Developed By: Ratalaika Games Published By: Bliss Brain Categories: Retro, Compilation, Platformer Release Date: 01.26.23
Did you play last year’s Wonder Boy Collection? Well, if not, avoid that and grab this instead. While that collection had the best the series has to offer and a good timeline of the franchise, it wasn’t quite everything. Not only does Anniversary Collection have the two missing games, both versions of Wonder Boy 3, Dragon’s Trap and Monster Lair…it also has every possible version (at least the non weird Microcomputer versions) of all six games. Meaning we get a nice 21 titles to play. Finally, we have a modern equivalent to the old Sega Ages collection.
You can probably stop reading and just buy this if that was the big hurdle for you last time around. But I’m going to assume that majority of readers haven’t played any of these ports or even a title like Monster Lair, so lets discuss those. From Sega SG-1000 to Master System/Mark 3 to Game Gear, all the way to the arcades and Genesis/Mega Drive, lets go. As a heads up, this is only covering content new in this collection, consider it a companion to the earlier review.
We’ve spoken about the original title, a game that is much different than the rest of the series and would spawn another series called Adventure Island. But did you know it had a port on the SG-1000? Sega’s first console and not exactly a powerhouse. Despite launching next to the Famicom in 1983, it seems more comparable in power to a micro-PC or pre-8bit console. Despite all of this, the game actually runs. Not well and many things had to be cut, but by golly it actually runs…choppily! It’s shorter, but the levels are new at least. That said, I cannot sincerely tell people this is a good port or a preferable way to play. It’s a curio at the end of the day, but one I’m glad won’t be lost to time.
Also included are the Master System/Mark-III versions and Game Gear editions. In Japan, the Mark-III version is called “Super Wonder Boy”, and Super is right, as it’s more of a enhanced port with new levels, even if the graphics are slightly downgraded. The new stages are *very* welcome and I like how the waterfall/cliffside level looks. Gameplay wise, high jumps are still a bit tricky, now needing a run, but it still feels like Wonder Boy. To accommodate for smaller screens or resolutions, the HUD is down to a bare minimum, you’re hunger/stamina. I do like this change.
Back to the Monster Land
I’m fairly certain that more people in the west are familiar with the Master System port of Wonder Boy in Monster Land. It is the only one the west got back in the day. This is a very accurate port, outside of the graphical downgrade, to be expected. Hitstun is gone however, which can make a hard arcade game into a downright miserable experience on console. I’ve never been a huge fan of Monster Land though, so maybe I’m just biased.
Wonder Boy III…the First!
Here’s a game I’m sure not a lot of people played. Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair! This is more similar to the original Wonder Boy than the other games in the series. Though with the aesthetic of the Monster World titles. Super linear, it’s an autoscroller infact, and you still gotta eat to survive. But now it’s more of a shooter. Stages are in two parts. An on foot section and a flying section. In the on foot section, try to get as much food as you can and not get hit, this way in the next level, you’ll be nice and set for health when you reach a boss fight. If you defeat a whole line of enemies, like in most shmups, you get a different shot. Spinning blades, a nice drill, two way orbs, a spread shot.
There’s…quite a bit of levels here. Perhaps too many, as while I do enjoy how some stages look, especially the one that looks like the village in Monster Land, stages all play the exact same. At least, this has co-op. Co-op shooters are a rare breed and I love whenever we get one.
We don’t just have the arcade game, we also have the Genesis port…and I think I like it more? It’s much uglier, the music, while still fantastic, sounds downgraded. Yet, it seems to play smoother. Jumps don’t feel as good, but it just felt nicer to me. I’d say give them both a shot. Still a long game either way. You might enjoy the surprise at the end if you can pull through.
Wonder Boy III….Two!
We’re back in Monster World for Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Also known as Monster World II, also known as Dragon’s Curse, also known as-… Anyway, this is more what people would become accustomed to with the series. A Zelda-like adventure. You can even compare it to say…a Metroidvania? The game even starts like Symphony of the Night.
The hero of our last game (Monster Land in this case) is ready to find the big bad, the Mekka Dragon…but is cursed, their power is removed. Turned into a Lizard Man, you hunt down other Dragons to obtain the Salamander Cross and return back to a human.
Throughout the journey, you transform into different animals with different abilities. Swimming, wall walking and squeezing into small places, flying, etc…You’ll use these to get to new places, attack in new ways, and be adorable. Like the other games, you can buy armor and weapons to enhance your strength, though only certain forms can use certain pieces.
There’s a Game Gear version, which is *mostly* the same. It has screen crunch as you’d expect, but also changes the nurses and shopkeepers. This might be a bummer to some, especially smoking pig fans. For others oooo anime girls. If neither of these are to your fancy, there’s always the fantastic remake that launched a few days ago.
Into the the Monster World
I covered the Genesis game, so lets dig into the lesser known Master System port. First off, holy moly it runs, runs decent too. Obvious audio and visual downgrades are here. I did noticed jumping feels a bit stiffer and you have to be closed to attack? But combat felt the same otherwise. Bosses are, big surprise, now part of the background. The partners you’d get in each dungeon are also missing. But otherwise, this is a rather faithful port. Wait actually, they removed Sky Palace’s theme. It’s awful, that’s the best song in the game.
I Know Where I’m Going
Seeing as this is a Ratalaika joint, you’ll probably expect a few things. The absolutely ridiculous filter and scanline options, button mapping, you know. There’s a decent gallery for art and all of the manuals and covers, un altered. Always a treat. On top of that, you get maps for every, single, game. Each version of each game has their maps shown, no matter how big or small. Locations of doors, hidden goodies, you name it. It’s like looking into a strategy guide, really firing up the Nintendo Power nostalgia.
One thing I do have issue with is a lack of a music gallery. Not a huge issue and ultimately not needed to me as much as nice galleries are, but this series has some killer tunes.
This Collection is a Wonder!
If you read my review on the first bundle, my biggest and really only issue was the fact we got only four of the six games. That is very much not an issue anymore. Six games, all of their Japanese made editions. I didn’t go in expecting the Hudson games or European Micro ports, so I’m not bummed on that. I am more than happy with this release and I am more than happy for that Strictly Limited Games physical release.
Buy Now: $29.99 – $109.99 Collectors – $164.99 Ultra
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of reviews