Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 6: Blue Ball of Happiness

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Monster World IV

  • Released: 1994
  • Original hardware: Sega Mega Drive (Japan only, fan translated to English)
  • Other releases: Playstation 2 (Sega Ages 2500 Vol. 29: Monster World Complete Collection (Japan only), PSN and Xbox Live (as Wonder Boy Sega Vintage Collection), Wii Virtual Console (no longer available to purchase)
  • How to play today: Xbox Live Arcade Wonder Boy Sega Vintage collection Xbox 360 (backwards compatible with Xbox One), PSN (PS3)

We’ve now come to the final game in the series and Wonder Boy is now absent from the title. Well that’s because in Monster World IV it’s technically Wonder Girl now. This game would stay in Japan for a very long time and took on the Monster World titles because that was what most of the games were known as over there.

I played Monster World IV on the Sega Vintage collection for Xbox 360 brought to us from the fantastic developers M2 who do very fine work emulating old games to new systems. I brought this game day one for 800 Microsoft points (remember when that was a thing?) so I could play the official English translation of the game. The collection also included Monster World and the English arcade version of Monster Land, it’s well worth purchasing. While I did like Monster World IV it felt somewhat of a back step for the series but there is no denying this is the cutest entry in the series.

You play as Asha tasked with leaving your village to rescue some missing souls. These souls end up being bigger versions of the familiars (or buddies) you had in the previous game. The quests inevitably ends up with you saving the world – because lord knows we need to save the world just one more time. The setting has completely changed you’re now in an Arabian style environment, the game is incredibly colourful and definitely has the looks, pushing the Mega Drive’s colour palette to its limits. The music has also been re done and still maintains the charm and Wonder we have come to expect from the series.

If Monster World was bigger and better, Monster World IV goes for the colourful and ‘less is more’ approach. The game only has one main hub city like Dragons Trap which you use to transport to the next dungeon. For this reason the game feels much more linear giving you less reason to explore. You also only use a sword and shield. The shield can be brought out manually by tapping ‘down’ and is massive compared to others in the series. The sword is once again your only main weapon but you can perform a jumping upward, downward and an in air strike on monsters, techniques that are new to the series. You can still upgrade your gear but you don’t get any of the cosmetic changes your used to seeing in previous games. Equipment works quite differently from previous games, before armour reduced the damage Asha would take, this time upgrading increases her health. This time defence upgrades are tied to the shield and of course upgrading the sword increase attack power.

Health kinda looks like little tears now instead of hearts. Rather than finding permanent heart upgrades in the world you have to collect life drops. When you find ten, you get a health upgrade.

You do get a single companion ‘Pepelogoo’ an adorable blue ball of cute that Asha can use to perform various platforming techniques like double jump and floating. You can also throw the blue ball at switches to solve puzzles. Unlike the familiars from the previous game it feels like you have a lot more control over your companions actions as opposed to them just spontaneously helping out when they feel like it. With all these extra abilities the dungeons are larger and more diverse than they have ever been in the series. There doesn’t appear to be as many secrets as previous titles but that may be intentional. After you finish a dungeon you can not return to explore it again while this seems bad you will mostly likely access all the chests along the way unless you intentionally avoid them.

Most Memorable Moments

The genie – an interesting regular character. Not the most happy genie in the world compared to a famous Disney film but still has some notable wit about him. He is at least happy to transport you from dungeons back to the city.

Save point man – A weird old man pops up conveniently to save your game. But, doesn’t ask ‘what are ye buying.

Pepelogoo – While the only companion you have, he is both cute and very useful for getting round the dungeons in the game. He also grows as the game progresses after you feed him some handy fruit.

Dungeons – definitely the longest in the series so far, just when you think you have finished after a mini boss it just keeps going.

Shions fate – in a book shelf in a library you learn the fate of Shion from the previous game (SPOILER he dies). It’s kinda depressing.

Monster World IV while not the sequel I would have expected, it’s still well worth playing. The graphics are some of the best you will see on Mega Drive and the gameplay additions are fantastic. Had this game actually been released in the West, I doubt it would have been part of my collection. Instead it exists as digital data on my Xbox. It’s tragic the series concluded with this entry as it felt that there was still plenty more to give. A sequel building on the mechanics of Monster World IV would have been something to behold. Alas Sega would bury the series to lay dormant like so many other IPs.

Over 25 years would pass and eventually a developer Game Atlier would kickstart a game Flying Hamster II: Knight of the Golden Seed. The trailer looked awfully similar to the Dragons Trap featuring transformations of the main character. Publisher FDG Entertainment would later pick up this game and it would be turned into Monster Boy and it’s this game that would carry carry on the legacy.

Written by jamalais

December 17, 2018 at 3:00 pm

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