Wonder Boy - Asha In Monster World Review (PS4)
Published: ININ Games
Release Date: May 28th,2021
*Game provided to me by PRHound and ININ Games
Wonder Boy - Asha In Monster World is an action platformer developed by Artdink and published by ININ Games. Being a remake of the Genesis/MegaDrive version of Monster World IV, Artdink attempts to bring the game up to a more modernized look, while also staying true to the charm of the original title and its art style. But do they succeed in the perfect balance between new and old? or does it end up half baked and needing more time in the oven?. Only one way to find out, so let's go!
A familiar evil has fallen over the land and it is up to you, the young would be warrior and hero, Asha, to take up arms and save the entire land from the darkness that is plaguing it. Joined by your little blue bird monster friend, Pepe of the pepelogoo race, you must set out into the world to save the four spirit sages, free the queen from her enchantment and rid the world of evil once and for all. It won't be an easy task, but Asha will do whatever it takes to save her friends and family.
Asha In Monster World as stated before is a action platformer that is a remake of the classic title Monster World IV that for the longest time was only released in Japan back in 1994, but has since been ported to consoles with a translation in 2012. If you purchase the physical copy of Asha In Monster World, you will receive the original game along with it as a free goodie. Pretty cool right? Absolutely it is. But were not here to talk about just the old title, no no, were here to talk about how this new suped up version stacks up to the original game itself and what changes have been made to it. Both good and bad. If you've played the 2017 title Wonder Boy: Dragons Trap then you have a basic idea of what you're getting into with this one as far as your journey through dungeons and the metroidvania style of game play goes. However Asha In Monster World in a sense is more linear in its approach when compared to Dragon's Trap, but that's not necessarily a bad thing either.
Upon starting the game, you're tasked with heading to silence tower in order to prove yourself as a true warrior. Think of silence tower as your tutorial missions because in this first stage is where you'll be learning the basic fundamentals of the game play mechanics, which if were going to be honest, aren't really that many, as far as your core arsenal goes. In Asha, your main forms of attack are hacking and slashing, charging up your special ability for one big hit on your enemy, which can only be used after its been charged after defeating enemies and then upward and downward thrusts(oh my). These in essence are the attacks you'll be using through 90% of the game, while also at the same time incorporating jumping upward attacks to slay enemies that fly in the air or bounce off enemies using a downward thrust attack and pogo stick on their heads like scrooge mcduck in DuckTales on NES. Sounds very basic right? well yeah, it kind of is. Luckily however, the environments you encounter, as well as your faithful friend Pepe, helps bolster the game play a little bit and that turns your journey from a ''its ok I guess'' time to a ''ok yeah that was pretty fun'' moment. I'll divulge fully.
As you progress through the games storyline, you will be tasked with rescuing the four sage spirits from the evil monsters that are holding them hostage. These four spirits all relating to a specific element, such as Earth, Fire, Wind, Ice. Each of these environments you trudge through have roughly two sections you have to conquer in order to get to the main boss fight. For instance, if you wish to get to the Ice pyramid, you must first journey through a side scrolling level and overcome the obstacle of a snow storm and snow based enemies along your way, only for it then to transition into a dungeon section of the level. This holds true for all four elements in general. Regular level section, dungeon, mini boss fight, main boss fight. This will be the main structure of the entire game until you reach the credit scene, but its not as straight forward as it sounds and this has to do with the great level design that implements not only great platforming sections, but also some pretty fun puzzle aspects.
As you venture through castles, underground caverns, desert towns and a palace that reminds me of Sonic casino zone, you will have to utilize your cute friend Pepe in order to overcome certain obstacles. When Pepe is just a baby bird monster, you're able to whistle him to your aid. Once he's been summoned to help you, you can then use him as a gliding device for a short period or when using jump while holding him, will initiate a double jump that will allow you to reach hard to further distances that you cant make it to on your own. But this isn't the only use for the little guy, not by a long shot, because there are still multiple uses for him as far as clearing obstacles goes. One of these such examples comes when you manage to make it to the volcano cavern that has a normal steam geyser, as well as a geyser housing a fire pit. You will notice that you can not go up the geyser without taking damage so to rectify this you have to throw poor little pepe into the geyser, where he will then store up pressure and allowing you to jump on his head and carry you to the top. What? no, it does not hurt him, as his species loves the heat, so its like a great big sauna to him. I had to clear that up because I didn't want PETA knocking at my door something. These are just a few of the examples of Pepe's usefulness to you as the player and how the devs implemented him extremely well and make Pepe feel like a necessity rather than an obstruction.
''So we got our basic attacks, we got our best friend Pepe at our side, but you forgot one thing'' you proclaim to me. ''What about your actual weapons, are there any upgrade mechanics?''. Well the answer to this is a yes, but at the very bare basic level of an upgradable system. As your grind out your gold from defeated enemies or selling gold ignot's to a towns lady, you'll be able to acquire various weapons, swords and bracelets to use on your journey and each item acquired will vary in not only stats, but usefulness overall. I sense your confusion so let me explain. Say you're heading to the earth dungeon that houses monsters that use rock or earth attacks or abilities, this would mean you would have to buy and equip a shield that gives you protection against that element and this same logic applies for everything else. Unless you get super rich and purchase the best shield in the game, which then protects against anything magical and physical then you can just ignore what I said and call me stupid. At vending machines you'll also be able to purchase extra hearts that refill some or most of your meter or elixirs that fill your entire health meter. That's... about it really as far as what you can purchase. Not too much, but that's not always a bad thing.
Using your weapons to bounce of enemy heads, blocking attacks with your shield and using pepe to your advantage to ascend to areas you can't normally access can feel like tons of fun due to the creative use of the games environments. No one singular level feels the same and they all offer you a different experience or implement a game play mechanic that others do not. For instance you can be going through the ice pyramid and sliding around the ice like you're on skates and using pepe's ability to find hidden paths that can't be seen with a normal eye, which gives it a puzzle feel, but at the very next level, you're on clouds that remind me of the flying nimbus from Dragon Ball, flying high in the sky. It hops from one trope to another and never feels like a retread or even something that gets recycled. Each area has a genuine surprise that will keep you entertained throughout. Especially with the use of 2D and 3D that allows you to move back and forth from the background to the foreground. Sure, its been done before, but it fits a game of this genre so well that you'd miss it if it weren't present. But.. while the gameplay in itself is entertaining, fun and engaging, there are still some issues I took with the game that I feel I have to point out with my experience with it. Like usual, I have to name the good with the bad to be as transparent as possible. So what exactly did I have an issue with?
One of the main issues that goes on throughout the game that I found to be a slight annoyance was the games overall difficulty. Even when playing on normal, the game still didn't feel like much of a challenge and you will find yourself struggling more with the controls and mechanics themselves than you will the boss fights or mini boss fights. The biggest issue here is during boss fights, each main villain has a specific move set that they use and repeat, like any typical platformer, however, as an example, if you hit a boss while they're performing a specific move, they will be temporarily paralyzed and this will end up resetting their move set back to the first attack they were going to do. All you have to do is time it and hit them when they stop blinking and repeat this process till they're dead and you're guaranteed to never get hit. Yup. Its like this for a ton of bosses. Don't get me wrong, the boss fights when you let them play out are fun and have great designs, but overall the game is just way too easy on easy difficulty or normal. Now being 5-6 hours long, an easy game isn't a bad thing overall as it can make a good pick up and play game, however, the games difficulty isn't my only issue I had with the game. The other issue that tended to arise had to do with the controls themselves. Not game breaking but enough to warrant a ''you gotta be kidding'' outcry.
I had several issues that dealt with the way the character moves. Asha feels almost slippery with the way she runs and feels like she moves faster than the controls are capable of handling. This in itself wouldn't be that big of a deal, except for the fact that it can cause you to completely miss time a jump because you're trying to compensate for the way the slippery controls feel. This causes you to slow down just a tad and attempt to make one of your jumps, but uh oh, this is where other gripe comes into play, the lack of forward momentum. In most platforming games, when you jump forward, the character carries with them a certain amount of momentum that allows you to move forward while jumping, but here in Asha, its like you hit an imaginary wall and go into a slow down mode. Losing all momentum when trying to make a difficult jump onto a platform and not being able to wiggle your way in the air to reposition yourself, can make for some really frustrating times. Now add in another inconvenience such a platform clipping that even when you make a jump directly on a platform, you still fall through it because you didn't hit the EXACT pixel spot they wanted you to hit. It reminded me of the type of stuff I had to deal with on The Wizard Of Oz on SNES.
All those three issues together became quite annoying on the later levels, as that's where they are most prevalent in. But I think the one problem with this game that actually got me mad, was the lack of time being invulnerable. Usually in games when you take damage, you have about a second to recover by being invincible, but nope, not here. If you happen to be fighting 3-4 enemies at a time and get hit by one, be prepared to get juggled around by all the enemies as they chip away at your health bar. This brought back my PTSD from Karate Kid in the NES days, but at least then for your troubles, you get a wink from Mr. Miyagi at the end, here you just get told ''tough luck!''. I know, I'm exaggerating... kind of... but its still something that greatly annoyed me and made me button mash hard to try to escape my peril. All these together are what you would call annoyances but not game breaking, But major or minor, I always have to be truthful in how I personally feel in regards to a game or their mechanics, no game on earth is ridicule free.
At the end of the day, Artdink manages to blend old with the new and create an art style that both advances the series and at the same time keeps to its root. Sure, the game might not look as sleek and polished like titles such as Dragon's Trap, but it didn't have to be, all it needed to do is bring a classic into the modern era and it did so perfectly in the graphics department. While the game has issues with its jumping at times, forward momentum, getting juggled and some platform clipping here and there, it still excels at having great environments, creative level mechanics, utilizing characters like Pepe as an offensive and defensive ability, super catchy music and an ease of play style of game play that will allow anyone, new or old to the genre or series, to be able to grab a controller and immediately hop in. Overall the pros outweigh the cons in this battle of whos superior, so that pretty much makes my verdict a very easy and clear one.
Wonder Boy - Asha In Monster World is out May 28th for PS4 and NSW digital and physical. Boxed versions of the game include the original Monster World IV as a free goodie.