It's been a long time since Monster World IV debuted for Sega Genesis but it's back and gosh darn, this remake is cute! Let's dive in.
Although Monster World IV was only available in Japan back in 1994, I actually played through it when it released for PlayStation 3 in 2012. More recently, it became available as one of the included games for the very cool Sega Genesis Mini console, too. Anyway, although I have fond memories of the classic Wonder Boy games, I'm happy to say that Monster World IV remains one of my favourite titles in the franchise. Thankfully, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World retains everything that made it special while boasting gorgeous updated visuals, a brand new soundtrack, a wonderfully recreated Rapadagna, and additional gameplay elements. Meanwhile, the intricate stages essentially have the same layouts so overall; it's a very familiar experience that'll please fans while being modernized enough to appeal to newcomers as well. It must be challenging to strike this balance but the developers did and I applaud them. 👏
For the unfamiliar, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is played by controlling the titular hero Asha as she rescues 4 spirits from their respective stages. You do so by running and jumping through levels while attacking enemies which is handled fluidly as you can up-thrust, down-thrust to bounce off enemies, raise elemental shields, and execute a charged Magical Hit attack which can cause much more damage. On top of all that, you'll acquire a pet named Pepelogoo at the beginning of the journey who will help you solve puzzles and progress by allowing you to glide, double-jump, and push switches all while being flame-resistant. These mechanics blend seamlessly with the challenging adventure-style level design to create a consistently rewarding and enjoyable experience from start to finish.
As you play, you'll amass a wealth of gold 💰 that you can trade with the merchants of Rapadagna for equipment which is rewarding stuff. Obtaining a new sword that doubles your damage 🗡️, an elemental shield that can nullify certain attacks 🛡️, or a bracelet that extends your maximum HP ❤️ is extremely helpful. Speaking of which, there are 200 collectible Life Drops 💧 hidden throughout the campaign and for every 10 you collect, your maximum hearts will increase by 1. Yes, having full extra hearts is indeed awesome 💙. Oh, and if you miss anything then it's not a big deal because you can revisit levels this time around. You can also summon a genie 🧞♂️ from the pause menu if you'd like to quit a level, upgrade your gear, and restart the level with your progress intact. Now, that's nifty!
Of course, even though Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is great fun, it also shows its age in a few ways although definitely not as much as many other retro remakes do. The most substantial downside is that I wish there were more gameplay elements. Whereas some of the other Wonder Boy games allow you to transform into different animals 🐷🐸🦁 like in the absolutely wonderful Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, there aren't any similar mechanics here. Also, not knowing if a hole is a pit or where you need to go can be a problem. The bosses are kind of forgettable and easy, too, although they definitely look cool which is nice, of course.
As I mentioned, the visuals and music of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World are spot-on and I loved traversing its memorable world. Asha's animations are lovely as well and watching her tumble out of tubes and wiggle her bum when she opens a treasure chest is delightful. With that in mind, there is the occasional graphical and auditory stutter as if the game is loading which I found disorienting. It doesn't happen often but it's worth noting. On the plus side, you can listen to the original game's soundtrack 🎵 as you play after entering a secret code. In fact, there are a few awesome secrets from the original so look forward to seeing those again!
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a lovely game through-and-through so if you like the idea of getting lost in a lighthearted old-school adventure that's full of fun surprises then you'll enjoy every second of this adventure.
- + Tight gameplay with satisfying moves and wonderfully intricate level design
- + Fantastically adorable visuals and music
- + Rewarding upgrades and memorable world
- - Gameplay could use more mechanics
- - Some elements haven't aged well
- - Occasional graphical stutters