Well, the one game a week plan Nintendo has been using for a while has worked out so far, with some pretty good games being released. Let’s see if that trend holds up as Wonder Boy in Monster Land from the Sega Master System is our one game for the week. Let’s hear what your friends at DHGF have to say about it!
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
System: Sega Master System
Original Release Date: 1987
Price: 500 Wii Points
Ashe Collins: Wow.
I think my last trip to the dentist was more exciting and far more interesting. At least they have a fish bowl there that’s at least somewhat mildly entertaining.
Or is that going to be the next Wii accessory?
Charlie Marsh: I share Mr. Collins’ thoughts. Boo! The direction in which they took Adventure Island was much better than this. Save your money here.
Alex Lucard: I have to admit I’ve never been a fan of the Wonder Boy games. I think I actually preferred Wonder Dog for the Sega CD.
One nifty thing about this particular game is that it’s the first game since Pokemon Snap to pack in a little extra surprise for games. Hit the minus button and you can pull up two options. The first lets you swap button controls. The second though – that might just be worth the purchase due to the novelty of it all. You can turn on the FM synthesizer that the old “Sega Mark III” once offered as an add-on. Nice!
No US released game offered this on the SMS, so this is a bonus for obscurity’s sakes and for the curious. It greatly improves the sound quality of the game, or any of the games that supported FM music. Audiophiles will probably enjoy listening to the differences, but for the rest of us, this is probably a pass.
Nathan Birch: Ah Wonder Boy, the series with the most complex history ever. Now most video game nerds worth their salt know that the original Wonder Boy and Adventure Island were in fact the same game, Adventure Island basically being a rom hack of Wonder Boy created by Hudson (which they got away with due to the fact that Sega owned the Wonder Boy character, but not the actual game code itself).
After the initial game, both series went off on their own with Adventure Island enjoying greater success due to Hudson sticking pretty close to the original design with most of their sequels. Seems people just really like jumping over snails with skateboards. Wonder Boy on the other hand went in a somewhat odd direction in it’s first sequel, dropping their loincloth wearing caveman into a fantasy setting, giving him a sword and gameplay that was a cross between Zelda II and Metroid, and the series just kept getting stranger from there.
Even though Wonder Boy in Monster Land probably won’t be what you expected it’s actually fairly entertaining, but unfortunately it’s hobbled by one glaring flaw. There’s no ability to save, nor any continues. That’s right, it’s a Zelda/Metroid design where you have to get through the game in one go and if you die you have to start all over. For that reason alone I strongly doubt 99.9% of you will have the patience and thus I don’t really recommend this one.
Guy Desmarais: I have never played this game. I have only played the Wonder Boy game that is exactly like Adventure Island, and it’s not this one.
Christopher Bowen: Wonder Boy in Monster Land is a decent little side scrolling platformer/beat ’em up for it’s time that reminds me a bit nowadays of the NES game Battle of Olympus – itself a ripoff of Zelda II – only with more personality. It’s cute, it’s vibrant, and for a mid-80s Master System game, has some good mechanics, with you having to buy armour and items via shops along the way. Anyone thinking this is going to be like Adventure Island is going to be surprised.
However, the one thing a platformer needs is good control, and Wonder Boy falls short in that aspect. The controls are a bit drifty, it’s sometimes hard to nail the harder jumps, and you stop if you swing your sword in mid-air, which is not a good thing if you’re timing a jump as well as fighting. That said, two things really get in the way of this game being enjoyable; one, you don’t always know if an enemy is dead or alive; there are times when you’ll hit someone, move on, then you find out he’s alive when he hits you. Secondly, as Nate mentioned, is the lack of ANY continue mode whatsoever. There’s not even a password feature; if you die, that’s it, the game is over, and considering how cheap some of the hits get, combined with a stupid time limit, it’s just too frustrating to get through this nowadays.
This was fine in 1986. In 2009, there’s other ways to spend your time. I have to give this a pass, though here’s hoping they remember the synth option that Alex mentioned when they release Phantasy Star for the VC.
Mark B.: Now, I’ve mentioned this a few times here and there, but I think it probably needs to be said again: I grew up with the Sega Master System instead of the Nintendo Entertainment System, meaning that while every kid in my school was talking about fire flowers and Triforces and whatnot, I was thinking about Shellcore and Joe Musashi (someone gets that, I hope). On one hand, this meant I got to play some of the most terrible games ever released on a home console (I’m looking at you, Aztec Adventure), and it essentially meant that I could not contribute to any conversations involving Mario and friends, but on the other, it meant I got to play all sorts of awesome games no one else played until, well, the advent of the Virtual Console, because they were so low-profile no one would have even bothered releasing them in a compilation of any sort.
I am saying that because I am saying, here and now, that Wonder Boy In Monster Land is one of those games.
Now, no, it’s not as good as Wonder Boy in Monster World, but I WOULD HOPE THAT WAS THE CASE considering the above was a Genesis game and all. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great game in its own right, because it most certainly is. Yes, the controls are a little floaty, and yes, the game doesn’t have any sort of a save system. It’s also kind of ugly because it came out two decades ago, forces you to complete the game inside of a time limit, and takes about three hours to beat, so if any of this bothers you, you won’t like it.
If that doesn’t, however, there’s a whole lot to love about the game. While the game essentially is a platformer at heart, it’s stuffed full of action RPG elements (buying items and equipment being chief among those) that were pretty amazing when the game came out and are still reasonably well implemented today. The game also features all sorts of hidden areas and special items to find and use, giving you plenty of reasons to explore and hunt around. The best thing about the game, though, is the fact that it’s not oppressive, despite its drawbacks; it’s not long enough that you can’t complete it in a couple of hours yet not short enough that you’ll feel like it ripped you off, it’s not so challenging that you can’t hope to beat it yet not easy enough to be beaten in the first go, and it’s still plenty of fun, even if it is a little floaty and archaic at this point.
I guess what I’m saying here is that I’m buying Wonder Boy In Monster Land and I think if you like platformers, you should too. Also, screw Master Higgins.
On Wii Ware this week, we also get only one game in Niki Rock’n’ Ball, which actually looks somewhat interesting. Might go for that. In the mean time, spend those points wisely, and we’ll see you next week.