Just released on PlayStation 4 and Switch and soon on Steam, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is part of one of the oldest and most confusing franchises in video game history, a series that began in 1986 with the release from ‘Wonder Boy’ to arcades.
Here in Brazil, the series is best known for its adapted versions by Tectoy, which, in addition to translating the text, replaced the original characters with those from Turma da Mônica.
Thus, Wonder Boy in Monster Land became Monica in Dragon Castle for the Master System, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap became Monica’s Gang in the rescue also for Master, and Wonder Boy in Monster World, in Mega Drive, became Monica’s Gang in the Land of Monsters.
But the fourth game in the series: Monster World IV, released in 1994 in Japan for the Mega Drive, took 14 years to reach the West: it was only in 2008 that it gained an English version on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console.
It a pity, since ‘Mega’ fans were for a long time deprived of a game that, in addition to being one of the best in the series, is also one of the best on the console, with beautiful graphics and great gameplay.
This brings us back to Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. The game is a remake of Monster World IV with improved 3D graphics that give it an anime look, remixed soundtrack, and voiced dialogue that faithfully follows the original mold.
Emphasis on ‘faithfully’ the layout of the stages, enemy behavior, animations, and even the character dialogues are absolutely identical, to the point that whoever played the original will have a feeling of ‘dejá Vu’ from start to finish, with little new thing to see or do.
That’s not to say Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World is bad. It’s a side action platform game with a light RPG twist where the main character, a girl named Asha, explores ancient temples accompanied by her pet Pepelogoo, a blue flying pet, in an attempt to free four guardian spirits who have been imprisoned by a dark force that wants to dominate the world.
The ‘hub’ that connects one temple to another is the city of Rapadagna, and talking to its inhabitants, Asha will, little by little, discover the origin of the threat. But unlike modern RPGs, here the story unfolds in an absolutely linear way, with no dialogue trees or important decisions for the player to make.
The temples are long, with a design that emphasizes memorization. But don’t expect something like a ‘Metroidvania’ just like the story, they’re linear. You will rarely be forced to return to an area you have passed through to acquire a new item or skill. If by chance an obstacle comes your way, you can be sure that the solution is right there.
A point of note is Pepelogoo’s role in the gameplay: in addition to being one of the central points of the story, he is a versatile tool that can be used to reach higher places, protect against lava, navigate rivers, trigger switches, collect items and more. Solving several puzzles involves figuring out when, and where, to call on the pet for help.
Boss battles, on the other hand, are a reflection of the time when Monster World IV was developed: although large, they all attack with easily predictable patterns. Once you learn them, a battle is all about dodging attacks, waiting for an opportunity, attacking, and repeating the process.
Two very welcome changes from the original are the ‘easy mode’, which increases the amount of hearts that restore Asha’s energy, and the ability to save departure at any time.
Previously, this could only be done by finding a ‘sage’ who recorded his journey at specific points in the stages. The character still exists, and he jokes about this change saying that things ‘are much better than before and that ‘he’s going to be out of a job’. There are also more ‘slots’ to save the game, 12, instead of the 3 in the original.
About dubbing, it’s worth mentioning that it’s only available in Japanese and the only language for the game’s texts is English. Something unusual, since today it’s not uncommon for games to come with audio and text options at least in the main European languages, often even in our Portuguese. I asked the developers if there are plans for an update with more languages, but got no response.
‘Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World’ is like a good afternoon movie, unpretentious, but captivating you with its ambiance and will certainly yield a few hours of fun.
Fans of the series who want something new should look for ‘Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’, a true sequel that was released for Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 in 2018 and Stadia in April 2020. But those who have never played the original have an excellent one here. opportunity.