Developed By: MONKEYCRAFT Published By: G-Choice (digital), ININ Games, Strictly Limited Games (physical) Categories: Adventure, Platformer, Retro Release Date: 05.28.21
Lets get this out of the way. I am a huge fan of the Wonder Boy/Monster World series. You can definitely thank Hardcore Gaming 101 for that. Since discovering these games on their website well over a decade ago, I’ve always been enamored by them.
While more reverence for the series is placed on Dragon’s Trap with it’s transformations, something the Shantae series would take inspiration from, I’ve always preferred the more traditional titles. Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV to be precise. Consider these two games like 2D Legend of Zelda titles. IV had a bit of an allure, being the one game not brought over until the 2012 digital re-releases. It was always considered a crown jewel of the series, and until very recently was the final game in the series. The Swan Song of Wonder Boy.
Monster World IV is as good as people say. Some of the best music heard on the Sega Genesis with tunes that still live inside of my head, constantly being the ear worms that eat away. All using a certain leitmotif much like Mario and Zelda games. Colorful sprites with great animation that seem more at home on the more powerful SNES or arcade games. The story follows the young Asha, who hears the voices of imprisoned spirits in need of her help. She goes on a journey to save them, while becoming the master of a goofy genie and befriending a cute monster, the Blue Pepelogoo.
The Pepelogoo is one of Monster World IV’s new additions to the series. The little creature allows you to reach places otherwise unreachable. It can take and put out fires, and just in general be a helping hand. It slowly evolves throughout the game, earning more abilities to assist Asha on her quest.
Throughout the journey you can use the gold you get and earn to buy equipment, something returning from previous entries. New swords, new shields which give elemental protection, and bracelets to raise your health.
Quality of Life Drop Improvements
You’re not here for me to talk about the original game, you’re here to learn about the remake, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. In terms of actually playing the game, Asha in Monster World is incredibly faithful to the original Genesis release. This is what remakes should strive for, don’t fix what isn’t broken! Not to say Monster World IV was perfect, it did have issues.
One in particular comes with the acquisition of Life Drops. Collecting ten of these grant a permanent increase in health. These can be missed permanently. Not in Asha in Monster World however! In addition to the game giving you the number you collected , you can always revisit old areas. This fixes perhaps the biggest issue in the game for me. That said, it is still very possible to miss a few Life Drops if you get far enough into the game. In my first playthrough, I was missing all of ONE.
Other QoL improvements come with changing the save points to be at only set places to a save anytime system. I enjoyed the addition of giving enemies health bars as well.
Into a New Monster World
Asha in Monster World is as colorful as the original game. Taking the form of a 2.5D cel-shaded adventure this time around. People can have their issues with both of these, but I feel it only makes the world more lively and pop out more. Everything feels like a faithful transition to 3D. While some random NPCs can come off as cheap, enemies, bosses, and main characters all look and animation wonderfully Including the Hip Shake. Speaking of which, Asha in Wonderland introduces cutscenes in certain key moments. There’s also voice acting to every character, albeit in Japanese.
I mentioned the equipment earlier, but now is a good time to bring up that they all have unique appearances, which you can see when equipping in the menu and in gameplay. I love small touches like that.
The music in Asha in Monster World has what I call Maverick Hunter X syndrome. You have amazing music from the original game, amazing remixes in the remake, but something feels off. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, but there’s something that is missing when you lose the abrasiveness of those 16bit console soundchips. Handera Volcano’s theme comes to mind in particular. If you listen to the original Genesis version and then the remix and you might hear what I mean. Again, the remixes are all fantastic, just not the sound I’m used to. Edit: Turns out you can unlock the original soundtrack in the remake if you input the original game’s sound test code into the title screen! This really is the perfect remake in my eye.
A Dream Finally Realized
I love Asha in Monster World, it’s what I’d say is a perfect remake up there with REmake, Metroid Zero Mission, and Bionic Commando Rearmed. You get an already great game and then bring it to a modern age with modern graphics, and modern fixes. It fulfils a dream of playing Monster World IV on a handheld legally for me. That isn’t exactly the only way however…
If you buy the retail or limited editions of Asha in Monster World you get an exclusive port of the original Monster World IV on cart! My goal of making my Switch into a retro game machine is slowly becoming a reality. Honestly though, I love this remake so much it might be hard to go back to the original. Regardless, the joy of playing any version of this fantastic game on a handheld is immeasurable.
Buy Now: $34.99 Digital – $39.99 Physical – $122.99 Collectors – $220.99 Mega Collectors
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review