Sega’s classic and legendary Wonder Boy series of games is the latest franchise to receive the retro collection treatment from developer Big Bliss. The Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection slaps the original six Wonder Boy games into one place for you to play. However, Big Bliss has gone that extra mile by not only collecting the games from their original release versions, but also every hardware release that they appeared on during this time. From Sega’s System 2 hardware, to the Mega Drive, and even the Game Gear, the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection has every version of the original Wonder Boy games you could possibly want.
So instead of just six genre-defining and innovative games for you to play through, you’re getting a whopping twenty-one versions of Wonder Boy to sate your thirst with. And if that wasn’t enough, Big Bliss has rounded out the collection with a variety of quality-of-life improvements and extras that have become the standard for retro compilations today.
Now before we get into the nitty-gritty of what’s on offer here, it must be pointed out that last year Big Bliss also released a Wonder Boy Collection that only contained four of the Wonder Boy games. If you’ve picked that up already, maybe think twice about slapping down extra for this one unless it’s discounted. Bear in mind though, that collection only contained those four games in their original incarnations and not the different versions that graced the various hardware in homes at the time.
That said, here’s what’s included in this collection along with the hardware they appeared on:
Wonder Boy: System 1, SG-1000, Sega Mark III, Sega Master System, Game Gear (JP), Game Gear (World, under the Revenge of Drancon title),
Wonder Boy in Monster Land: System 2 (JP), Sega Mark III, System 2 (World), Sega Master System,
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair: System 16, Sega Genesis,
Monster World II (Also known as Wonder Boy III or The Dragon’s Trap): Sega Mark III(JP), Game Gear (JP), Sega Master System (World), Game Gear (World),
Monster World III (Also known as Wonder Boy in Monster World): Sega Mega Drive, Sega Genesis, Sega Master System,
Monster World IV: Sega Mega Drive, Sega Genesis.
As you can see, that’s a pretty comprehensive collection of games, and whether or not you dive into all of them will be dependent, most likely, on where you experienced the games for the first time. Nostalgia certainly plays its part in this. Beyond that, and the game industry’s need to take software preservation far more seriously, it’s always a joy to dive into the different versions of each game to see whether or not they were changed to fit the hardware and, if so, by how much.
As near as I can tell, the emulation is presenting the games exactly as they originally ran, which leaves you with faithful recreations – bar the quality of life changes of course – for good and ill. So yes, you are going to be looking at the wonderfully low frame rate and flickering prevalent in the original Wonder Boy’s SG-1000 release, for instance. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The quality of life changes are of the standard sort by now, but no less welcome. Difficulty selection, starting lives amount, Free Play, save states, and rewind features are all accounted for. There are also various wallpaper selections, resolution settings, and the now standard customisable CRT filter. Of more importance, and a necessity now with every retro compilation, are the music players and art galleries which feature behind-the-scenes design documentation, artwork, and box covers.
One aspect that I absolutely adored with the Turrican Anthology makes a return here for each game, and that is the level map layouts that you can peruse at your leisure. You can use it to memorise the layout of each level if you want or simply appreciate the way the games were put together. Personally, I find them an art form all of their own.
As for the games themselves? Despite some issues that may annoy, such as the slow movement speed in the later Monster World games, they stand up surprisingly well in 2023. The original Wonder Boy is still a challenging, stripped-back challenge in platforming and timing. Wonder Boy in Monster Land also still presents a significant challenge as a strange, action, platforming RPG hybrid with levels that slowly grow in size and complexity.
Wonder Boy III is still a gorgeous-looking hybrid platforming shooter, with one part of a stage emulating the original Wonder Boy journey with a variety of projectile weapons, while the second half of the stages were built as side-scrolling shooters similar to R-Type. Monster World III brought the Metroidvania design to the series and already received a full and gorgeous remake in 2017.
Monster World III took its cue from Wonder Boy in Monster Land, embracing the action platforming RPG structure which, a lot of the time, felt more like an expanded remake of the second game in the series. Monster World IV introduced us to Asha, a new protagonist in a side-scrolling RPG with Metroidvania elements. This game also received a rather wonderful remake in 2021, our review of which you can read here.
As more retro compilations come out, a more in-depth approach needs to be taken than simply sticking some well-emulated titles into the package. Thankfully, developers and publishers are cottoning onto that fact with all the extras we’ve seen in comprehensive collections such as the recent Turrican Anthology and the excellent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection.
Now the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection joins their ranks thanks to a great package containing fun games and a wonderful collection of production material. From simple platforming hijinks to more in-depth questing, the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection will have something for just about everyone to sink their teeth into if they’re a fan of retro gaming.
A review code for Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection was provided to gameblur by the publisher. Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is also available on PS4/PS5.
Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch) ReviewWonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch) Review
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
Visuals8/10 Very Good
Audio8/10 Very Good
- The Wonder Boy games still hold up well
- A comprehensive collection
- Great production material extras
- Slow movement speed in later games may frustrate