Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World changes little in the move to modern consoles

When games are remade, developers will often try to modernise them for newer audiences. Be it through reworked mechanics or quality of life features, the intention is usually to make the game feel less dated. And yet, this is absolutely not the case with Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World. Despite a couple of welcome changes — and the switch to 3D visuals — very little has been done overall. This might not be a bad thing for fans of the original, but the end result is a game that feels incredibly dated alongside modern platformers.

Wonder Boy Asha in monster world odd translation

Asha in Monster World is mostly light on story, with Asha’s journey to become a warrior turning into a quest to save four spirits — and the entire world of course. It works as a decent backdrop to the areas you’ll end up exploring, and games like this are fine without sprawling narratives anyway.

Even Asha’s initial moveset is rather bare-bones, consisting of an easy-to-use jump, sword attacks, and a shield (which you’ll rarely use). Outside of a few extra sword moves that can hit enemies above or below you, and a “Magical Hit” that slowly builds up by damaging enemies, the way you fight monsters changes little over the course of the game. It’s all standard stuff that you’d expect from platformers of the era — simple and effective.

Wonder Boy Asha in Monster World Pepelogoo platforming

The problems start with Pepelogoo, Asha’s floating blue friend. Pepelogoo joins your adventure early on, adding a few extra moves that are primarily utilised for puzzles and movement. On the platforming side, Asha can use Pepelogoo to double jump and slowly glide across gaps. He can also be thrown, mainly to press buttons or interact with certain parts of the environment.

It sounds fine on paper, but using Pepelogoo is less enjoyable that it should be. This is due to the delay between calling him to Asha (something that you always have to do before using any of his moves) and actually being able to perform an action. It’s most noticeable during parts where you have to double jump across multiple platforms, as you’re forced to wait a couple of seconds every time.

Outside of these quirks with the move set, the actual areas you’ll be exploring don’t offer much of interest either. There’s a variety of themes for the levels you’ll explore, though the actual layouts are far too repetitive. This starts very early on, with the Tower of Silence (a place you visit within the first few minutes of Asha in Monster World) having multiple rooms that are seemingly just copies of each other. Some will include chests containing money (needed to buy new equipment and items) or life drops which increase your health, but for the most part exploration feels unrewarding.

Wonder Boy Asha in monster world chest

Adding to this issue is the game’s new visual style. Instead of using 2D sprites like the Mega Drive original (or even something similar to other modern Wonder Boy releases), Asha in Monster World is fully 3D. Asha herself doesn’t look too bad in this new style, along with many of the enemies and NPCs. It’s the environments that are main problem, looking very generic despite the bright colour palette. The only real benefit the shift to 3D brought was adding a sense of depth to certain places such as the main hub area.

Physical copies of the game include the original Monster World IV, making it even easier to see just how little has changed elsewhere. Sure, Monster World IV is slightly slower and you lose the ability to save at any time, yet everything else is remarkably similar. This serves to highlight the main difference between both versions: the graphics. Even if it’s far from the worst looking game I’ve played, the charm that Monster World IV originally had is not fully realised in the move to 3D.

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is an odd one. It’s so faithful to the original that those used to newer games will find it too simplistic, but the change in visuals won’t really appeal to fans of the original version either. If you know what you’re getting with Asha in Monster World, then there’s still some fun to be had, though it’s hard to really recommend it over other more interesting platformers.

Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is available now on PS4 and Switch, with a PC release via Steam planned for Summer 2021. Thanks to ININ Games for providing a PS4 review code for this review.

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Isaac Todd
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