Wonder Boy 4, the last in the original line up of Sega’s excellent platformers, finally gets the remake treatment. But this time it’s the original designers of the game that have a hand in bringing this title bang up-to-date, ensuring that this version isn’t some cheap remake.
Gameplay shows that this came a little while after Wonder Boy 3 with a much more ambitious set of sprawling levels, plenty of puzzles and abilities you gain from a genie though it dials back on the more RPG style elements of the previous games in return. It still has the old platform and combat at the game’s heart, more so than the previous game, though this never feels as solid as the puzzle elements, as if it was secondary to them. Strangely, it’s not Wonder Boy that is the focus, either, but a new character called Asha and the flying creature Pepelogoo she befriends along the way. Pepelogoo becomes central to much of the game in a similar way that Yoshi and Mario interact in a Super Mario game, though the tiny Pepelogoo thankfully doesn’t wonder off after a single hit.
RPG-lite elements such as buying new items and weapons in the town are present and help to stretch the game out a bit, otherwise it’s a fairly short adventure when compared to the previous games. It’s worth noting that this game features a strange (by today’s standards) manual save system rather than auto-saving, so you’ll really need to keep on top of saving the game before big boss fights. Speaking of which, the bosses are great. Well designed and stretching across the screen, they take a bit of figuring out before you can beat them.
The presentation is excellent, with some really nicely animated cut scenes and the use of 3D sprites in place of the old 2D ones, giving this a more Anime look to it. It’s modern but also pays homage to the original without looking either dated or cheap. Unfortunately, the ambitious animation in-game also seems to tax the Switch at times, with a fair few cases of the console trying to keep up both in docked mode and handheld. The occasional hiccups didn’t bother me too much considering that the rest of the time the frame rate was pretty smooth.
With any retro game that uses a new art style in place of the original game’s graphics there comes the argument of too much change making it feel too different and, yes, to some extent this is true of Asha in Monster World. Some of the levels have even been tweaked to show off this new 3D environment and the aforementioned cut scenes are nice but could be argued to distract from the original feel of the game. If you treat this as a redesigned remake from the start then that’s fine, but considering that it’s still hard to get hold of a copy of the original, it’s a shame that only the physical edition comes with the original game included.
Personally, though, putting my feelings of wanting to play the original game aside, this is a solid entry in a series that has seen all manner of remakes and I’d certainly be happy if this lead to further entries beyond the remakes we’ve already seen.