Review: “Wonder Boy Collection” (PS4, Nintendo Switch)

My personal Wonder Boy Collection is already complete, as I like to think of myself as one of the Wonder Boy series’ biggest fans. My very first game (outside of the pack-in Hang-On/Safari Hunt) was the original Wonder Boy for the Sega Master System. While my brother picked up Alex Kidd in Miracle World (wise beyond his years), and my other brother decided on Shooting Gallery (he was young), we had a pretty amazing inauguration to our gaming lives. 

And while I was familiar with the idea of “sequels”, with games like Ms. Pac-Man and Donkey Kong Jr., I was not familiar with gaming news outside of the occasional magazine flip-through at the local grocery store. When my Grandmother took me to the KB Toy Store at our local mall and I saw that Wonder Boy had a sequel that I had no idea was coming out…  Looking back, that moment was one of the greatest moments in my life! You have no idea how excited I was just to look at the box, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and see that the caveman I knew from the first game had graduated into a sword-wielding knight! See, I was also a (not-so) secret Zelda fan from that other game system…  So much so that when I got an NES a few years later, The Legend of Zelda was my first purchase for that console. It seems appropriate that my first actual game would evolve into what it did.

Beef. It’s what was for dinner.

Then came Wonder Boy III…  but that game isn’t on the Wonder Boy Collection,* so we’re just going to skip right over that little piece of my gaming history here! (HA!  If you really care, then hit me up in the comments)

Now, I didn’t get a SEGA Genesis right away. Actually, I got the Super Nintendo first because I had to have Street Fighter II. But, I did get a Genesis just a few months after Street Fighter II made its console debut. Want to guess what my first 16-bit SEGA game was? Ha! Actually, I got the SEGA Genesis for – are you ready for this? – the SEGA CD! Yep! No regrets either, as the SEGA CD was awesome if you knew which games to get! But good news about the SEGA CD, is it DID require you have a SEGA Genesis, so now I had the option of getting SEGA Genesis games as well.  And as you can probably guess, Wonder Boy in Monster World was the first game I sought out. So, while it wasn’t exactly a new release in the summer of 1993, it is what consumed my gaming time for one of my favorite eras of my life! Good times! 

An inner Kotaku-esque vocie is telling me that something “-ist” is happening here, but I’m not 100% sure what…

To this day, I still feel like Wonder Boy in Monster World is a near-perfect game! The gameplay is solid, the music is memorable, the graphics were beautiful, and the challenge was right on the nose! I’m still about neck and neck with the final boss of this game, who is still tough even after several playthroughs. Wonder Boy in Monster World has secrets, non-playable characters that assist you at times, and has a level of charm all its own. It built on the solid foundation of Wonder Boy games that preceded it, and it felt like the perfect next step in the direction of the series.  

Sadly, this was the end for Wonder Boy, although it would continue in Japan as the Monster World series. The U.S. didn’t get an actual release of Monster World IV until the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in 2012…  nearly 20 YEARS after it was released in Japan!  I waited a long time to get to play through Monster World IV , and I was thrilled when I finally did. While Monster World IV didn’t have that nostalgia factor for me like the older games do, it is still an amazing action-adventure-platformer! The addition of a pet-like familiar felt like an appropriate new mechanic for 1994, and the story, graphics and action are all the best in the series.

Bam.

So why do I tell you all of this gaming nostalgia for a game review? Because if you are like me, then you probably already bought the Wonder Boy Collection. If you are more of a modern gamer, then you can probably tell if Wonder Boy isn’t your cup of tea. However, if you are one of those people that truly loves video games, and yearns to experience it all, then by now I hope you know just how big this series is, even if you’ve never heard of it!  It may not draw the crowds of Mario or Sonic, but for those of us who were really in the know…  we know how great Wonder Boy is!  If you are open to playing these kinds of games, and have never played a Wonder Boy title, then I encourage you to check it out for sure! 

As for the Wonder Boy Collection itself, it has four of the five games in the main Wonder Boy series. (Missing only Wonder Boy III, for licensing reasons I’m guessing). As for bonus features, there are 20 images in a gallery that mainly consist of pictures from the old Master System game manual, and a nice border artwork that celebrates all four games in the collection.

Each of the games take advantage of the modern age of emulation, so you have access to save states and a rewind feature. These tools pretty much make the games a breeze, which is somewhat sad that even I can’t help but abuse these features today, especially because I always felt that Wonder Boy titles were just about the perfect difficulty. Sure, they were tough, but not so tough that you felt like you couldn’t do it if you figured out the patterns and practiced enough. A little grinding helps in the later games, but nothing like that modern nonsense! And that is why you should consider this Wonder Boy Collection! (Yes, this is a “recommend”)

The original Wonder Boy arcade game that started it all! And are you serious with all those skulls?!

All in all, the Wonder Boy Collection has four of the greatest games of their respective generations, and it’s kind of a breath of fresh air to go back to when games didn’t take advantage of our gaming passions the way that modern developers like to abuse nowadays. The emulation is solid, there are quality-of-life crutches for those who need an extra leg up, and most importantly, the games themselves still hold up over all these years. The Wonder Boy Collection is a great bang-for-your-buck value for retro gamers, fantasy adventure fans, and of course, Wonder Boy mega-fans like me!

*Disclosure: A copy of Wonder Boy Collection for PlayStation 4 was provided to The Splintering for the purposes of this review.

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