You know the story. A once peaceful land suddenly assailed by dark forces. Ancient prophecies of a great evils return. Adults doing the one thing they’re clearly good at: sending a kid to slay an adult’s problem.
Enter Asha, a young warrior looking to earn her badge amongst her people as a great warrior, ready to stand tall and defend her homeland. Before you know it, a simple trial to prove your worth as a fighter turns into a fight to save the world before you can even say; “Isn’t that your job?”. Asha handles it all like a champ though, with a smile and aplomb and tonnes of personality.
Welcome to Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, a remake of the 1994 Mega Drive, Sega published and Westone developed Monster World 4. Developed by Artdink, this new version of the game updates Asha for modern console owners while preserving its gameplay design and story.
Now sporting full 3D graphics and a cel-shaded aesthetic, Asha in Monster World completely redesigns the game’s visual elements into a gorgeous new skin full of personality. Asha in Monster World is a bright, primary coloured explosion of a game, with a cheery exterior that fully matches our protagonist’s personality. Asha doesn’t say much, but her personality shines through in her every action. Whether she’s sliding across ice, opening a chest or seeing something amazing for the first time, her personality exudes charm and fun.
While that same level of design doesn’t extend to all of the games characters, Artdink have done a great job of making every NPC that needs to stand out, do so.
Now having never played the original Monster World 4 game, I can’t tell you just how much of a liberty Artdink have taken with redesigning the environment for 3D. Judging by screenshots of the original game, most of the levels look exactly as they did in the original 2D version but with that cartoony 3D makeover. While they look good, if somewhat basic, they don’t exude the same level of personality as our plucky protagonist and are rather bare when compared to the level of detail and bric-a-brac that litter modern games.
As a RPG platformer, Asha more than delivers on the platforming front while having just enough RPG elements to break up all the dungeon crawling that you’re going to be doing. Once you’ve made your way to the city of Rapadagna, you’ll be able to walk around the multi-layered environment, talking to people, completing easy sidequests and purchasing new swords, shields and bracelets for Asha. Swords and shields are pretty explanatory while the bracelets increase the amount of hearts our protagonist has.
Across her adventure, Asha will be collecting coins and money dropped from enemies to buy new upgrades, while collecting the Life Drops scattered across the environment will award a permanent extra heart for every ten drops. Asha’s pet, the Pepelogoo, is an indispensable tool in the game. Pepe can be used to collect items just out of Asha’s reach, block certain environmental hazards, act as a platform and help Asha to float short distances and act as a double jump when she is holding onto him. The double jump system is, initially, an awkward mechanic of having to press a button to summon Pepe before you can use him as such. It quickly becomes second nature though. If killed in action, Pepe can also use one of Asha’s elixirs to revive her exactly where she pegged it.
Both the city and dungeons employ a depth level approach to level design with various elements of the city and dungeons placed on different layers for you to walk into and out of. This is employed to good effect in the dungeons to create a maze-like environment that lightly hints at Metroidvania elements. Dungeons are self-contained though so there’s no reason to go back and forth between locations if you’ve thoroughly explored it the first time round.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World does make some concession to modern design though. Firstly you can now save anywhere via the system menu. The Sage that acted as a save point in the original game is still there but his job is now yours for whenever you feel the need. Secondly, in the original game you could miss items if you killed the level boss before completely exploring the area. This was due to the fact that defeating a boss would lock for the level for the rest of the game. Now you can jump back in, with a handy little display next to the entry point of the four main dungeons showing you how many Life Drops you’ve missed in the area. One concession that I do wish the developers had made was the inclusion of a map for each of the dungeons. Only the Ice Pyramid section comes with a map to help you navigate its corridors.
Since Asha on Monster Land is a slavish remake of the original game, the actual gameplay may either make it or break it for you. While the platforming can get fairly involved especially with Pepe making up a good portion of manouverability, the combat is rather rote. Asha has four attacks. She can attack in front of her, above her and below her during a jump. She has a magical sword attack that deals extra damage when activated, though you do this by holding down a button and then just slashing away with one of her three attacks.
By not changing the game at all in this manner, Artdink have made certain that the game stays absolutely true to its roots, but it also creates a game that is extremely light on challenge. Yes it has that 90’s flavour that games of the time had, but by today’s 2D platforming standards it’s nearly devoid of challenge, at least for me. Certain platforming sections cost me some hearts but ultimately the game, including the bosses who are based on pattern recognition, were a cakewalk. And I’d honestly be lying if I said this bothered me. Gamer’s who order the physical edition of the game will be blessed with the original Monster World 4 so that they can check out the differences for themselves.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World may not provide you with a challenging experience but what it will give you is a bright, cheery adventure filled with personality and charm. This is the sort of game that I feel we need more of; whimsical, entertaining and all about having fun.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (Switch)Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World (Switch)
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Length8/10 Very Good
- Platforming can be a little challenging
- Easy and whimsical in nature
- Asha has loads of personality
- Visually pretty
- Only physical copies come with the original Monster World IV
- Some may find the game too easy