Monday 13 February 2023

Wonderboy Anniversary Collection Review (Switch)

Written by Dan Gill

When I received the Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection, I was initially a little confused. Hadn’t this come out a few months ago? Imagine my embarrassment when I realised, I was thinking of the Wonder Boy Collection which was released in the sweltering summer of 2022. I should have known really, as the selection on games on offer here is quite different from that collection. Well, OK, not so different. It seems that the difference between the Anniversary Collection and the plain old vanilla Collection is that the former contains a comprehensive selection of Wonder Boy titles, spread across several different versions each of 6 games from the Wonder Boy/Monster World series.

If you’ve purchased any kind of retro collection in the past few years, you’ll know the drill, classic games with modern conveniences. The WBAC has the usual bells and whistles we’ve come to expect including save states, concept art, promotional material from the time and various settings to emulate a CRT. The number of games on offer is generous, as the 6 different games have platform and region variations, bringing the game count to 21. Emulated systems range from the original arcade version through the Master System, Game Gear and Mega Drive/Genesis. It’s a package to cater for every Wonder Boy fan, as you’re likely to pick your favourite version. You want the Game Gear version of the original game? You’ve got it. You want to play Monster World IV as it was on the Japanese Mega Drive? Fill your boots. This is as comprehensive a package for Wonder Boy as you can get, at least without chucking all the Adventure Island games in there too.

The games themselves are great. The original Wonder Boy is showing its age now, but it’s the foundation on which the series is built and proves to be an interesting curio for those that want to see what platform games were like in the wake of Super Mario Brothers. Wonder Boy in Monster Land shook things up by introducing some RPG-lite elements, while Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair combines platforming with shoot-em-up sections. Probably the most revered title is Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, due to its Metroidvania style of gameplay. Monster World III and IV continue in a similar vein, playing out like an ARPG. Each game is still worth playing since their influence can be seen in so many other games.

However, here’s the problem. If you forked out for the previous collection, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little seen off. This is the definitive collection for these titles, and the old collection’s paltry collection of four games feels decidedly stingy in comparison. The release of the newer package so soon after the old one feels like a poke in the eye for early adopters, as they’re now left with just a few tasty scraps rather than a sumptuous banquet.

Is it worth your money? Based on what’s on offer here, yes. The games themselves are great, and the variety of ports is excellent. However, if you’ve already shelled out for the previous collection, you’d likely feel stung by having to hand over money twice over to complete the set of games. The price of the collection (£45 in the eShop) isn’t exactly small change, so you’d either need to be an avid fan or wait for a sale before picking this up and leaving yourself with a redundant collection that’s not even a year old. For everyone else, the package comes highly recommended. A bit more spit and polish in the presentation department would have been appreciated, but the amount of gameplay on offer here is generous and is pretty much essential for any Wonder Boy fan.


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