Take a seat boys and girls while I take you back to age of gaming that is nearly shrouded in myth, back in the days before the internet was prevalent and online gaming even existed, back to an era where popups would say “2 gold get.” Wonder Boy in Monster Land, released in the wayback year of 1987, shows many signs of aging and many signs of it being localized in a time when the translations came out rough. Originally an arcade title that had about a dozen different names depending on where it released and on what system, it is chronologically the second game for Wonder Boy and the second of the overall Wonder Boy/Monster World series that spanned quite a few years.
Now that I’ve played three titles within the Monster World series and done some research into the whole overarching thing, it’s pretty damn confusing. However, I’ll at least break this one down. Wonder Boy in Monster Land picks up eleven years from the original Wonder Boy, during which a fantastic peace ruled Wonder Land. The main protagonist is Wonder Boy (whodathunk?), who was given the title after bringing peace to the land. Well, peace cannot go on forever, especially when the world looks so inviting to a dragon named MEKA Dragon. He moves in and takes over, converting the world into the well known Monster Land that fills with his minions. Once again, it’s up to an older Wonder Boy to step in and save the day.
Just like the other titles within the entire series, Wonder Boy in Monster Land is a side-scrolling and platforming adventure game. Honestly, I can’t complain since back in the 80’s and 90’s they knew how to make a platformer. It lives up to the genre in many ways, but it was one of the first to introduce the ability to buy armor, weapons, and items from shops that had very strange and suspicious looking shopkeeper animals. Of course, to buy things you need gold and that’s where the “2 gold get” tidbit came in. Expect to see that a lot throughout the game; just be happy no one is saying “I AM ERROR.” What can I say? Old games that were localized for US gamers never received the best treatment until recent years, so hasn’t early titles were known to have blatant errors and misspellings in text. It adds character!
Seeing as this was an arcade game originally, and I’m fairly certain this is the original arcade port, there has to be a way to get kids to waste quarters at an exponential rate and SEGA is a masterful company at this. The game includes a time limit: this annoying little hour glass that quickly empties in the bottom left corner of the screen. Every time it makes a turn, players lose a bit of health. Obviously running out of health is a way to end the game faster, so expect to be pushed along by the game’s damn near taskmaster-level of impatience.
Many players will look at this game and be puzzled at what sort of appeal it might have for anyone nowadays. While I’m inclined to agree with that assessment, it’s not from sheer lack of anything this game offers. It is a very solid title that many will enjoy being able to revisit after so long. No, my agreement over any objections to playing this game comes from the fact that the sequels are incredibly better. They removed many of the more crappy arcade-related gameplay aspects that drove me crazy, especially the timer. But don’t let that phase you – Wonder Boy in Monster Land is a great inclusion in the Vintage Collection and a great way to show just how far games have come in a relatively short time.Note: Wonder Boy in Monster Land was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.