Wonder Boy: Asha In Monster World

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: ININ Games
Developer: Artdink
Release Date: May 28, 2021


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PS4 Review - 'Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 19, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Wonder Boy: Asha In Monster World is a fully remastered version of 1994 platformer Wonder Boy IV.

Buy Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World

The Wonder Boy lineage is messy. The protagonist started as a caveman before gaining a hat and mustache and being renamed Master Higgins on the NES' Adventure Island series. He then became a knight, but depending on your region, the series was known as Monster World. It went back and forth like this, and even now, some remakes take on the Wonder Boy name while the latest game in the series has the Monster World moniker. Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a remake of Monster World IV, the lone entry in the series with a female protagonist.

You play the role of Asha, a young girl who dreams of becoming a great warrior. After completing your final test in a mysterious tower, you are transported to the kingdom of Rapadanga to meet with the queen and receive your formal title. Almost immediately, the queen bestows the title upon you but asks you to save the kingdom by finding the four great spirits that protect it. Like any noble warrior, you immediately take on the quest.

Asha's moveset can't be considered expansive, but it is good enough for the game. She has a basic slash attack, but she can also attack using a jumping upward or downward thrust. She can also produce a magic hit for more damage, but the amount doled out seems insignificant enough that you won't feel too bad for not using it. She can run and jump and climb ropes, but she lacks a ducking motion, which is replaced with a shield maneuver.

Once you get your companion Pepelogoo, your arsenal of moves expands quite a bit. The creature can be picked up and thrown on dangerous elements to be used as a platform to reach higher places. Pepelogoo can also be used as an overhead shield to protect you from fountains of ice and lava. The creature will be used the most as a means to double-jump and float down from a surface. This is where things get problematic, as the process isn't accomplished with just one button, like you would in most other platformers. Instead, you call Pepelogoo with one button and wait for the creature to arrive before you can jump and float down somewhere. This needs to be done with every double-jump or float, which breaks the normal flow since you're stopping and starting. There's no timer that's working against you, but it still feels awkward in practice, especially later in the game, where you find that Pepelogoo is too heavy to move with, so you can't call upon him until you're at the exact spot you want to jump from.

The flow of the adventure is basic. Except for a few areas where you go into the background to explore other pathways, you're mostly going on a basic side-scrolling adventure with some verticality thrown in. Most enemies yield coins that can buy new swords, shields or health bracelets. You also encounter blue stones that increase health by one heart provided you get 10 of them. Each stage has a different environment as well as enemy set and bosses. For the most part, the game is linear, which contrasts with the earlier titles in the series that are more exploratory as you gather the necessary items to progress. The level of exploration is pared down to just one town for all of your needs, and solutions are often located close to the puzzle.

The linearity makes Asha in Monster World feel somewhat easy; it's amplified when you notice a few changes that sacrifice challenge in the name of accessibility. The bosses have no discernable patterns to learn, so bashing away is a viable tactic for most of them. The game lacks auto-saving, but manual saving can be done anywhere with no limitations, which makes the game feel rather short since the amount of backtracking from death can be wildly reduced if you're diligent and save often. You can also carry several elixirs, which completely refill your health bar so death is a rarity. There are moments when some puzzles can feel obscure if you haven't explored much, and one boss can prove troublesome if you lack elixirs, but overall, none of this is too frustrating.

One lament is that there's not much else to the game once you complete it. You have two difficulty levels to choose from, but that's about it. Those who end up collecting every blue jewel will access the game's true ending, but you can't make it more challenging on another run. If you buy the physical version of the game, you can check out the original 16-bit game with the English translation patch applied, but those who opt for digital copies aren't afforded that bonus. That's a shame since the original makes one appreciate how faithful this remake is, warts and all.

The 2.5D look of the original is both good and bad. The move to 3D models versus the stylized 2D ones from recent releases can be initially disappointing, but the cel-shaded look makes up for some of that lost charm. The enemies and allies are drawn in a cute anime style, and the colors match well with the anime look. The animations for basic things, like walking, look stiff even though the speed is fine, but running and attacking look good overall. The game runs at a nice 60fps almost all of the time, and with the loading screens being manageable, the only real technical flaw that players will notice is how bad the translation job is. Some words miss punctuation or spacing altogether — a shame since the original release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 had no issues.

The audio is a slight improvement over the original. The redone music might be an annoyance in some areas due to the looping and some short tracks, but overall, it sounds rather nice. The game has voices only half of the time, as there are moments when there's full speech in some cut scenes and other cut scenes where only guttural noises are made. The inconsistency might not bother most, but the inconsistency speaks to a lack of effort.

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is fine. The core game mechanics may feel outdated for new players, but those who have played the original entry on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive will appreciate how the game hasn't deviated from that blueprint. The presentation is fine in parts, but the game offers no incentives to keep playing once you finish it. Those with a fondness for the original will love this, but those with no memories of the game will find this to be lacking compared to the remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap and the last sequel, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom.

Score: 6.5/10

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