Title: Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World
Developer: Monkey Craft
Release Date: May 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Studio Artdink
Genre: Action RPG
Remakes of classic titles are increasingly frequent in today’s gaming climate, and due to that, the majesty they wield has become heavily diluted. This general stagnation does silently boast a beneficial side-effect, though, which is that stellar remakes often earn a considerable degree of attentive praise compared to their sub-standard brethren.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, a remake of Monster World IV, is one such remake that deserves to be commended for its magnificence, as it delivers a delightfully charming Zelda-like adventure that translates its content in a digestible manner for any intrigued fans of the general adventure-genre umbrella to dive into.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World has players control a young adventurer named Asha, who is tasked with freeing four spirits contained by dark forces. Following the preambles, players eventually hatch a special pet known as a Pepelogoo. This endearing little guy is an invaluable helper for much of the platforming and other trials to come.
The narrative is light, to the point, and never invasive of the gameplay experience. It’s from a time of old in that particular regard. However, even as someone who vastly prefers well-constructed narratives, the casual nature of this plot was far from a detriment. The premise is effectively set up enough to be more of a background element that carries the gameplay forward.
One engaging trait that stuck with me was how the dialogue of the NPCs changed after progressing through dungeons. While there is a minute amount of characters to talk to, there is at least baseline personality in most of them to detect changes with their attitudes as the narrative marches onward. As a whole, though, the tone is upbeat, which also served to enhance the absolute beauty of the art direction.
Each area felt like I was stepping into a picture book, which was immediately apparent after the first seconds of movement. From the lush forests to the high cliff tops, there was an immense deal of area variety with maps that all managed to be distinct from one another despite the omnipresent vibrancy of the coloration.
Gameplay consists of performing lite platforming challenges, solving simple puzzles, and hacking away at enemies. The game delivers its tutorials in signs that are all brief, perfectly meshing with the ease of approachability the title is clearly going for. Combat is arguably where the title is at its simplest and almost to a fault.
Slashing is the primary action to perform against enemies, and it can be done in conjunction with jumping. The downward slash is particularly noteworthy thanks to its bouncing effect, literally throwing you from one enemy to the next.
Additionally, there is the special attack, Magical Hit, that is utilized in the same methodology as normal slashes. The only difference is that Magical Hits deal an ample degree more damage.
The bosses, unfortunately, reinforce this simplicity with overtly base patterns and humorously straightforward methods of brute-forcing. The fact that several healing items can be held at once, and used whenever desired, removes much of the tension that would potentially be present had they been removed entirely or at least restricted in amount. For as mindless as combat was, though, I still found it quite enjoyable since the developers nailed satisfying movement and swing speed.
For as inane or trivial as this might sound, Asha’s running speed being smooth and swift, is truly the foundation of what makes progression so gratifying. She immediately responds to inputs and has weighted jumps with a lack of floatiness. Her swing speed with the sword is similarly responsive, which is imperative as many mishaps I made were solely due to my own ineptitude and not the games.
Perhaps it’s due to her enthused persona, but Asha almost feels like an acrobat. The reason I say almost is that her Pepelogoo partner makes up for where Asha lacks.
The Pepelogoo’s primary function is that it allows Asha to float when held and to double jump. For as helpful as it is, though, it must always be summoned with R1 or L1, so it can quickly become monotonous in sections requiring repeated usages. Unlike Asha’s actions responding to inputs right away, the Pepelogoo’s response time is dependent on its distance. This occasionally creates awkward moments of stillness where it became a waiting game above all else.
Still, the pet is used for some puzzle elements, such as putting out minuscule fires and acting as a platform for lava geysers. It’s an imperative part of the experience and is used in continually creative ways that moderately impressed me the more I progressed. The unnecessarily dragged-out moments of waiting for the pet were certainly mildly cumbersome but far from a ruiner in any respect.
There are some RPG elements present in the adventure, though they are rather light in implementation. Swords, shields, and bracelets can all be bought in the hub town, Rapadagna.
Upgrading bracelets is by far the most thoughtless when it comes to spending currency since they are baseline enhancements with no downsides to doing so. They increase Health, and each tier is an objective betterment from its prior iteration. Shields require a semblance of more thought due to them inhibiting specified elements and attacks with select percentages of success. Lastly, swords are a tad more intriguing to take into account. Each sword has its own base attack stat coupled with individual charge times for reaching Magical Hit usability.
While the differences between some of the equipment are conceptually enticing, few of these applications truly warrant necessitated thought. The ease at which players can brute force encounters with healing items somewhat invalidates the notion of these RPG elements to an extent. However, this more casually styled approach also makes for a comfy adventure which is honestly welcome in a contemporary gaming climate seemingly obsessed with hearkening back to eras of severe difficulty solely for the sake of it.
Initially, currency can be daunting due to how expensive items seem. However, later enemies drop money habitually, and there are findable Gold Bars that can be traded with one of the NPCs in Rapadagna. Earning money becomes a predictable routine, but it still felt rewarding to reach tier after tier of equipment, at least personally. This is thanks to how enthralling the game-loop is.
Life Drops are blue stones that can be collected and are found in practically every environment. When 10 are amassed, they provide a whole new heart, which is vital enough of a boon to keep an eye out. Their inclusion grants another level of attentiveness to stages aside from the required puzzles.
Lastly, the soundtrack was unexpectedly sensational, with some of the dungeon themes providing a considerable amount of instilled identity to each of the areas. The town theme specifically was simultaneously wholesome and pure. This boosted the comfortable atmosphere and created a riveting contrast with the darker elements exuded by certain NPCs during progression.
Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World stands out as a pleasant journey packed with congenial level design, delightful visuals, and an uncomplicated but effective gameplay loop. While the combat is relatively mindless in execution, the incorporation of movement and attacking is so excellently done that this fault rarely muddled the exuberance I felt. If anything, though, I ultimately feel like there is a well of untapped potential, especially regarding the enemy design being as simplistically elementary as it was.
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