Wonder Boy in Monster World - Reader Retroview  

Wonder Bread in Disney World
by JuMeSyn

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3-6 hours
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   The lengthy history of the Wonder Boy games does not need to be summarized by me when there is a nice article here. Wonder Boy in Monster World is not the finest action-RPG on the Genesis, but it manages to be entertaining enough and does not overstay its welcome. Those who are intrigued by a side-scrolling action-RPG, take note.

   Story in 1991 was not a vital ingredient to the action-RPG. Accordingly the story here is perfunctory at best. Shion is the Legendary Hero out to save the world from evil. And by golly, he's gonna do it! There is little dialogue and no twists, unless the classic 'princess responds to being saved by falling in love with hero' cliche counts.

   Wonder Boy in Monster World plays rather like most side-scrollers of the early 90's. Shion moves along and jumps, swinging his sword at enemies. The RPG elements are present however, starting with the strange tendency of enemies to cough up gold when they die. Collecting said gold will eventually allow Shion to purchase equipment and items. An annoying quirk regarding items is that only one of each can be in stock simultaneously: one healing potion that must be manually used, and one elixer that kicks in once all hearts are gone and replenishes about 60% of the life bar. Use both of them and there are no recourses for further healing. As to weapons and equipment, they follow the format of most RPGs: though their effects cannot be directly gauged before purchase new items are always more powerful than the older ones, and there are no numbers to measure attack and defense strength anyway.

   Magic is used by fixing a spell to use with the A button (two spells can be used at once, respectively by pressing Left and Right along with A). Magic spells can be used a finite number of times with the occasional enemy magic recharge or visiting an Inn the only way to replenish. Magic also cannot be used while jumping or falling (the entire menu system cannot be used except while standing on the ground).

   Progress through the game is not completely linear, thanks to all previously explored areas being accessible at any time. New areas generally need some item given by a character at the end of the prior area to reach however. Most of the areas also have a little sidekick accompanying Shion through that zone, and though minimal their aid can be helpful (the first one sometimes drops heart replenishments, the second breaks open a few hidden passages and drops gold). Underwater areas require the Trident being equipped to swim in; otherwise Shion just floats atop the waves.

   Visually the game looks pretty good for 1991 on the Genesis. None of the enemies look particularly threatening, but that appears deliberate; they are all colorful cute critters instead of towering terrors. Use of color is nice and there is no palette-swapping. As for the sounds, some of the music is quite catchy and some of it is not. None of the music is bad, some is simply less memorable than the rest. Sound effects do not show the Genesis at its best.

   Death can come rather quickly to Shion, but for most of the game the challenge is manageable. The final boss is VERY irritating however, thanks to a conveyor belt with a moving blade getting in the way. Curses will rain down from the player's mouth thanks to this foul device. Not a long game, Wonder Boy can probably be finished in 3 hours by someone with knowledge of where to go and what to do; a new player will need more time to learn the lay of the land but can still complete it with much of the day remaining. There are no optional story moments to view but plenty of relatively hidden items and content waits to be found; obtaining all the additional hearts will help in surviving the final battle.

   Wonder Boy in Monster World is a worthwhile title for anyone seeking a fairly unique action-RPG. It has frustrating elements (such as the shield not covering the entirety of Shion's body, so that a projectile aimed from slightly too high will still hit) and its presentation is nothing remarkable. The game has a certain charm however, a quality hard to quantify in writing but nevertheless present.

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