Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Wonder Boy Collection Review

Developer: Bliss Brain
Publisher: ININ
Platforms: NS, PS4
Price: $30
Version Played: NS

I'm a huge fan of the Wonder Boy series, so when I heard there was a Wonder Boy Collection coming, I was very excited. For about 5 minutes. That's because everything about this release reeks of exploitation. You see, this collection has been split into 2 versions; the $30 retail version, and the $55+ Strictly Limited Games version. The $30 one comes with 4 games, and the Strictly Limited Games version has all 6 of the classic Wonder Boy games, along with every Master System, Genesis, Game Gear, and arcade version of those games, in both English and Japanese, for a total of 21 games. Oh, and the $55 Switch version sold out already, so if I wanted to get the complete collection, I’d have to buy the $110 version, which is the only one left. Strictly Limited Games takes even longer than Limited Run to ship their games, too. I know people who are still waiting for the special editions of the Monster World IV remake, which came out almost a year ago. There has been some vague talk about some kind of DLC for the $30 version later on, but who knows with a company like this. ININ is obviously trying to push WB fans into importing these overpriced limited editions from Strictly Limited because they’re both part of the same company.
The games you get for $30 aren't terrible, but the quality of this collection is severely lacking. Konami and Capcom have both done much better jobs with their collections. This version includes the original Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy in Monster Land arcade games, and Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV for Genesis. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap and Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair are exclusive to Strictly Limited’s Anniversary edition. The emulator features rewind, fast forward, save states, button remapping, difficulty options for the arcade games, and a decent amount of CRT filters and display modes. The game also scales from 4x in 1080p to 3x in 720p by changing the TV resolution in your system settings, which is something that these collections don’t always let you do. The collection only has 1 border for all the games; though, and you can’t turn it off. At least it’s not an ugly picture. There is a gallery with some key art and covers, but it’s only 20 pictures, and you can’t even zoom in. There is also no music player, which is a real shame. Probably because the more expensive Anniversary editions come with a soundtrack.

Let’s take a look at the games!

Wonder Boy (1986 Arcade)
If you’ve ever played Adventure Island, this is the same game with a different character. It’s a very Super Mario Bros inspired platformer with 32 levels, bright colorful graphics, and cute anime style character designs. A real classic, which holds up to this day, in my opinion. There is one major flaw with the version in the collection; though, they put run on a separate button apart from the attack button. In the original version, you had to press the attack button and hold it down to run faster and jump higher, just like in Super Mario Bros. This version puts attack and run on separate buttons, and you can’t put them together again. I literally play this game with the R button held down all the time to run, which is pretty annoying.
Wonder Boy in Monster Land (1987 Arcade)
I don’t really like this game, but it’s very important to the series. Even though this was originally released as an arcade game, this is the game in which the Action Adventure and RPG elements started being introduced into the series.It’s level-based, and it has a timer, but it also has currency, shops, upgradable equipment, and some light exploration and puzzles. It’s also the first time we get to see a lot of the monster designs which would become Monster World staples. It’s a very interesting game to check out if you’re more familiar with Dragon’s Trap and Monster World III and IV. There’s nothing really wrong with this version, and it might actually be the best release of the game since it has rewind, but it’s a very hard and often unfair quarter munching arcade game, which is definitely not for everyone.
Wonder Boy in Monster World (1991 Genesis)
This is the game that followed Dragon’s Trap. It’s my favorite of the old WB games. It’s a huge Action Adventure/Metroidvania in the same style as Dragon’s Trap, but with a much bigger scope. It has beautiful graphics, a great soundtrack, a bigger focus on story, more weapons, and lots of villages, dungeons, and interesting environments to explore. The thing they messed up in this version is the 4:3 display mode. It’s much wider than it should be! Genesis games in 4:3 should look a bit narrower than in pixel perfect because the games were drawn wider and then squeezed in horizontally by 4:3 TVs, but this game goes in the opposite direction and keeps on going. It looks ridiculous in 4:3. The “Perfect” aspect ratio does indeed look perfect; though, and that’s what I play on.
Monster World IV (1994 Mega Drive)
This is that game nerds on the Internet claim Shantae ripped off! But seriously, this is an amazing game. Great graphics, great soundtrack, the best story and characters in the series, and really fun Metroidvania style gameplay based around Asha’s pet, Pepelogoo. This version is exactly the same thing that was included with the physical version of the remake, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, and has the same botched 4:3 aspect ratio as Wonder Boy in Monster World, but besides that, it’s a pretty good version. The main addition is the dash button, which lets you start a dash without double tapping left or right on the d-pad. You don’t have to hold it in, like in Wonder Boy 1, and you can still run by double tapping if you want. I’d recommend playing the remake over this, though. I just think it plays better with all the modern touches.
Overall, this collection is not great, but it’s not the most terrible thing either. What they’re doing with the Strictly Limited Games Anniversary edition is definitely terrible and exploitative, though. I also don’t think $30 is too bad considering you get 2 amazing Metroidvanias and a pretty great arcade platformer in the original Wonder Boy.