Last Updated on October 8, 2023
There’s nothing better than having all your favourite retro series of games being accessible, neatly in one place. On 26th January, Sega’s own Wonder Boy series received this exact treatment for the Nintendo Switch. Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection has six titles available to play on the Switch with multiple console versions available for each, making it a total of 21 titles in one collection!
Being relatively new to some retro titles meant that this was my first time playing each of the Wonder Boy games and it gave me an inkling of what old-school RPGs from Sega have to offer. I was grateful to see that there were descriptions and context given for each of the titles paired with charming music. A great introduction for a newbie like me!
Of course, it was only right to start at the very beginning with Wonder Boy. Having tried its System 1 version, it really gave that arcade feel with “insert coin” popping up on screen. The first game, being the classic fast-paced side-scroller with a high score to beat provides a variety of obstacles to tackle, and wacky and random power-ups like skateboarding. You can even rewind and fast-forward to your liking to play the game efficiently and at your own pace. Save states make progression so much easier.
Next up was Wonder Boy: Monster Land which is set up more like an RPG with NPCs you can meet along the way in shops. The option to pick one of two items based on what you can afford made me think and plan decisively. What would benefit the journey ahead? What did I do wrong last time? Should I save my money for the shield instead? Scrounging for gold wasn’t an easy task. You either had to wait for another enemy to respawn and hope they drop some, or just carry on and see how long you can survive. It’s a simple yet fairly challenging RPG if you’re still getting used to the controls.
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair certainly was a step up with smoother gameplay, more detailed sprites and milder colours that were easy on the eyes. It pays homage to the first game with returning enemies but kept that RPG element to it. With more diverse projectiles and new enemies with more complex attacks it created a more dynamic experience for the series thus far and couldn’t wait to see what the next instalment had in store.
Continuing on from the end of Monster Land, Monster World II boasted a dungeon-crawler vibe, having you focused on navigation in order to get to the next step of the adventure. You start off already armed and ready to go. You can pick up new items like the Ocarina to get past doors, and face recurring enemies. There’s a new character design here, looking more colourful and fitting with the game’s medieval setting. Monster World III is very reminiscent of Monster Land and Monster World II with familiar-looking backdrops and dungeon-like levels. However, as you progress you get a nice mixture of overworld, underground and underwater levels in different styles and settings.
Last but certainly not least, is Monster World IV, where the series made its decision to scrap the title Wonder Boy from this point to introduce the series’ first female protagonist, Asha. It’s nice to have an introductory cutscene, now based in an Arabian-inspired setting. This has the most detailed NPC interaction in the series making the world feel more alive. Small animations with vegetation only add to this liveliness. Controls were the easiest to understand in this game, with the shield being more accessible using the joystick and more guidance of controls as you play. It also includes versatile combat moves like downward attacks.
Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection: Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection, demonstrates the evolution of this series, sticking to its roots as an action-packed side-scroller, and branching out to new experiences with each instalment. If you’re looking for a generous selection of retro RPGs, then this collection might just be for you! – bhavdeepksoor
I am a media and pop culture enthusiast and love Nintendo and indie games, particularly Zelda and Stardew Valley. When I’m not gaming you’ll find me writing, creating fanart, and playing music covers of my favourite games!