The last time a Monster World game got a remake, it was one of those games that was identical to the ’80s original, albeit with new graphics. The awkwardly-titled Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is thankfully not one of those games, but a complete remake of Monster World IV. It isn’t nearly as pretty as the last remake, and I’m a bit miffed that no one has attempted any sort of Monster World III remake either, but I had a good time with this one. It’s basic, the graphics aren’t all that impressive, and it’s dated in some notable ways, but this is still a perfectly enjoyable action platformer.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World has a very typical premise. A great evil threatens a kingdom, so someone has to go and free four captured spirits and save the land from succumbing to darkness. The original game wasn’t released in the West until 2007, so many people likely still haven’t played it outside of emulation. All of the assets have been created from scratch and the game was made on a fresh engine, with a bunch of noticeable differences compared to the original game.
Although the two games that proceeded this one had interconnected game worlds, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is played via accessing levels from a hub. It begins with an introductory stage where players guide Asha to the city of Rapagna. Once there, Asha obtains a little helper called a Pepelogoo and a medallion that allows her to access one of four elemental shrines that allow her to free the trapped spirits. In between these levels, new health increasing bracelets, swords, and shields are available for purchase in the city. Unlike the original game, you can return to most of the levels you’ve played previously, not counting the introductory section.
In fine form
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is presented in a 2.5D style, so you’ll almost always be side scrolling. There are occasionally spots that let Asha move forward and backward into the foreground or background, though. Asha’s moveset is simple; she can walk, run, jump, and slash her sword normally, as well as upwards or downwards while in the air. After landing a certain number of successful hits, she can also use a magic hit that does extra damage. The controls are good, but they could stand to be a little tighter than they are.
The most annoying thing about the gameplay, however, is that Asha only gets a single slash. Enemy behaviors are obviously designed with this in mind, so it won’t get you into trouble, but it does feel rigid and archaic in equal measure. The controls are responsive to the developer’s credit, though. Once the Pepelogoo joins up, Asha can call him to her, allowing her to hold him. Once she’s holding him, she can double jump or slow her rate of descent. What’s interesting about Mr. Pepelogoo is that he changes slightly as the story progresses. After his penultimate transformation, for instance, he becomes too bulky for her to carry while moving.
There are blue collectibles called life drops that you’ll find in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. For every 10 you locate, Asha gets a new heart container. Every enemy attack only does a single container of damage. There are 200 of these to collect, but you can only get 15 containers to max out your health. It seems the other 50 containers exist to make it easier to max out health in this version of the game. However, you will need to find all 200 life drops to get the game’s true ending.
Spice of strife
There’s a solid variety in regards to level design in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. Speaking of which, what we have here isn’t really different from the original game, but things have held up surprisingly well. The levels can be visually monotonous and a bit too plain at times, but each one has different enemies, hazards, and unique characteristics. One level sends you through a large cavern where you must use your Pepelogoo as a platform to ride upon streams of lava. Another has you navigate pipes in a waterway. One of the least attractive levels requires you to best three separate pyramids, and it’s easily the longest level in the game.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World doesn’t offer many specific resolution choices, but the game will set itself to your monitor’s native resolution when you select fullscreen, so that doesn’t matter. This version also comes with an uncapped framerate. Since the visuals are so simple, it’s very easy to get over 100 fps, which is nice. However, the first ice pyramid’s puzzle doors won’t work properly at anything above 60 fps, so that’s something that needs to be accounted for. Unfortunately, there’s no framerate cap, so you’ll possibly need to manually cap your framerate to beat the game, which is a surprising issue.
The game isn’t particularly long and took me about six and a half hours, but that was with a bit of cash grinding and reloading saves to retry sections with taking less damage. Speaking of which, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World solely makes use of manual saves that record your progress close to where you’re standing when you save. This greatly reduces the amount of time required to beat the game, as you can stop and save before any part, so redoing things won’t often be necessary. Despite that, this is far from a difficult game. Aside from some slightly frustrating sections during the fourth shrine, there isn’t much that will push anyone.
Even if you don’t spam saves, you can be brought back to full life as long as you have an elixir in your inventory and your Pepelogoo with you. The only time you can’t save is during boss battles, but most of these are easy, and many can simply be brute-forced with no care whatsoever due to how much health you can have. All in all, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is worth a playthrough, even though it may be too old school and simple for some. If you like action platformers, there’s plenty to like here.