Wonder Boy in Monster World (AKA Wonder Boy V: Monster World III) was originally developed by Westone and published by Sega on the Sega Genesis in 1991. For this review, I played the PS3 version, which is part of Sega Vintage Collection: Monster World, developed by M2. It is also available on the Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360, on Steam for PC, and there is even a Sega Master System version.
Wonder Boy in Monster World is the third game in the Wonder Boy subseries, Monster World. While it is the followup to Wonder Boy III: Dragon’s Trap, it was released after the run and gun/shoot ‘em up, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, which is not part of the Monster World subseries. It doesn’t really have much to do with the story of Dragon’s Trap, but it does play a lot like it.
The story follows a young man named Shion as he sets off on a quest to rid Monster World of monsters. It turns out that Monster World has been invaded by monsters, again. We don’t get any more backstory for Shion at all. He just wakes up one day and decides that he’s had it with all these monsters in Monster World, I guess.
The game’s structure is very similar to Dragon’s Trap’s, but much bigger in scope. The game takes place in a free-roaming world full of towns, dungeons, and enemy filled areas tying them together. While Dragon’s Trap only had one small village tying major areas together, this game has one big city tying major areas together and smaller villages closer to some of the dungeons. The dungeons in this game are a huge improvement over the ones in Dragon’s Trap. They’re no longer simple corridors full of enemies. The dungeons in this game are bigger, less linear, have more puzzles, switches, and platforming. The bosses are also much improved. Their forms are more varied and creative, they have more attacks, and their patterns are more complex.
Similarly to Dragon Quest, each town or village has its own little scenario that ties into the overarching story. After you reach a new village and talk to the people in it, you’ll be given a reason to go to the nearby dungeon and kill the monsters in it. You’ll also get a small NPC who will follow you around through the dungeon. This feature seems to have been inspired by WBIII: Monster Lair. These NPCs are more like keys than combat helpers, though. They don’t do much fighting, they just allow you to progress through specific parts of the dungeon. For example, one of these characters is a little fairy who helps you find the ocarina in the first dungeon. Sounds familiar. Since this game doesn’t have a lot of special items or abilities to help you get to new areas, this is how it handles some situations which require you to do something you normally can’t.
When you start the game, you move very slowly and have a tiny sword with horrible range. I imagine this makes a lot people turn the game off right there. You have to get really close to enemies to hit them and you have to get right up to the edge of a platform to make a jump. Thankfully, you can get your boots upgraded at the first store you come across and you can buy a new weapon once you get to the first town. I guess this is the game’s way of teaching you that it’s important to upgrade your gear. By annoying you!
The game has 2 kinds of weapons, swords and spears. Swords have arching attacks and can be used in combination with shields. You start off with a small one, but can get longer ones as your progress through the game. Spears have longer range than swords, but have a thrust attack that only hits directly in front of you and can’t be used in combination with shields. In addition to shields, you can also buy armor, which increases your defense, and boots, which increase your movement speed. There are also a couple of pieces that give you special abilities.
The combat in the game consists of a lot auto shield blocking, learning enemy patterns, and attacking at the right time. You can also use a variety of magic spells. These spells take the place of Dragon Trap’s special items, but aren’t your usual Castlevania-like things. The spells in this game feel more like they’re inspired by Dragon Quest spells. You have fire, thunder, and quake spells, along with one that increases attack power, a shield spell, and a spell to return to the last Inn you slept at.
The game’s graphics are pretty nice for a Genesis game. The sprites are detailed yet clean and they work well with the anime art style. I think they’re a good representation of the art used in the manual and background wallpapers. The animations really give everything some personality. Every enemy has a little cartoony animation they go into when you hit them and when they die. Even though the game does have some areas that look like areas from Dragon’s Trap, the overall style of the game’s graphics more closely resembles the style used in WBII: Monster Land and WBIII: Monster Lair. You start off in an area that looks like it’s straight out of Monster Land, Purapril City is a lot like towns in those games, and a few enemies from those games, which were not in Dragon’s Trap, appear in this game.
I played Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV before I played the recent Dragon’s Trap remake and I really wanted to go back and see if Wonder Boy in Monster World held up. It definitely does. The Dragon’s Trap remake might look amazing, but the level design and size of the world can’t match Wonder Boy in Monster World’s. This game remains my favorite in the series. If Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was your first game in the series and you enjoyed it, you owe it to yourself to play Wonder Boy in Monster World.