Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Review by waterforprez
"Don't be fooled by the generic name."
Wonderboy in Monster Land, from here on in Wonderboy II, is pure, no frills gameplay. With just the amount of features to add an element of strategy, perfect but not overwhelming graphics, and an upbeat and charming soundtrack (even in caves and dungeons, somehow) makes it one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on its console. The first wonderboy, while being just as simple, felt like a generic little platformer and wasn't anything I felt compelled to finish, or even play for more than ten minutes. Its sequel is stylishly independant in almost every way possible, so it goes without saying that they don't host the same flaws.
As others may have pointed out, the game makes you feel that you are outside. Even the most hardcore gamers should appreciate this, because the feeling of being cooped up in a dark room in front of the television all day does somewhat ruin the experience of doing what you enjoy. Let's take a look at why this is.
MUSIC 10! Excellent. The themes don't sound like they were thrown together just for the game, they are all well thought out and especially atmospheric. The more you hear them, the more you'll start to notice the second track. Now on most 8-bit games, the second track is there simply to make the theme more musical, to ''support'' the first track by adding harmony wherever it's called for. But if you were to separate the two tracks, the first one would be a song on its own, and the second one would seems just like a repeating patterm of notes that do nothing to create a melody. Needless to say, that is not the case in Wonderboy II. Each track is a song of its own. Put them together and it's sonic bliss. It doesn't matter too much, but it makes the game that much more enjoyable.
GRAPHICS 10! As I rambled before, perfect. The capabilities of the Master System are well-utilized, especially in the colors. Wonderboy II is colorful, but not Aztec-Adventure colorful where everything clashes. And it doesn't have the faded look. It amazes me how things can be well detailed yet you can tell what everything is (rare in earlier games, of course).
CONTROL 8 Slightly refined at first, but a wise purchase of boots when you get to a town will fix that. Controls are typical, if you have played Rastan or Lord of the Sword then this will be second nature. Button 1 jumps, Button 2 swings the sword. Down will release whatever magic you have. My only gripe is that because of the Master System's overly-sensitive D-Pad I'm often acidentally pressing down and releasing one of my prized thunder flashes.
GAMEPLAY 9 Wonderboy II is basically a side scrolling sword oriented action/platform/adventure game. You go though a zone, collecting money, goods, and hints, and then face a boss at the end. There are towns in some zones where you can buy boots, shelds, armor, health, and magic. That's your adventure element and is sometimes why Wonderboy II is described as an RPG. (Rest assured there is little role playing in the game, so back off with the labels!) In each shop you have two choices, when one is bought then the upgrade will appear in its place. You have to choose what to buy to fit your strengths and weaknesses as a gamer, because money is scarce. Often in dungeons there are hidden doors where you can get crucial hints, upgraded swords, and ''potions.'' Your potion is your extra life, and you can only hold one at a time. Should you be forced to use yours then you can buy another one in these special stores. There is also a special sidequest which will prove a significant help in the last stage of the game should it be completed.
The bosses are done pretty creatively considering Wonder Boy doesn't have many different attack strategies (jump and swing, jump and swing, swing and ju... NO! only jump and swing), one boss in particular made me laugh out loud because of its sheer spontanaety (What did I have for dinner last night?).
CHALLENGE 9 The developers of Wonderboy II did their best to make it challenging, and at times it seems like the game is out to get you (a la Teddy Boy). For starters, there are no continues. Add that to the fact that you only have two lives (though a good amount of hearts) and that as time goes by your vitality will go down and you will be drained heart by heart, and it's safe to say that Wonderboy II is not an easy game. But it is pretty long, and after losing to the dragon at the end of the 12th zone, going through the game all over again could get pretty annoying. Chances are, if you beat it, it'll be over an extended period of time. In other words, you play it today, die at the dragons, then play it again next week so you don't get sick of it.
OVERALL 9! Wonderboy can be credited for adding depth to the platforming genre on the Master System, and developed a sort of cult following for Sega that remins to this very day. Its sequel (aptly titled Wonderboy III) took everything Wonderboy II had and gave it a save feature and somewhat of a story, so it is often favored over Wonderboy II. Don't be discouraged however, they are both worth owning. I couldn't imagine concluding a critique without some sort of pointless story, so I'll just mention that Wonderboy II was the first game I played for the Master System. Being American, I had never even heard of the thing and when my Israeli friend plugged in the cartridge, I was expecting some mediocre platforming garbage. Needless to say, I was inspired to buy one of my own (they were awfully cheap) and the rest was history. Thank you, Wonderboy!
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/29/02, Updated 10/25/02
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