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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.

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Written by jamalais

December 17, 2018 at 3:00 pm

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).

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Written by jamalais

December 17, 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

Retro Game Night: Sonic 3D Blast

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Jam is sitting down and taking a trip down memory lane with Sonic 3D. Enjoy the fun and frolics in one of Sonic’s first jumps into a new dimension.

Written by jamalais

February 10, 2018 at 11:00 am

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Review

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I’ve been waiting for a Wonder Boy revival ever since I saw that dammed “to be continued…” message at the end of Wonder Boy in Monster World on the Mega Drive. I did get some relief when the Wonder Boy Collection was released in 2012 for Xbox 360 and PS3, however. This game featured the localized version of Monster World 4 which was the sequel to the beloved game from my childhood. Of course this was just an English translation of a Japanese game that had been around for years. Some would be happy with this but, I wanted more Wonder Boy darn it! Which was why, last year I came over as giddy as a school kid when I heard Wonder Boy would be making a return in not one, not two but three games. One of these three games, Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap developed by Lizardcube, is a remaster of the 1989 Sega Master System game. While not exactly a new entry into the Wonder Boy series, Lizardcube have put a lot of care and attention into this title, reviving a classic forgotten game to showcase to old fans and a potential new audience.

The Dragons Trap is a beautiful remaster with hand drawn graphics, which brought Monster World to life by filling the 2D game with lots of detail in the backgrounds as well as the character sprites. The game allows you to instantly switch between the old and new graphics at the touch of a button. This simple effect doesn’t interrupt the gameplay and allows you to see just how much effort has been put into the remaster when held against the original. The soundtrack has also been updated this time with a full orchestra. The music is still reminiscent of the old 8 bit titles but has really been brought to life with the updated score. Just like the graphics you can also switch between the old and new soundtracks at the touch of a button.

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Written by jamalais

June 7, 2017 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Beyond Oasis/Story of Thor Game Club

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One of the latest Sega Genesis/Mega Drive releases is a top down action RPG and brawler from Ancient, the team also responsible for Streets of Rage 2.  It was known as Beyond Oasis in North America and The Story of Thor in all other regions, and it tells the tale of Prince Ali as he recruits elementals to assist him in defeating an ancient evil.  Jam and Fred delve deep into the development, gameplay elements, and main campaign of this late, but great, 16-bit Sega game.


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Written by Fred Rojas

April 26, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Podcast: The History of CD-ROM Consoles, Part 2

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This week Fred sits down with Ali of 42 Level One to discuss the more popular 32-bit generation of CD-ROM consoles.  What started as a disaster with the 3DO Interactive Player gave way to the big releases of the Sega Saturn and the Sony Playstation.  While the Saturn may seem dead in the water for the West, it was a strong presence in the East.  Finally everything wraps up with the beloved console that lacked sales: the Sega Dreamcast.


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Written by Fred Rojas

March 8, 2017 at 11:00 am