The Wonder Boy/Monster World series has had somewhat of a renaissance in recent years. Highlighted by Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, a series that had a calling in the 80’s and 90’s has garnered renewed interest. Which brings us to the newest offering: Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. Originally released in 1994 as Monster World IV for Sega Mega Drive, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a modern remake for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. As a bonus for people that purchase the game physically, a download code for Monster World IV is included.
The story for Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is pretty standard fodder. Evil beings plan to take over the land with numbers and force. In the process, they have imprisoned the four elemental spirits that maintain the peace and balance throughout the land. The people’s only hope is Asha, a young girl from a small village. With nothing but a sword and shield at her disposal, it’s up to her to save the spirits. When a mysterious voice reaches out to Asha, informing her of the impending doom, her journey begins.
The gameplay in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is fairly typical as well. With no magic, transformations, or notable special abilities, it’s essentially jump, block, and attack. Further in the game, Asha will obtain a Pepelogoo (an adorable flying creature that kind of looks like Kirby), which allows gliding, a double jump, and can be used to solve puzzles within dungeons. Even then, it feels like there aren’t a lot of abilities that most similar platforming games are known for.
But what about the other aspects of the game?
The animation in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is beautiful. The wonderful cel-shaded 3D graphics and funny animations (such as Asha’s pseudo booty shake when opening a treasure chest) make for a visually appealing experience. Personally, I found the animation a lot more enjoyable and impressive when I was playing the game, as opposed to watching it before the game launched. The variety in enemies is solid, with new enemies that have different attack patterns in each area. The music is whimsical and perfectly matches the tranquil or hostile environments, respectively.
The gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Asha is a very floaty character, which makes platforming sections annoying, more often than not. Even on normal difficulty, the game is way too easy, with combat hardly ever proving to be a challenge. With no waypoint marker it’s easy to not know where you’re going or what you’re supposed to be doing. Characters say something along the lines of, “you’re not strong enough for this area yet”, meaning that you need to obtain a certain item before entry. But they don’t say what the item is or where to get it. This leads to aimless wandering around, which most modern remakes address. And honestly, the title of the game is kind of weird. Shouldn’t it just be Asha in Monster World or something else rather than the implication that the character is a boy when it’s really a girl?
Overall, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is just okay. There’s nothing innovative or outstanding about it and it doesn’t have quite the amount of polish you would expect from a modern remake. It’s very nice to look at and listen to, but that’s not enough to offset the rest of the game’s deficiencies.
The digital version of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World can be purchased from the Nintendo and Sony stores and is published by STUDIOARTDINK. The boxed retail version of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World comes exclusively with the original Monster World IV published by ININ Games.
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