper on the winds pleading for her to help them and so she embarks on a journey to help them.
It’s a 1994 game so don’t expect much in the way of a deep plot.
This game is deceptively DEEP. When you start the game, you may assume that there isn’t much to the game due to only being able to jump, attack, and block; you can also run if you double tap left or right (which the game doesn’t tell you). Speaking of what the game doesn’t tell you, there are so many game mechanics that you will have to figure out from either trial and error or utilizing the hint/tips section when you pause the game as this is a very decidedly old school game in a new generation of paint, albeit, not on the extreme case of Wonder Boy and The Dragon’s Trap with its massive difficulty curve.
The controls are fairly simple with you having a button for jump, attack, block (although you can press down to block as well) call your companion Pepelogoo (more on that in a moment), and utilize your Magical Hit powered up attack. Most enemies will go down to one or two swipes from your sword initially and you can even do variations on how you attack with it by either attacking directly upwards by pressing up and attack or straight downwards by pressing down and attack. You will be able to block the majority of attacks without taking any damage as the enemies at the beginning of the game are exceptionally easy to take on yet become increasingly more difficult and numerous as you progress. If you jump at most enemies when they are not attacking, then Asha will end up rebounding off of them and performing a flip giving you some distance to plan out your next set of attacks.
The Magical Hit is one of the games many features that set it apart from the rest of the WonderBoy franchise as it allows you to power up your standard attack for a one-shot critical hit which can kill most common enemies in one hit and can severely damage bosses that you encounter. The ability is charged up based on the type of weapon that you have equipped as some will charge it up fully within 2-3 strikes while others will take up to 6 normal strikes to get it fully charged. All you need to do is hold down one of the shoulder buttons and then press attack and there you go.
So one thing that this game most certainly is happens to be a puzzle-platformer through and through. You will be needing to platform a lot in this game to not only to continue progressing forward but also to reach hidden areas to gain more health restoratives, money, and blue gems to increase your overall health. Mastering the run and jump will get you extremely far in this game and another move set that will help will be the double jump ability that you gain after the first dungeon.
Remember the Pepelogoo that I mentioned earlier? Well once you acquire that then you will be able to double jump and glide to different areas. See something that looks out of reach? Then call your Pepelogoo to your side and use it to glide or double jump to that unreachable area. The Pepelogoo also has other usages such as being able to plug up volcanic holes as well as being able to press buttons on walls and be able to protect you from overhead fire damage since they love heat.
You can buy and equip new swords, shields, and bracelets which all have varying stat buffs and special characteristics such as having nullifying properties towards elements like fire and electricity and so on for shields while bracelets will give you additional hearts for your health bar to be extended to and swords can have varying damage properties along with either increasing or decreasing the amount of hits needed to charge the Magical Hit ability.
Also of note is the digital version of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World can be purchased from the Nintendo and Sony stores and is published by STUDIOARTDINK. The Boxed retail version of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World comes exclusively with the original Monster World IV published by ININ Games.
The game’s graphics are a bit of a mixed bag as in many aspects it looks phenomenal in its cell shaded look and yet at other points it looks incredibly basic Dreamcast era graphics. Asha herself looks great as does the main town hub where you will be spending the bulk of your time; and yet almost all of the nonimportant characters and especially the dungeons and general levels look very basic with not much going on. Characters are often repeated here and there with low levels of details in them, and many dungeons have basic graphical layouts and aren’t that detailed which is a shame as so much could’ve been done with the extra characters and levels with the art style and graphics style this game utilizes.
Aside from my gripes, the cell shaded look of this game does this game justice and makes this look like WindWaker HD taken to the next level and that is something that I truly love about this game.
Enemies all look basic if not simplistic and yet its not a terrible thing as they maintain their look from the original Wonder Boy: Monster World IV. Boss characters do look really good and unique and definitely have more effort in their character models than the basic enemies and even NPCs do.
The ost for this game is very catchy such as the town theme as well as the various dungeon themes as they all have a whimsical adventurous melodic tone to it. There’s voice acting however the game is fully voiced in Japanese with no English voice over. Is the Japanese voice over good? No actual clue but it sounds really good to me.
Not really a lot to say here other than it all sounds good.
The main complaint’s I can see this game having is the fact that this game doesn’t hold your hand and tell you what to do and where to go nor does it tell you what abilities you have or when you gain new ones of which can be alienating to modern gamers who didn’t grow up in the era that this game hails from and may end up putting the game down even though there’s a hint system built into the game.
The other downside is how incredibly easy this game is and how little challenge it provides. Now that can be due to me having grown up gaming from the NES era that I find this game very easy, yet I still feel that the game is just way too easy to the point I can get through levels with very little to no damage taken from enemies and bosses can get stun locked to the point of not being able to do anything to you.
The lack of overall detail in many NPCs and levels will have many claiming this a Dreamcast era or early PS2 era title of which they wouldn’t be fully wrong in that assumption of why the game looks as it does but for the style of this game looks fairly ok to me.
Last thing I noticed was the numerous grammatical errors in the text of this game from start to finish which I do hope will be fixed with patches down the road. It isn't a game breaking issue but Its very very noticeable when you're reading the dialogue.
Being in this era of remakes and remasters has been pretty awesome to live through given so many classics and forgotten gems are being remade for the current era of gaming, and while not all games are needing of a remake or remaster; gems like Wonder Boy IV definitely is a title that deserved a remake from the ground up. Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a game with a simple yet deep gameplay system, tons of replayability, and is another great entry in the Wonder Boy franchise which has seen a revival in recent years starting with Wonder Boy and The Dragon’s Trap from 2017. If you’ve got a hankering for a great old-school style game then Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is the game for you!