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Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World Review

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1705909744_AshainMonsterWorldboxart.jpg.d0080bc7e8be8751917a52c6c42c360f.jpgThe Wonder Boy/Monster World franchise continues to see some love after the remake of The Dragon's Trap as well as the brand new entry Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom released in the past few years. Somewhat confusingly, those two games were handled by different developers, and now this remake comes from yet another. Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a remake of Monster World IV, originally released on the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis) in Japan. It was a Japanese exclusive for several years before getting a port in 2012, and now gamers can experience a remastered version with updated graphics and sound. Though many elements of the game can feel dated, there's a nice bit of gaming history to enjoy here.
You play as Asha, a young girl who embarks on a quest to become a warrior and save the kingdom by rescuing the four spirits. It's a classic heroine tale that features few frills to spice up the backstory or plot, and just a handful of cardboard side characters to fill out the scenery. It's a fine adventure story for what it is, though.
Asha in Monster World features a mix of platforming and action/adventure gameplay. Asha has a sword and shield to fight with, and you'll also gain a pet Pepelogoo, a blue creature that can be used to float over gaps, double jump, and activate environmental effects such as hitting distant switches, blocking fireballs, or freezing into a block of ice that you can push around. You can purchase equipment to increase your attack power or max health, and you can also increase your health by collecting life drops that are littered throughout the game.
There's a decent bit of imaginative game design here that still resonates in 2021. Some of the mechanics are undeniably simplistic, such as Pepelogoo's controls which are a bit clunky or at least inefficient—picking up the blue creature every time you want to double jump is a bit annoying—and the game has a bad habit of poorly explaining your next objective, but overall there are solid platformer challenges and adventure elements to enjoy. You do have to sit through some tediously empty environments, most likely a holdover from old hardware that wasn't able to process as much on screen at once, which means needlessly long and barren corridors at times, but there's still a certain charm to the old fashioned design of the game.
One of the most valuable new features is the ability to save anywhere. Though to be fair, Asha in Monster World is overall fairly easy and you aren't likely to run into too many game over scenarios, not with health elixirs so common. The game is also on the short side, just five hours or so to complete in full with little reason to revisit the adventure, unless you want to challenge yourself to collect every last life drop available.
The game's presentation has seen the most obvious upgrade from its Mega Drive roots, trading pixel artwork for 3D models and updating the music with a remastered soundtrack. There's something to be said for the classic 2D sprite look that just doesn't come across in the more smoothed over 3D design, but Asha in Monster World still looks good, and the remastered music sounds great—it also has the benefit of having a pretty solid soundtrack to begin with.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a 90s game revival that I imagine few people were clamoring for, but is still worth checking out. The presentation has a colorful modern overhaul and while the gameplay certainly feels dated it still has a simple charm to it. No matter what your experience is with the Wonder Boy franchise, Asha in Monster World provides a nice little window into gaming's past.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Monster Worlds
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