LadiesGamers Wonder Boy

Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection Review

Game: Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection
Genre: Action, Arcade, Adventure
System: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Westone Bit Entertainment | ININ Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US E
Price: US $49.99 | UK £44.99 | EU € 49,99
Release Date: January 26th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound. 

The Most Wonder Boy You’ll See in One Package

Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection will likely be the most definitive collection of the retro Wonder Boy games we’ll see in one package on Nintendo Switch. Originally released in physical form only last year, the title finally gets a digital release enabling many more Wonder Boy fans, new and old, to jump in on the retro goodness.

There was a smaller Wonder Boy Collection released last year, which does come in at a cheaper price point but is missing Wonder Boy and the Dragon’s Trap and Wonder Boy III Monster Lair, two pretty significant titles in the series. If you are a retro gaming fan or a Wonder Boy fan, then avoid that and get this collection instead. The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is the best way to enjoy six classic games in one neat package.

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Wow, the SG-100 version of Wonder Boy


So let’s run down what’s included in this package. The collection includes six core Wonder Boy games. Three arcade games and three adventure games. Here’s a brief description of each;

Wonder Boy 

The original arcade classic, where you run to the right doing your best to avoid enemies whilst keeping your stamina bar up by collecting food. It’s one hit, and you’re down life but if you collect a power-up, like a skateboard, you can take a hit. The game is incredibly tough yet super fun to play. Except for a remake of this version, the series would never return to this formula. Instead of spinning off into the Adventure Island series, however, it still leaves its notable mark in here. 

Wonder Boy in Monster Land 

The second arcade game. This is an adventure game where you must collect gold and upgrade your equipment while dealing with challenging bosses and a horrible timer ticking down. You lose a heart if it reaches the bottom, so you can’t dilly-dally in this title. The mix of arcade design and adventure is a formula that doesn’t feel like it should work.

Although, there’s still plenty of fun to be had once you work it out and learn the secrets, like waggling the analogue stick while finding hidden gold drops to increase their value. By today’s standards, this is probably the toughest barrier to entry, but this title would act as the foundation of how the series would progress moving forward on consoles.

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Don’t fear the reaper (Wonder Boy in Monster Land)

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair 

The third and final arcade game. Ending the arcade era with a colossal bang. Monster Lair does away with the adventure elements returning to a level-based design with one hit death and even the stamina bar. Each level has you contend against various enemies while the screen constantly scrolls to the right. The second part of each level then has you riding on the back of a dragon taking out waves of enemies before going up against a huge boss fight.

The gameplay mixes platforming and shooting action into a fast and highly entertaining experience. A variety of weapons can be temporarily obtained, like fireballs, drills and something that looks a lot like a buzzsaw (Does this make Wonder Boy buzzsaw approved, though?). Did I mention it has co-op? This is the only game in the entire collection where a friend can jump in and share the Wonder Boy joys. Over time this has probably become my favourite game in the series.

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Something fishy is going on here (Monster Lair III)

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap

The first console-exclusive Wonder Boy game that would end up being one of the best offerings on the Sega Master system. An adventure that picks up directly after the events of Wonder Boy in Monster Land. Only after defeating the last boss you are now cursed and turned into a rather cute dragon.

The game’s goal is to wander the world hunting dragons and attempting to lift the curse. Only what usually happens is once another dragon is defeated, you turn into another animal like a mouse, eagle or lion. Each animal has their own abilities enabling you access to new areas of the world. A fantastic entry in the series.

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The Game Gear port of Dragons Trap

More WonderBoy Goodness

Wonder Boy in Monster World: The first entry on the Mega Drive, making full use of the new hardware for a bigger and, in my opinion, better adventure. Playing as a new hero, Shion, Monster World did away with animal transformations, a conflicting choice for some fans. But what was gained is the ability to acquire companions to assist you on your trips into the dungeons. This time you can gain new weapons like spears and tridents, a plethora of new magic spells, and a bigger world to explore. An absolute gem of a game that I still enjoy playing today. In case you couldn’t tell, I like the Wonder Boy series.

Monster World IV: Lastly, the final adventure where you now play as a girl, Asha (Wonder Girl?). This title was stuck in Japan for several years before finally being localized in the West sometime later. Monster World IV changes things up with an appealing Arabian setting and easily the cutest art style in the series. While easily the best looker, it feels like it took a step back and forward in gameplay.

Like the prior two games, the open map to explore is traded for a more linear level-like structure. You only have the use of a sword now, but you can perform new moves like a downward strike when jumping. The most notable feature is the adorable pepelogoo, your blue fuzzy companion who accompanies you on your adventures and allows you to perform special moves as it evolves over time, like gliding and double jumping.

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Multiple regions are featured in each game (Monster World IV)

Twenty-One Games

It doesn’t end with the six-core games. When you select one of the titles, you will be welcomed with various iterations of each on different systems, from arcade to console ports. This takes the total game count to twenty-one, which is a lot of Wonder Boy in one place.

As an old school sega fan, I was one happy chappy to see the Master System and even Game Gear receive some love in this collection. I finally got to experience Wonder Boy in Monster World on the Master System. A game I had been attempting to track down a physical copy of for so long but failed due to high retro price points. Ports may not be a big deal to every gamer, but retro fans will appreciate seeing the differences in gameplay. Differences such as how developers converted the arcade games into console ports which were often inferior graphically but adjusted the gameplay to still make them entertaining. 

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Remember long passwords; thank goodness for save states (Wonder Boy in Monster World)


The games present with solid emulation across the board, featuring the original graphics and gameplay warts and all. In terms of performance, I encountered occasional slow down, such as Monster Lair III, when things got busy. I do vividly remember this being present on the Mega Drive version, which I own physically, but I can’t speak to the arcade ports since I have no experience with this on an actual cabinet. None of these moments hindered the gameplay significantly.

As with any retro collection, you have some additional features to make the most of each game, or you want an easier ride. You can map controls to preferred buttons. Save states, and a rewind feature is present to correct your little oopsie daisy moments. You can fast-forward your gameplay if you want to speed through some slow sections. You can view the maps of each game in the options, which is really handy if you want to seek out each game’s secrets and saves you researching it online.

Graphical Options Available

Several graphical options are available, such as adjusting the graphics from pixel-perfect to smooth and crispy. You can play the games in CRT mode and even tweak the graphical intensity of this. And, of course, you can play the games in various aspect ratios, including full screen. Yes, you can even blow up those iddy biddy Game Gear games. The collection also features a gallery with several pieces of artwork and old manuals to flick through. A nice touch, but I was a little disappointed there wasn’t a way to enjoy the soundtrack somewhere in the menus. 

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Take time to consult the manual.

Missing in Action

While this is a generously sized collection, there are still omissions. Would you believe there are even more ports of Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy in Monster Land, particularly across microcomputers like the ZX- Spectrum and C64. As someone fond of this era of gaming, they are missed, but most gamer folk won’t care since they are inferior to the ports present in the collection. There are also no ports of the TurboGrafx-16 or CD, which I was particularly bummed about with Monster Lair III, a port of one of my favourite games I’ve yet to try.

The collection doesn’t feature some of the more niche ports such as The Dynastic Hero, a version of Wonder Boy in Monster World that actually released on the Wii virtual console years ago, although, with that store’s closure, there tragically is no legal way to play this game. Lastly, the original Wonder Boy, Dragon’s Trap and Monster World 4 both received remakes and standalone releases on Switch over the last few years, and neither made the cut to this collection. But to be fair if you love those individual games, those remakes are well worth spending the extra bucks to play anyway, especially Dragon’s Trap, which is an absolutely gorgeous love letter to the original.

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Check the map for secrets.

Conclusion – Oh, What a Wonderful Day

Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is the best way to experience the retro classics on modern systems. Sure, this is not a totally complete collection. And it would have been nice to see a little more attention given to the galleries. However, one can’t deny these games’ solid emulation and quality that still holds up years later. Yes, it’s a pain; a smaller collection was released last year, and there is no free upgrade to get this collection if you already made the purchase.

I’m a huge Wonder Boy fan, so I’m slightly biased on this review. But playing some of these games again, especially Monster Lair III, which holds a very special place in my retro heart, reminded me of better times which I haven’t thought about for some time. The Wonder Boy series is one of my gaming happy places; I can now share it with others for years to come. If you decide to take up the sword, it will hopefully create new gaming memories for you too. 

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up

Two thumbs up

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