This site's love of old Japanese games that we learned through consoles and look back on with nostalgia is well known. They are benchmarks for a time when the videogame hobby was still going through its pure, innocent, and benign period, not yet indelibly carved by the stigma of an industry that, in the selfish pursuit of profit, cannibalizes everything in sight (connect it to the recent news). Representative of this purposeful love is the Wonder Boy/Monster World series. I urge you to check out George Dembeyiotis' reviews where he examines both the remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap and its well-deserving and very recent successor, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom. The truth is that I had no exposure to the series (a trivial fan of Mario/Sonic and a few otherwise obscure games like Warlock for the Mega Drive) until the code for the remake of Monster World IV ( which was the sixth installment in the series, don't ask), Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World came along. George's enthusiasm in his reviews got me interested in getting in touch with the series and seeing for myself what it was all about.
From the very beginning Wonder Boy IV shows its age. Not so much in the graphics, which have undergone a total redesign to bring it to modern systems (originally released in May this year for Switch and PS4), but in its storytelling and gameplay. As you can see from the image above, the plot focuses on Asha a young warrior trying to help trapped spirits who have lost their powers. As a result of this loss, the monsters once again invade the world and threaten its inhabitants. Our companions on this journey are the lovable Pepelogoo a flying mammal and a genie that performs the role of fast-traveling from region to region.
Το Pepelogoo εκτός από εικαστική παρουσία συνεισφέρει ενεργά στο gameplay, αφού πολλά εμπόδια στα διάφορα επίπεδα απαιτούν αλληλεπίδραση του Pepelogoo για να τα υπερκεράσουμε. Μην αναμένετε περίπλοκους γρίφους που θα σας παιδέψουν πολύ. Όπως είπαμε το Wonder Boy IV δείχνει την ηλικία του στην απλοϊκότητα του gameplay και των απαιτήσεων. Για να είμαστε πιο ακριβείς το παιχνίδι θα σας παιδέψει ελάχιστα για τις 8 περίπου ώρες που χρειάζεται για να το τερματίσετε. Οι μάχες με τα bosses είναι γραμμικές και χωρίς περιστροφές, δεν υπάρχουν περίπλοκα μοτίβα που πρέπει να μελετήσετε για να καταφέρετε να τους νικήσετε. Οι μεγαλύτερες σπαζοκεφαλιές που θα συναντήσετε είναι η δόμηση και η σύνδεση των διαφόρων σημείων των επιπέδων στο χάρτη καθώς και η «οριζοντίωση» τους, μιας και η Asha μπορεί να μετακινείται τόσο στο προσκήνιο όσο και στο παρασκήνιο.
With this in mind, one can reflect on how far video games have come in terms of both requirements and design. However, the simplicity of Wonder Boy IV is not an element that I would rate as a negative, instead it lends an accessibility that is rare these days. As an example, the controls have remained unchanged, and just as simplistic, relying on only three button-movements (jump, attack, block), a limitation that console controls had in the mid-90s. It's clearly aimed at younger audiences and its heartfelt and loving atmosphere contributes to that.
Despite its great ease, dealing with Wonder Boy IV is a pleasure. Even experienced players can chase the achievements for 100% completion, which requires multiple playthroughs (or a lot of grind at first) and a lot of sprinkling to get there. There are several items you can lose as you progress through the plot or locked areas after completion. The technical aspect of the game is judged to be solid, as the remake is now fully three-dimensional and captures the spirit of the original game with great fidelity, despite its obvious upgrade.
In conclusion, Wonder Boy: Asha in the Monster World can only be evaluated as a proposal of academic interest for the "skilled" players. The gameplay elements reflect the early stages of hobby exploration and reflect the hardware limitations at the time. For our younger friends it is a call to action to see what we grandparents were impressed with when we were their age!