Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection – Trial, Platformer

The first part, in the SG 1000 version: pretty wild.

fan confusion

Long-time fans are fine: They buy games at full price on launch day, stand by a brand even in difficult times and afford collector’s editions, merch or soundtracks. But they can also be exhausting: In many cases, they are not exactly open to change (Hello, DmC!) or are just so familiar with the matter that they sense undesirable developments or rip-offs ten meters against the wind.

The first part, in the SG-1000 version: wild.

In the case of Wonder Boy, retro connoisseurs will have noticed that a “Wonder Boy Collection” (PS4, Switch) was released in mid-2022 – with four old episodes in different versions, technically flawlessly prepared by the Japanese developer Bliss Brain. The game is available digitally or on data carriers and costs 30 euros. And now suddenly the “Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection” (PS4, PS5, Switch) is just around the corner – with two additional retro parts in the package – which costs 50 euros online or packaged. Or depending on the version in the German shop Strictly Limited Games already sold out or up to 150 euros expensive. Unfortunately, anyone who accessed the shop last year cannot digitally upgrade their game with the two additional games – and that might displease some long-time fans.

Technology & equipment

Pretty highlight: Monster World 4 from 1994. Still a colorful search and fight fun.

Nice highlight: Monster World 4 from 1994. Still a colorful search and fight fun.

However, if you look at the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection, which I am testing here, as a single product, then the plus points clearly outweigh the negative ones. The oldies were flawlessly emulated by Bliss Brain, load in fractions of a second and come with tons of comfort features: I can set the picture format, picture size and backgrounds – and rewind at different speeds with the shoulder button to undo mistakes. There are also six memory slots per title and version as well as a meticulously adjustable CRT filter including tube curvature. I find the level maps, which are included in all parts and in all versions, to be downright spectacular – someone really put a lot of effort into it. And I can take a relaxed, clear and detailed look at how tubular or crooked the designers built the stages.

I also think the different versions of each title are really great: there are not only technically superior arcade originals, but also the slimmed-down game gear ports or master system versions. A little paradise for retro archaeologists! Playfully horrible z. B. is the version of the original Wonder Boy for the SG-1000, Sega’s first ever console. Still, it’s great that I can make up my own mind. A meticulous overview of which title is available in which version can be found on the official manufacturer website. As an example I would like to mention the hopping game shoot ’em up hybrid Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair, which is included as an Arcade and Mega Drive version. Or the second series part Wonder Boy in Monster Land, which is available in the collection as a Japanese and Western arcade version as well as ports for the Japanese Sega Mark 3 and its export version, the Master System. The “Gallery” menu item, on the other hand, hides a large number of artworks, sketches, cover images, flyers and instructions – you will find exclusive soundtrack covers, beautifully colored original artwork, you can see how the Monster World 4 cover image came about and you can look into many old instructions zoom in on the smallest details. That’s the way it has to be!

Nothing new at the Westone?

There are six games in the Anniverary Collection: Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World 4. These titles were released between 1986 and 1986 1994. Newer offshoots or remakes like Cursed Kindom, Wonder Boy Returns or Asha in Monster World are not included. So – here we are again with the “real” fans, who may have already recognized that – the new collection largely corresponds to the Japan-exclusive PS2 title “Sega Ages Vol.29: Monster World Complete Collection”. There the whole bang was “only” in 16 versions and of course not in crisp Full HD resolution.

If you like, you can enjoy the classics (here: Wonder Boy in Monster Land) with frames and filters.

If you like, you can enjoy the classics (here: Wonder Boy in Monster Land) with frames and filters.

In terms of gameplay, I have to differentiate: the first one is very simple, but part 2 already stretches out its fingers in the direction of action role-playing games and was in a way groundbreaking for the time – at the same time, the level design in particular is very repetitive and so is the fighting doesn’t feel very satisfying because of the short range. Monster Lair, on the other hand, is still playing really fresh in 2023: The whimsical mixture of jumping and shooting is colourful, happy and wonderfully uncomplicated. Episodes 4 and 5 refine the concept introduced with the second part: Part 4, The Dragon’s Trap, is still good to play today – the hymns of praise from yesteryear are difficult to understand, of course, if you compare the title with today’s genre representatives. I personally like part 5 – released in 1991 for the Mega Drive – more, which is probably also due to the graphics. Incidentally, the PC engine ports of the latter two series parts are not part of the collection. My optical and playful highlight is the 1994 Monster World 4: The title still looks outrageously charming – if you can get involved in going through many many doors, you will experience a neat action-adventure with charm and sophistication.

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