By Chris Picone, 02 February 2023
The Wonder Boy Collection is a definitive anthology of the franchise. It includes faithful and high quality ports of not just all six Wonderboy games but multiple versions of each in line with the various consoles each game appeared on. So, no matter what particular brand of nostalgia you're coming from, you'll be able to re-live them. The collection also includes all the usual mod-cons, such as the ability to fast-forward and rewind, and save at any time.
The chiptunes are crisp and the team have used a range of shaders and filters to recreate the original retro arcade, CRT, or handheld experience. The authenticity of this approach really surprised me. Chiptune, for example, sounded very different on a C64 than it did on a master system or mega drive. And likewise, there's a huge difference between the colour palettes and shaders present in, say, the Master System and Mega Drive versions of Monster World, or the Game Gear vs Master System versions of Dragon's Trap. The beauty of this collection is that you can go back and play the version of the game you used to play, and find the game exactly as you remember it.
Good ol' Wonderboy! As expected, it's mostly jumping around platforms, stabbing things with your weapon and collecting coins - it is a platformer, after all. But Wonderboy's always experimented with different game mechanics and tried to include "RPG elements" (common now but not so much at the time). And each game in the franchise is surprisingly different to the last. The first Wonderboy, for example, includes an energy bar, which depletes as you run, jump, or attack, and fill up as you collect fruit. Your weapon is a powerup you collect along the way (and can lose when you die). It's a classic arcade experience. In Wonderboy in Monster Land, however, the energy bar's gone and cash is king as you need to collect coins to buy your upgrades in shops. You won't be able to afford everything in a run. Also, you can progress without beating everything and re-visit areas, leading to much more variety in the play experience. Wonderboy: Monster Lair takes a left turn; for some reason, although yuo still carry a sword, you instead shoot a bunch of different energy weapons as you collect power-ups through the game. You get to ride a dragon into combat though, so that's cool. Wonderboy: Dragon's Trap takes another left turn; this time, you become the fire-breathing dragon. Monster World IV is a much more modern experience with double-jumping, a pet, a hub town, and a stack of RPG elements like NPCs.
As someone who grew up with the original games, I had a great time wandering down memory lane and was pleasantly surprised at how faithfully the games were reproduced and impressed at the ability to play different console versions of each game. My kids, who lack my rose-tinted glasses, have also been thoroughly enjoying the collection so it's great to see (most of) the games still hold up against modern platformers. In short: Any platformer fan should think about getting this collection.