I wanted to like Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. After all, I adored a previous title in the series, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Like that game, Monster World is a remake of an old Sega adventure. But it lacks the charm and inventiveness of Dragon’s Trap. Gone are unique monster transformations and a cohesive world. In its stead is a fairly generic platformer that is retro to a fault.
Go forth, green-haired adventurer
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a little light on the story, but it gets the job done. One day, our titular heroine, Asha, hears whispers from spirits pleading for help. Wishing to become a courageous warrior, Asha leaves her hometown in search of the beings. Her travels lead her to a hub area named Rapadagna City. There, she finds a queen worried about the dark temperament plaguing her people. It’s up to Asha to rescue the four souls who called for help and decipher what is causing the townsfolk to become increasingly irritable.
Asha comes with a variety of moves. She brandishes a sword that can strike on either side of her, above, and below. Her shield can also be deployed to block a variety of attacks. A magic meter can be built up with successive sword hits, which results in the ability to conjure a powerful magical hit. Later on, Asha meets a Blue Pepelogoo. This flying creature can be called to Asha at any point, and she can use it to hit switches, create platforms, or hover in the air.
Monster World also has some light RPG elements. Asha can find shops within Rapadagna that increase her life and change the attributes of her sword and shield. There is strategy involved: Do you go for a sword with higher attack power or a weaker one that can charge a magical hit faster? Do you brandish a shield that blocks thunder attacks or fire ones? This equipment is rarely cheap. Luckily, Asha can find numerous coins left by defeated enemies, and she can sell gold bars she finds in treasure chests.
An abundance of issues from a bygone era
Unfortunately, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World was barely modernized for its remake. And for every advantage the remake has over the original, there’s a disadvantage tied to it.
For example, now you can save the game at any point manually within a menu, but there is no autosave option. Meanwhile, once you complete any of the four distinct areas, the game gives you a list of the total number of life-extending power-ups within that area, and it shows how many you picked up to see if you missed any. You can revisit areas after you complete them to grab those and can exit at any time with the aid of a lamp spirit. However, many life drops become permanently missable when you reach a certain point in the story, rendering the previously mentioned improvements moot. There’s even a merchant that sells bracelets that grant you added health who straight up leaves the game towards the climax!
Another sticking point in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is the Blue Pepelogoo. It is the only upgrade that grants you the hovering and double jump ability. You have to call the creature to you by holding the shoulder button every time you want to jump to a higher platform, as you basically jump off it to gain altitude. Having to do this over and over again quickly becomes monotonous. So much could have been solved if Asha could just double jump herself and the Blue Pepelogoo was used for hovering only.
A multitude of concerns
Dungeons are disappointing, too. Many rooms look the same and the designs are drab. The puzzles within each are usually an exercise in redundancy. A late-game one has a map you can only view by pausing to the menu and selecting it manually. There are three separate riddles that utilize the same four statues in slightly different ways. And the main entrance to the boss is blocked by a sphinx who won’t let you in unless you answer a series of asinine questions in a row.
The whole game is fairly easy, which I could forgive if the rest of it had any saving graces, but it doesn’t. Also, all the bosses are laughable, especially the final foe, who goes down so fast, you’ll see the credits and go, “That’s it?!”
Disappointment sets in with Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World
In the end, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a mediocre game. Uninspired level design, frustrating movement controls, and permanently missable power-ups all contribute to a lackluster experience. When I think the best part of the title is the cute butt dance Asha does when she opens a chest, you know things are bad. Just play Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap or Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom instead.
A review code for Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World was provided by the publisher.