Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Wonder Boy Retrospective Part 5: Spinning Spears

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Wonder Boy in Monster World

  • Released: 1991

  • Original Hardware: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis

  • Other Releases: Master System, Turbografx CD/PC-Engine CD (as The Dynastic Hero), PSN, Xbox Live, Wii VC

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

Wonder Boy in Monster World is up there with one of my favourite games of all time. This was my childhood Zelda, this was my epic adventure and it would stick with me for years to come.  I first played Monster World on my original hardware when I was growing up in the 90s. The game captivated me as a child with its colourful graphics, fantasy setting and all sorts of weird but cute monsters running around.

Monster World feels, to me, like the height of the series; after five attempts they finally found the winning formula. Although to fans this debate is often between Dragons Trap, Monster World and Monster World IV (this game’s sequel, but don’t worry all will be explained on that title in the next part).

Like Dragons Trap, Monster World falls into the metroidvania category. You have a large map to explore with areas gated off until you have unlocked specific items to access them. Since Wonder Boy had moved onto a new more powerful console the game is a huge graphical and technical leap from Dragons Trap onto the Master System. Colours are more vibrant, and there is a lot of colour to behold in this game. Areas are much larger, bosses are bigger and there are new gameplay additions. Its everything you would want from a console upgrade.

Our Boy hero this time is Shion who now has blue hair. The opening of the game is hauntingly similar to Monster Land which sent shivers down my spine replaying it recently. Of course there is no timer to drain your health. Like Dragons Trap you can grind away at money to your hearts content. Shion will not only be able to wield swords but also spear like weapons. If you press up and attack with a spear weapon,you’ll perform an awesome little spin move which will shred any enemies that touch it as well as protect you against enemy projectiles. I loved discovering this move by accident when I was younger.

Another first for this series includes the ability to recruit cute little buddies who held you out in specific areas and dungeons. These appear to be a sort of replacement to the animal transformations from Dragons Trap. Although not essential to succeed in your quest it was pretty cool to have them along for the ride. Their abilities are summarized below:

  • Priscilla the fairy – occasionally gives you health

  • Hotta the dwarf – occasionally digs up gold

  • Shabo the reper – throws a scythe at monsters

  • Rotto the dragon – breaths fire at monsters

Monster World would be the first game in the series to feature a lot of text dialogue. You could chat to several NPCs (non playable characters) across various towns instead of the one town from Dragons Trap. You actually could get a feel for what is going on in this crazy world of monsters. The Mega Drive version of the game features battery saves so you can save the game to the cart at the local town Inn. This comes at a cost but the benefit is your health and magic is fully replenished.

Dungeons were longer often mixing up the gameplay with puzzles instead of just monster after monster to slay. Grinding for money wasn’t as absurd as Dragons Trap and secret chests were a little more tricky to find this time around. The boss fights were larger and vastly different from each other making each encounter much more unique than any prior title in the series. There were more magic spells than ever, more items to buy they may as well of called this “Wonder Boy Bigger and Better Edition.”

Most Memorable Moments

  • Ocarina puzzle – you know some boys did the ocarina thing before it was cool. The first dungeon in the game you need to play a ocarina in a specific way in front of three doors to proceed. When I was younger I achieved this with trial and error. When I got older and more sensibly I learned if you just talk to a fairy in the village she will tell you the solution to each puzzle, oops.

  • Hotta the dwarf – this little fella often made me laugh as you run through a dungeon and he’ll spontaneously start digging up some gold, often in the most peculiar spots.

  • The Castle in the clouds – The penultimate dungeon in the game has the most epic music in the game. It’s long, it’s challenging but very entertaining.

  • The Spinx Returns – Unlike the weird one from Monster Land. The Sphinx boss in Monster World asks you questions relevant to the actual game you’re playing. You have to get 4 out of 5 questions correct. If you fail you don’t fight he just kicks you out the dungeon and you have to try again, feels kinda rude.

  • Going pygmy – if you miss Wonder Mouse don’t worry you can collect the pygmy armour in this game and later get really small and little and raid a dungeon with your dragon friend. It gets even more crazy when your a little boy who has to fight a huge dragon.

  • The final boss – Its aggressively hard, cheap and I died a lot when I was a little sprog. The ultimate reward for killing him was he cheaply gets away and you get a ‘to be continued…’ at the end credits. One of the few things to suck about this game.

  • Nods to previous games – there are several easter eggs if you played previous games. The opening segment is similar to Monster Land. Princess Purapril (or her descendant) is in the game from Monster Lair and the fish boss from Monster Lair appears as a regular enemy in the game. You could argue growing smaller and the trident weapon (which lets you swim) are nods to the abilities from Dragons Trap.

Wonder Boy in Monster World is one of my favourite games of all time. I have huge nostalgia for this title so of course I’m stubbornly biased.  I have so much love this game I own both the Genesis and Mega Drive versions, of which there is very little difference, I’m just weird. The developers finally found the winning formula that worked for the series all they had to do was just make more games like this right? Well if you lived in the West this would be the end of your Wonder Boy adventures for quite some time unless you were into the import scene. Even then there would be only one more entry in this series.

Written by jamalais

December 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

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