Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Archive for December 2018

GHX Ep. 38: Last One of 2018

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It’s that time of year where our hosts celebrate the end of the holiday releases – but not without some Smash Bros. love – and the winding down of the year.  Lots of chat about the Game Awards, upcoming releases, games that you just don’t connect with, and a special announcement of what’s going on just before we greet 2019.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 12, 2018 at 11:00 am

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 4: Flight of Dragons

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Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap

  • Released: 1989

  • Original hardware: Sega Master System

  • Other releases: Game Gear, TurboGrafx-16/PC-Engine, Mobile, iOS, Wii VC

  • How to play today: PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch (on the remastered version of the game)

Yes, this is the second Wonder Boy III in this Wonder Boy retrospective. In all regions Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair was also released, and technically it was first if you count the first release in Japan.  This is not the case on consoles in the West, where The Dragon’s Trap actually released first. You see, on consoles in Europe The Dragon’s Trap released first in 1989 on Master System and Monster Lair released on the Mega Drive in 1991.  In North America The Dragon’s Trap released in 1989 on Master System alongside Monster Lair on the Turbografx-CD, and while Turbografx-16 owners could get this title as Dragon’s Curse in 1991 there was no Genesis release.  Confusing, right?

Monster Lair would be the first Wonder Boy III game I would play.  I first played The Dragon’s Trap when I downloaded the Master System version on the Wii Virtual Console (an online store now closed) and this would actually be the last game in the series I would play.

The Dragon’s Trap is very beloved by Wonder Boy and Sega Master System fans alike with good reason. The game is a direct sequel to Monster Land only this time the game has finally been adapted for consoles in all the right ways. The stupid timer is no where to be seen and you actually grind enemies for gold to upgrade your equipment. The level based design is also gone and the game now plays out as one large connected world you can explore at your own pace. I hear people call these sort of games metroidvanias now for some reason.

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Written by jamalais

December 11, 2018 at 11:00 am

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 3: Pea Shooters and Beach Balls

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Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

  • Released: 1988

  • Original hardware: Arcade

  • Other releases: Mega Drive (Europe/Japan only, no Genesis port), TurboGrafx-CD, Wii VC, Mega Drive/Genesis Classics Collection

  • How to play today: PC, Xbox One, PS4 and Switch (as Mega Drive/Genesis Classics Collection)

Wonder Boy III would serve as the Wonder Boy series’ final outing in the arcade world with only two console ports – sad times for microcomputer fans. But this was one hell of a note to end on for the arcade series and would serve as my favourite game in the arcade trilogy. I originally played this game on the Mega Drive (a NA Genesis version never released) as a rental and took to it very quickly. It was colourful, the music was catchy and the gameplay was fast frantic arcade fun. Strangely, when researching for this retrospective it appears the rest of the internet does not share my love. But this is my series not theirs so let the positivity begin.

Monster Lair once again tore down the gamplay style from the previous two games and started with yet another fresh canvas with a few minor things fetched back from the bin. The main carry over being that it still a 2D platformer and the big change was that it was now a sort of side scrolling shooter. Your default weapon was a shooting sword, what I like to call the pea shooter. As you mow down cute monsters you will regularly pick up new weapons which would last temporarily. Each weapon felt quite unique and encouraged you to adjust on the fly to the given situation. Even if the weapon didn’t suit you, at least you knew it would only last for a very short period before you returned back to the pea shooter. The vitality meter would make its final return in the series from the very first game, fitting in quite well with the arcade action. As well as tripping on rocks, enemy projectiles would also assist in draining your vitality. The dreaded alarm sound would fire off once your bar hit the red and you were about to die. Not quite as memorable as Sonic’s infamous drowning music but it still haunts me today. Similar to the first game you’ll still die in a single hit accompanied by an amusing sound effect and your sprite rotating to the bottom of the screen. Additionally your odd avatar picture turns from a boy (or girl) into a creepy green skull temporarily. Unlike the first game you don’t restart the level, instead a handy dragon dumps you back into the game to continue where you left of. Be careful though because if your dumb like me you can sometimes get the dragon to drop you off in a bottomless pit instantly killing you again. This would be the first and only game in the Wonder Boy series to feature simultaneous cooperative play. One of you playing green haired Leo and the other the fabulous Princess Purapril (who would sort of feature in a later game).

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Written by jamalais

December 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 2: Boy Meets Sword

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Wonder Boy in Monster Land

  • Released: 1987

  • Original hardware: Arcade

  • Other releases: Sega Master System, PC Engine, Atari ST, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad, mobile, Wii VC (arcade), Xbox 360 (arcade), PS3 (arcade)

  • How to play today: Xbox 360 (backward compatible with Xbox One, recently free as part of Games with Gold program)

My first venture into Monster Land was on a friends Master System a long time ago in a countryside village far away. I remember being wowed by the colour and hitting enemies with a sword. It doesn’t take a lot to impress me, I also don’t remember getting very far.

I didn’t get to really have a good old go at the game until it’s release on the Xbox 360. This version wasn’t even the Master System port, it was the English translation of the arcade port that was never released in the West. I have dabbled with the Master System port but this piece will mostly focus on my experience with the English arcade version.

Monster Land wiped the slate clean and started the series from scratch. The only main carry over being that the game was called Wonder Boy and it was a 2D platformer, otherwise a lot was thrown in the bin. No Vitality bar, no one hit deaths, no skateboard. Instead we got a health bar, swords, armour, a shield and even shoe upgrades, also you can drink alcohol in this game, yes… really. It’s a arcade game with RPG elements which still feels a little surreal thinking about it. This was one hell of a departure from the blonde kid in the green bush skirt. Of course if you played the arcade game you started out in what looked like a nappy (diaper) until you found your first suit of armour. The console versions showed more sympathy and your character was dressed in armour from the get go.  Our hero is now called ‘Book’ or Bocke Lee Temjin if you manage to finish the arcade game or read the Master System manual.

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Written by jamalais

December 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 1: Grass Skirt Roots

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One might argue that the Wonder Boy series has a more convoluted timeline than Zelda and since no one will make a book about it, I thought I would give it a bash in this series of articles. While this article series will explore the facts, it will be from my perspective, which means I’ll mostly be discussing the PAL (European) release of each game and only referencing other regions where necessary.

The Wonder Boy series holds an especially large place in my nostalgic heart. When I was growing up I didn’t have a Nintendo so the idea of the Zelda series being this amazing adventure title, was more of a myth that I’d only read about in magazines than a reality. For me, it was a very different kind of ‘Boy’ that took me on multiple adventures and filled my head with ‘wonder’ and captured my heart.  I’ve wanted to delve into the Wonder Boy series for a long time so thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Now without further adieu let me take you on a wonderful journey back to the first….

Wonder Boy

Released: 1986

Original hardware: Arcade

Other releases: SG-1000, Sega Master System, Game Gear, ZX Spectrum, C64, Amstrad, mobile, Wii (Virtual Console)

How to play today: PS4 (Japanese Store Only)

It seems appropriate that my introduction to Wonder Boy would begin with the very first game of the series. Although Wonder Boy did make it to the arcades in the UK my first experience of the game was on Sega’s portable system: Game Gear. Yes, that little portable system owners used to think was better than the Game Boy because it had colour! The Game Gear port was practically the same as the popular Master System port, the only main difference between them was that the screen size was adjusted for the portable system. A lot later down the road, at a retro convention in Blackpool, I was eventually able to appreciate the original arcade game. It was great to get that added wow factor of it being an arcade game, but I was more impressed by how similar the arcade was to the Game Gear version.

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Written by jamalais

December 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Rock Boshers DX: Switch Review

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Developed and Published by Tikipod

With the Switch becoming ever more popular day by day its no surprise indie developers are starting to re-release a lot of their work onto the system. Developer Tikipod released Aqua Kitty UDX to Switch earlier this year, a game well suited to Nintendo’s hybrid handheld. Now it’s time for Rock Boshers DX to gets turn in the Switch spotlight.  Both myself and Fred reviewed Rock Boshers for PS4 and PS vita and after reading the reviews again I feel everything is still relevant to how I feel about the game today. That review can be found here.

Aqua Kitty minigame

Rock Boshers DX is a love letter to the micro computer days of video games. A time where several video games were developed – some in bedrooms apparently – it was a time where you would see all sorts of crazy game ideas but as the years progressed and consoles became more popular video games became more focused and everyone decided Zelda was the best game ever, the end. Okay, that’s not exactly what happened, but Rock Boshers DX also likes to play with history. You play as Young Victoria in a steam punk future set in 1880. Victoria finds a nice hat that disguises her then decides to head to Mars. After being forced to work in the mines and “bosh” some rocks, your goal is to escape and find a way home and possibly bump into Charles Darwin a few times as you do. The story is just brilliant and your curiosity to what will happen next will carry you through the games 24 stages. Once you’ve finished with the story you also have four arcade style games to enjoy which are unlocked by collecting tea, scone and cheese collectibles in the main game. Not sure I know any other game that uses this as a collectible.

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Written by jamalais

December 7, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Reviews, Switch

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Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom Review

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Developer: Game Atelier                             Publisher: FDG Entertainment 

Monster Boy is the spiritual sequel to the Wonder Boy franchise, a series Sega has left dormant since 1994. These games were hugely important to me growing up and hold a very special place in my heart. I probably love the Wonder Boy series how people love the Zelda series except without dressing up as one of the characters (real chain mail is expensive). For me it has been a very long wait for a sequel spiritual or otherwise. We have since seen a few re-releases of the previous games on multiple digital platforms. In 2017 developer Lizardcube gave us a beautiful remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap. Originally we were going to see Monster Boy release that same year but developer Game Atelier decided to halt for a final year to polish up the gameplay and completely redo the graphics. Its been almost five years of development for the team, was the wait worth it?

On booting up the game you’re greeted with an impressive anime style cutscene which gives you a preview of the enemies you will be fighting and the animals you will be playing as. The song playing is also awfully addictive and it hasn’t left my brain since I heard it at E3 this year.  You play as Jin, a young chap with blue hair whose uncle appears to be up to no good changing the people of Monster World into animals as well as having a potential drinking problem. It’s not long into the story when your Uncle turns you into pig dressed in pirate gear (a nod to my favourite NPC in The Dragons Trap). You soon learn that to lift the curse you need to collect five magical orbs scattered across various dark corners of Monster World. The story comes with a few twists and turns and inevitably ends up as a typical save the world type tale. What makes this story stand out however, is its sense of humour. All the characters speak with text boxes including Jin himself and won’t shy away from making a witty joke about the current situation. Right up to the games darkest turns it was hard not to laugh at some of the games witty attempts at humour. The story is straight forward to follow and doesn’t really get in the way of your adventuring. Should you need to repeat sections of the story the game does allow you to skip them.

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Written by jamalais

December 7, 2018 at 11:00 am