There’s a classic series of 8- and 16-bit games in Japan that probably not very many people in the US know about called Wonder Boy. There were tons of sequels and spin-offs, and the Wonder Boy titles even have some connection with Hudson’s Adventure Island games. But I won’t go into that here. One of the Wonder Boy spin-offs was called Monster World and the fourth and final entry in that series came out in 1994 on SEGA’s 16-bit console in Japan, but was never brought over to the US. Until now. Finally, US gamers can enjoy this fantastic action-adventure 2-D platformer, downloadable on PSN, 360, and Wii (PSN version reviewed here).
In Monster World IV, play as Asha, a young green-haired lady and the first female lead in the Wonder Boy series. Asha aspires to be a warrior and will end up saving Monster World in the process. The game is a 2-D action-adventure platformer. Asha jumps, swings her sword to attack enemies, and explores the world to find hidden treasures and goodies to help her along the way. The game has a few RPG-like elements to it, as you collect money to buy better armor and weapons, and use collectible items to help you in your quest. Early in the game, Asha befriends a Pokemon-like critter who follows you wherever you go. This little guy can help Asha hit hard to reach switches when you throw him, as well as allow Asha to double jump and glide when you carry him. Monster World IV plays a lot like the cult classic Shantae game series (on Game Boy and DSiWare), and it makes me wonder if WayForward (makers of Shantae) was inspired by Monster World IV.
Monster World IV has some problems, but they are few and far between. And they really only stem from the fact that this is an older title, and it shares a lot of the same quibbles as other classics. The game can be a bit difficult and obtuse at times, and goals aren’t as clear and apparent as they are in today’s games. Plus, the adventure doesn’t have as many save points as what I’d like to see. There are long stretches of platforming before you can even save your progress. But that’s just how games were back then, and I’m not as patient now as I was in those days.
The nice thing about Monster World IV on PSN is that SEGA didn’t just slap the game up for download. It comes with a menu screen with all sorts of options and goodies. Play the original Japanese version of the game, change screen size and other options, read the manual, listen to the game’s music, challenge a trial mode to upload your score to a leaderboard, and not to mention new trophies to earn. Only problem I had with the menu is that when mapping your controls, they show you which button corresponds to the ones on the Genesis controller, but it doesn’t tell you what the buttons DO. So I had to wrestle with that for a bit before starting the game.
Monster World IV is also downloadable on 360, and it’s actually a better deal because it comes with two other games in the Monster World series (you have to buy them separately on PSN). And they’re also available separately on Wii’s Virtual Console. So no matter what game system you own, there’s no excuse for you to not download Monster World IV. I don’t know what it is about 16-bit adventure games and why and how they captivate me so. But they do and Monster World IV is a prime example of the kinds of games I liked to play back then. Fantastic game and thanks to SEGA for finally releasing it here!
Monster World IV is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Cartoon Violence. Asha swings her sword at silly looking monsters who disappear when defeated, and that’s about as violent as it gets. Reading skill is helpful, and some young gamers might get frustrated at the game’s difficulty. But it’s still an easy to understand game that I’d definitely let any kid try.