I have a confession to make, I’ve never played a Wonder Boy game before – despite owning systems that they appeared on, I never actually got around to trying any of them out. So, when we were offered the chance to check out Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World on the PlayStation 5 (PS4 BC), I couldn’t resist giving it a go and seeing if it’s something I regretted not playing earlier. To my surprise, we were provided two games: the original emulated Monster World IV and the fully ‘remastered’ edition that has been modernised and adapted for both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch.
The developers are Monkey Craft, the studio that remastered Katamari Damacy on all platforms, but some of the original members from Westone Bit (the original developers) were also involved in the remaster. The game is listed everywhere as a ‘remaster’ but I’d go as far as saying it’s a very faithful remake as it’s not just been polished, it’s had a lot of visual and mechanical upgrades. The game is out both digitally and physically yet you ONLY get the bonus original version of the game, ported by Ratalaika Games, if you buy it physically – but I’ll come to that later on.
So, was my first experience of the franchise a good one or did I feel like I’d not missed anything by never dabbling with it in the past? Also, why is it called Wonder ‘Boy’ when you play as a girl named Asha? I can answer one of these but I’m not too sure about the other…
Despite being called ‘Wonder Boy’, you control Asha, a young adventurous girl who finds herself involved in a set of events that threaten the survival of the entire world. Whilst gearing up to leave your village and head out on your adventure, you hear the cries of the world spirits, pleading for you to save them from their imprisonments. After saying your goodbyes and obtaining the all-important Courage Crystal, you unlock the entrance to your first enemy-occupied tower and set out to prove you’re the hero you always knew you were destined to be.
After emerging victorious and obtaining an unusual companion, you’re whisked away to a far-off city where you’re given the task of freeing the four world spirits and restoring peace to the land. However, you don’t have to complete this task alone, you have the aid of a magical blue Pepelogoo, a floating furry spherical creature that is an imperative ‘tool’ thanks to its many uses and abilities. So, off you go, venturing to each tower as you slay the creatures who lie within, face big bosses, collect as much loot as you can, and splash out on new weapons and armour to make yourself stronger and more resilient to the evil you encounter.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World isn’t very long, I managed to complete it in just over four hours according to the save-game timer. However, if you’re going into the game blind then there’s forced replayability if you missed things and you’re wanting to obtain all the trophies, plus there’s the bonus game (with its own platinum trophy list) if you’ve picked it up physically. I’ve played through the remake and started my second playthrough, but I’ve only played an hour of the original game due to it being much harder and brutal in places.
Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics and what’s changed…
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a 2.5D action platformer. I’ve seen some sites call it an RPG, but I wouldn’t go that far as that. Yes, you can obtain new items, but I don’t feel it’s in-depth enough to fall under the RPG category. As you slaughter the enemies and collect their pocket change, which bursts out of them like the baby Xenomorph from Alien, you can buy stronger swords, shields that withstand different elemental attacks, and bracelets that increase the number of hearts you have. You also increase the number of ‘additional armour hearts’ by collecting Life Drops, for every ten you collect you’ll get an additional heart.
As your Pepelogoo grows, you’ll be able to use it to help you progress further into the towers. You can hold it above your head to block lava drops, throw it into geysers so you can stand on it and ride it as it ascends, throw it at switches to activate them, melt ice blocks with it, float like when you hold a chicken in Zelda, and even jump whilst holding it to perform a double-jump. It’s a very useful companion that’s like a Swiss Army Knife, only without the corkscrew! The one thing your fluffy friend won’t do is attack the enemies, even if you throw it at them, so combat relies on you and your trusty sword.
Once you have your floating furball, if you die at the hands of an evil creature and you have an elixir in your pocket, it’ll feed it to you and bring you back to life instantly. However, these are quite rare within the game, especially on Normal difficulty, so I’d advise you to save often and simply reload if you make a foolish mistake and get yourself killed. If your companion isn’t about, you have to be mindful and feed yourself the health items before you die, otherwise, you’ll have to reload an earlier save if you totally forget and allow yourself to get butchered (which I did a few times).
Each tower has a mid-boss and a final boss for you to eliminate. Most of these are straightforward, providing less challenge than some of the standard enemies – I’m looking at you, men with shields – but some can drain your energy quickly if you don’t strategise. Each one is unique and very different to the last, although you can cheese your way through a few by simply standing there and hacking them to death or running in, slashing, then running away.
But, it’s not all about fighting, there are some…
There are a few puzzles in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, not many but there are a few. The one which stood out for me was the statue puzzles in the Ice Pyramid. In here, you have to use your map as every door takes you elsewhere in the building, making it very easy to get lost. You have to find the codes for the doors, so you don’t get spiked to death, find all five statues, then decipher riddles so you know what order to place them in to open the passage to the boss for that area.
The game is primarily an action platformer, so don’t expect a lot of puzzles, but the ones it has are fun to solve. Well, except the Spynx’s quiz! That was pure trial and error for me as the questions were slightly different to the original games’ ones, so a sneaky look at a guide online didn’t help!
Collectables and Trophies
As mentioned above, you have to keep an eye out for the Life Drops in Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, not only to grant you more hearts but also in order to grab one of the trophies. After each chapter the game tells you how many of these you collected and how many you missed – you can’t replay the first tower and once you get to a certain point you can no longer go back and get others you missed either. As such, you have to pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you don’t miss anything – or follow a guide.
I made it all the way through the game with no guide and I missed 4 of them, meaning I have to play it all again as you have to get them all in a single playthrough.
In terms of the trophies, collecting all the weapons, shields, and bracelets is also required, something which is much easier should you unlock the ‘debug merchant’ which gives you max gold and all the best gear right at the beginning of your real adventure. I’m not going to say how to do this, as you can easily find out by searching on Google, but this will only work on your second playthrough from what I gather, so I don’t think you can cheat and make the game super-easy straight away.
30 Minutes No-Commentary (Remake):
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World looks beautiful on the PlayStation 4/5 – the game is a 2.5D 3D design, with 3D models and environments even though you play by going left and right for the majority of the game. There are moments where you go back and forth into the distance, allowing you to go behind buildings, through doors, and check out secret areas, but the main gameplay will take place on the left and right field. Having seen the game in both its 2D and 3D design, I love the colourful and playful nature of the 3D models, it fits the game perfectly.
In addition to literally remaking everything from scratch, the game also contains voice acting within cutscenes (albeit in Japanese) and a re-recorded soundtrack. You can enable the original soundtrack by entering a cheat code at the main menu (Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Left, Right, Right) – this will also get you a trophy – but I preferred the new soundtrack when playing this version. The gameplay also feels much more user friendly due to the modernisation of the controls and physics, if I ever fell into a pit or landed on an enemy face-first then I felt like it was my fault – apart from the Ice parts!
One of the main differences has to be the difficulty. From the start, you can opt to play on Easy or Normal mode – I chose Normal and almost regretted it as I had to face the final boss with no health items! Playing on Easy supposedly allows you to find health items more often and the combat is easier. But, that’s not the big change, it’s the saving – in the remake, you can literally save anywhere except within boss battles, yet in the original, you could only save when you found a Sage scattered around the world.
These Sages are still here, in the same places with the same (or similar) dialogue, but you don’t use them to save anymore. I love that you aren’t limited to set save points, but I don’t understand why the Sages are still there as most of the time they have no helpful information or advice to give you.
30 Minutes No-Commentary (Original):
The Original Monster World IV
As I mentioned above, if you buy Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World physically, you get the original emulated 1994 game as a bonus. With the Switch, both games are included on the cartridge, but on the PlayStation 4 edition, you get a download code for the classic game – meaning if you buy the game second-hand then you probably won’t get the bonus game. As far as I’m aware, this version won’t be going on sale at any point either, so if you want the second platinum trophy, you’ll have to pick up the game new, physically.
This classic edition has been ported by Ratalaika Games, the same team that ININ Games used to port the Turrican games (which I reviewed HERE). As such, all of the same visual options are used in Monster World IV as well, there are a few filters for scaling, smoothness, and even a CRT emulator; standard settings you’d hope to see on an emulated game. There’s an option to hold a button so the game runs in fast-forward, letting you move about much faster when backtracking, but there’s no rewind function like you’d usually see.
The trophy list for this version is also different (it’s not yet on PSN but I’ve seen it on my console). They’re all focused on entering the towers and beating the bosses, rather than collecting all the items as you have to do in the remake. I personally think the classic edition should be ‘easier’ to obtain the platinum for… I say ‘should’ because this version, in my opinion, is harder than the remake due to the set save locations, more confusing layouts in certain places, and I found the enemies to be a little more aggressive.
I love the visual design of Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World on the PlayStation 4, it has a cel-shaded look to it, with a thick outline and a very colourful palette used throughout. However, I’ve been playing the game on my PS5 and the game seems to be 1080p – it may be higher but judging by the occasional jaggies, I’d say it’s 1080p at 60fps. I know the game hasn’t had any official PS5 support, as it’s playing it via Backwards Compatability, but I would have loved a native 4K for a sharper image on the TV – I imagine the PS5 could handle it.
Performance-wise, no issues at all – as you’d expect. The entire game ran flawlessly with no framerate issues or crashes.
The music in the game is very retro yet modernised for the remake. As stated above, you can toggle the original soundtrack if you input the code, but I preferred the new smoother music over the retro chiptunes – but you may think the opposite! If you do like the soundtrack, Strictly Limited have a few limited editions of the game (which I’ll list below) that include the soundtracks from both versions of the game as well as a separate double LP set for sale.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is a brilliant modernised remake of the 1994 classic, Monster World IV. I personally found the story to be enjoyable, the visuals were beautiful and colourful, and the soundtrack made the experience much more exciting and adventurous. The few changes, such as the save mechanic, makes the game more accessible and user-friendly, yet removes the challenge and programmed frustration we see in the original, so you may or may not like the minor alterations. Speaking of, if you buy the game physically then you also get the original game free (on the Switch cart or via a code with the PS4 version).
If you like classic action platforming games but want something a bit more visually appealing than retro pixel-art, Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World is for you!
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World was developed by Monkey Craft. The Digital edition is published by STUDIOARTDINK and the physical edition is published by ININ Games and distributed via Strictly Limited Games, HERE
There are three physical editions (for both Switch and PS4, containing the remake and original game). The Standard Limited Edition is just the game, the Collectors Limited Edition has everything you see below, and the Mega Collector’s Edition has everything in the image below that!
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World£29.99
- - The physical edition comes with the original 1994 Monster World IV game (with another platinum trophy list)
- - The remake is beautifully designed with bright colours and a great cel-shaded effect
- - It has a great remastered soundtrack which you can revert to the original with a cheat code
- - Offers replayability if playing blind and trying to get the trophies
- - Your furry companion is very cute
- - It's a shame the original game is physical orders only
- - No PS4 Pro or PS5 enhancements to boost the resolution
- - Although being able to save anywhere is great, it removed a lot of the challenge