The (Monster) Land Of Confusion

HIGH Generically eye-pleasing cel shaded graphics.

LOW The overall platform mechanics haven’t aged very well.

WTF Hey, where is my world map?


Modern remakes of classic 2D side-scrolling platformers are becoming a sort-of genre in their own right, sitting alongside modern homages to that same nostalgic style. The original Monster World IV from 1994, the final ‘classic’ title in the Wonder Boy series, is one that never made its way to Western shores, being released only in Japan in 1994. Twenty seven years later, it’s now fully remade and available to all.

As opposed to the more thorough remakes of the last few years (2018’s Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, for example) this is a pretty straightforward touch-up that updates the graphics with a celshaded look while retaining most of the original platformer mechanics. Unfortunately, not all titles can be successfully brought to the present with such minimal retooling.

The story is simple and to the point — in the shoes of Asha, we’ll save a handful of helpful spirits and foil the evil plot that threatens to destroy them all. Asha’s basic moveset includes using a sword and a shield for defense, attacking directionally up and down and charging a magic attack for extra damage.

Collecting one of said sprites, Pepelogoo, augments the moveset with several unique features — double jumping, the ability to retrieve far-away items, and aids in pushing buttons necessary to progress. It’s nothing too unusual, and in fact, the focus on these abilities may lead to some frustration.

For example, the double jump — a basic move in almost every platformer under the sun and one needed to be quickly mastered here as well. Asha requires the player to rethink its use since the character needs to be attached to Pepelogoo to successfully use it, and there’s also a cooldown between jumps. The overall gameplay in Asha definitely needs the player to adjust a bit, even if they are accustomed to such old-school platforming mechanics.

Otherwise, it’s fairly standard for an old-school platformer and it’s fair to say that it doesn’t have any sort of ‘lost classic’ status — I’m guessing few people will remember it outside of those who are heavily invested in the Wonder Boy/Monster World series.

The one truly new feature, the graphics, end up being a bit of a mixed bag. As opposed to the wonderful 2D hand-drawn looks of past Wonder Boy entries, Asha looks pleasing enough but its style doesn’t have any sort of original flavor or flair. It just doesn’t stand out in any way visually, especially not when compared to the current crop of competitors. As a side note, it’s also not possible to switch between the modern look and the original.

Unless one is a hardcore fan of classic platform titles or a Wonder Boy completist, there isn’t much to recommend Asha in Monster World. It’s an okay example of its genre’s older titles, but I’d say it’s a bit too rooted in the past to interest players who aren’t coming to it for the nostalgia.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by G Choice/Monkey Craft and published by G Choice. It is currently available on Switch and Ps4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: The game is rated E by the ESRB, and it contains Fantasy Violence. Considering its general difficulty, though, I would recommend the game to players of 12 and up.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue in the game is subtitled, and audio cues are not used to communicate enemies’ attacks. Text cannot be altered or resized. In my view, the game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The game is controlled via the joypad, with the d-pad to move around, A to jump and B to attack. It is possible to remap the controls.

Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun.
Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple.
He's a sucker for great stories in gaming, he loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs.
Damiano's been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on Twitter at @damgentemp, or on his blog https://genesistemple.com (now dedicated to the history of video game design).

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