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[Review] SEGA AGES Wonder Boy: Monster Land – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: SEGA
  • Publisher: M2
  • Release Date: 31/05/2019
  • Price: £5.99 / $7.99
  • Review code provided by SEGA

Take a Step Back to the Good Old Days

The Wonder Boy series needs no real introduction, and this arcade classic from 1987 is no exception. With an arcade version released only in Japan, it has taken 32 years for it to come out west.

It’s 2019 and SEGA have turned their attention to the Nintendo Switch, releasing some of their classic titles and expanding their Sega Ages collection onto yet another generation of consoles.

Wonder Boy: Monster Land is the ninth SEGA Ages title to hit the Switch, and while it may not be the biggest title from their backlog, porting over the arcade version of the game is a treat many retro fans have been waiting for.

Only You Can Save the Kingdom

The game is a classic platforming adventure but with a nice extra component that would have been outstanding for its day. The introduction of RPG elements such as purchasing upgrades and special weapons with coins collected in the game. Powering up your character in a wide range of customizable ways, encouraging you to keep trying even after you beat the game just to see if a different combination would yield different results.

The game is fun, there is no denying that. It is, as is often the case for the older games, deceptively difficult at times. Short levels each ending with a boss fight keep things moving,  as well as keeping you on your toes. There are regular places where you can stop and purchase weapons, powerups or hints from a friendly bartender.

You will find yourself replaying levels and trying different combinations of gear in order to beat the boss to make some near impossible platforming jumps. It’s a good thing you have unlimited continues because frustration can easily set in.

One nice touch was the way they kept the arcade feel alive by having you insert a coin in order to start the game or to process a continue. It is only a small touch but it shows that the team behind the project thought about everything.

The game offers a save feature, and much like on the NES titles available thought Switch Online, it can be a godsend. Although, for the more hardcore retro gamers, this could be a feature that they find detracts from the difficulty of older games and the skill level required in order to be their master.

A Fun Range of Enemies Keep Things Interesting

There are a number of different enemies that can be found in each stage. While there is some repetition, the variance is refreshing and the different number of hit points each different enemy can withstand adds an extra challenge to things. Likewise, the bosses are different in both design and attack patterns, meaning you are on your toes, at least for the first attempt at each fight. Even some of the early bosses will pose a challenge to many, especially that Kraken.

The levels are fixed, so replays are predictable, and defeated enemies will respawn in the same location they started in.

The platforming elements, while relatively basic were well executed and must be viewed with an eye on the past and how the experience must have been back then.

Different Game Modes Offer a New Perspective

There are several different game modes in this edition of Wonder Boy, and while they offer some additional options, the substance that is gained by their inclusion is of minimal value.

Normal Mode

The classic arcade version of the game laid out and enjoy the way it was intended. Fight your way through twelve levels and save your kingdom from evil.

Power Up Mode

The same game but played with a small bonus. Any new games started once this mode is activated will see you start with all of the bonuses and power-ups you had equipped in your previous game. Thus, the Power Up name. There’s not too much benefit to this, although it does make it easier for any younger players that want to follow in your monster-slaying footsteps.

Money Hungry Mode

Imagine playing through the game without the now-famous money-spinning glitch. A bug so well-known, it was intentionally left in the main game with a new mode created to let you play through and only earn money the honest way … by walking around and finding it laying there.

Boss Battle Speedrun

A speedrun style game that will see you run through a level and beat a boss as quick as you can. Why? Because they introduced an online scoreboard system and needed something to put on it.

This mode feels unnecessary and if we are being honest, is unlikely to ever be used, certainly not more than once by a handful of the more dedicated players.

While online leaderboards are fun, the lack of competitive air surrounding this title makes it a weak attempt at padding out the content rather than anything of true value.

One other feature that comes with the game is the ability to select either the Japanese or the International version. As cool as that sounds, however, the only difference is the language used by the NPC characters. Still, it’s the thought the counts, and for those after a truly authentic 1980’s arcade experience, the possibility is right there.

Graphics and Style

It is important to understand that this game is not a remake, nor has it been remastered in any way beyond what was necessary to make it work on a modern console.

For the rest, it looks and plays like a game from the 1980s, and that is exactly what makes SEGA Ages such a charming collection.

The same can be said for the game’s soundtrack. It is the classic sound of the 1980s with beeps and boops that manage to convey exactly what is going on, as they ride on the jaunty waves of a happy-go-lucky soundtrack.

Retro Gaming Fun for Those that Crave It

Wonder Boy: Monster Land is not the best in either the SEGA Ages series or the Wonder Boy series, but it is a fun game nonetheless.

For those that long for a dose of retro gaming fun then this is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Just don’t expect this to become a go-to title that you will load up again and again.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, at its core, it is a good gas as far as nostalgia will stretch, but for those longing for a real old school experience, there are better games out there.

Pros

  • Classic title
  • Online leader boards (for those that like that sort of thing)
  • High-quality port of a 30-year-old game
  • Marketed for the retro gaming crowd

Cons

  • Dated and lacks the appeal of other older titles
  • Not really a must-own title
  • Short
  • Marketed for the retro gaming crowd.

Verdict
Wonder Boy: Monster Land is a great quality port of an old game and is great for what it is, but not everything resurrected from the annals of gaming history is a must-own item.
3/5

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