(MD / Mega Drive)

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair (MD / Mega Drive)

Game Review

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Damien McFerran

The once quiet town of Xenobia is under attack by fierce, gruesome monsters and no one can stop them!

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair might seem incredibly familiar to Virtual Console addicts because the game has technically already been released on Nintendo’s download service – in the guise of Monster Lair on the TG-16!

The complexities of the deal regarding codehouse Westone and Sega have never really been fully explained – even after all these years – but the general gist is that Sega own the Wonder Boy name and Westone did pretty much all of the programming, which allowed the company to take the games elsewhere. ‘Elsewhere’ was usually the NEC PC Engine (or TG-16 in the US), and as a result we’ve seen games like Dragon's Curse (which is Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap) and Dynastic Hero (which is Wonder Boy in Monster World). Keeping track of the variations within this convoluted series is a job in itself.

Anyway, history lesson aside, what we have here is Sega’s own version of the original Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair coin-op. As we stated in the review of the TG-16 version, this isn’t your traditional Wonder Boy action-RPG style adventure; it has more in common with the side-scrolling action of the very first game. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but ultimately this game has even less variety than the original (no skateboarding here!).

It’s part platformer, part horizontal shooter, but neither portion really gets it right. The platforming elements are almost devoid of challenge; you basically move from left to right taking out enemies and collecting fruit to accrue points. The shooter sections are similarly lightweight, with only the odd boss battle making things remotely interesting. Unsurprisingly, the whole thing becomes incredibly boring, despite the ‘crossover’ appeal of the two genres. There’s a co-op option but this only succeeds in boring two people rather than one.

The Mega Drive/Genesis version does have some notable differences when compared to its TG-16 counterpart. The most obvious is the music – on the TG-16 version you have excellent CD-quality tunes which are genuinely likeable, but here the soundtrack is chip-based and a lot less enjoyable.

The visuals are also slightly different, with the sprites looking a little goofy (Wonder Boy sports a shocked expression on his face that makes it look like he’s messed his underpants) but generally there’s not much to pick between the two. This is a jolly looking game with colourful visuals and nice large boss characters, with the traditional bout of unwelcome sprite flicker when the going gets tough.

Elsewhere, the Mega Drive version offers more customization (you can select your difficulty level and the number of lives and continues you have) but it also has less levels – 9 to the TG-16’s 14 – although given the mind-numbingly dull nature of the gameplay, you might see this as a blessing!


Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair is easily the weakest entry in the Wonder Boy canon and isn’t worth bothering with, even if you’re a fan of shooters and platformers. This unsuccessful fusion of the two disciplines singularly fails to impress and should be avoided in favour of other, more worthy, retro experiences. If you're still interested then we'd recommend you pick the TG-16 version over this, as it's slightly better and retails for the same 800 Wii price point.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (32)



KeeperBvK said:

Wow...that's harsh. Way too harsh in my books. This is quite an original, unique and still well playable game IMO, even if the PCEngine CD version is in fact better.



Damo said:

Ok, if you're worried about the amount of internal storage a game takes up, add a point to the score.



That_Guy_from_Faxana said:

In my opinion, Wonderboy III: Monster Lair is one of the very best Mega Drive titles.

It´s a very amusing cute ém up/ run and gun with an excellent 2 player mode. The game is very challenging (enemies are dead hard on the later levels) but the great boss designs keeps me looking forward to the next level. The dragon ride sections are the weakest part of the game, but I like the variety.

I haven´t heared the Turbo´s soundtrack, but the Mega Drive version sports an enjoyable soundtrack. Some of the tunes are jolly, some funky but most are good. Maybe except the rather hysterical bossmusic

Of course I must recommend the Turbo version instead. Monster Lair is a blast to play in 2 player mode, so I wouldn´t mind 5 more levels! (Altough I´m not good enough to complete the first 9^^ )



Doogle said:

@That Guy - We must have been playing a different game. This is a utterly dreadful game IMHO. It's neither a good platformer or shoot-em-up. Compared to all the other games in the Wonder Boy series this one is pretty lame, it's so boring to play. Urgh



That_Guy_from_Faxana said:

He he, we just have different taste It´s a different genre than the other Wonderboy games, and I like WB 3, 4 and 5 very much too.



Adamant said:

Well, since Monster Lair got a 4/10, this score seems appropriate enough.



JaredJ said:

Any chance we'll get an english translated version of Monster World IV?



marktheshark said:

@JJ, 11

Somewhat possible, but we probably won't get it anytime soon though, but then again, Sega is on a mission to bring every last Wonderboy game to the VC in all regions.

So it could take a few years though.



Chunky_Droid said:

SNAP! I really like the Wonderboy games and have yet to try this, I'm getting it anyway, but... ouch!

And what changes did you guys make to the site to make me unable to log in this morning!?



Corbs said:

While the PC Engine version is better, it's still not going to win any contests. The game is sluggish and tends to be repetitive even after short playing sessions. I hardly ever drag this game out anymore.



CanisWolfred said:

Eh, I'll probably end up getting this version someday, since I plan on playing all of the Wonderboy/Monster World games. Who knows, I might actually like it. The video actually looked pretty damn awesome.



Ricardo91 said:

Sorry Europe. Looks like another lame update for you. Not only do you get another freakin' Wonderboy game, you get the worst version.

EDIT: Whoops. I just realized I posted this in the wrong article.
But I'll just leave it. I'm too lazy to retype it in the correct article.



Bass_X0 said:

Well with every lame game that we get, the future can only look brighter.



cheeseman said:

I think I figured out why Nintendo won't release Donkey Kong 64 or Majora's Mask. 2 words: Expansion Pack. If the Virtual Console can't use Controller Packs or Rumble Packs, Why would it be able to use Expansion Packs? Unless Nintendo figures out a way to solve that problem Majora's Mask will never come to the VC. (Good thing I have Majora's Mask for my N64)



Objection said:

@cheeseman-Easy solution-Ninty gets off their butts and makes an emulator version that can render N64 games that require the expansion. They might not even need to, I'm not sure, since the whole issue was that those games needed better lighting, etc. that the Wii could possibly do since its more powerful. Again, I'm not fluent in whether it's that easy but the alternative is Ninty just fixing it.



WarioFan63 said:

If the Virtual Console can't use Controller Packs or Rumble Packs, Why would it be able to use Expansion Packs?

Because Rumble Pak and Controller Pak were (as far as Nintendo's games go) additional options. For Majora's Mask and DK64, Expansion Pak was a requirement, so the parameters are a little different here.



psyduck said:

You can get Majora's Mask for GameCube on Zelda Collection disc together with 3 other Zelda games. And if it could be emulated on GameCube I'm sure it could be emulated on Wii too.



Viral said:

Psyduck, I agree with you there. Personally, I think Nintendo needs to release collection cds.
For example, Zelda : Collection Cd for Gamecube contains Zelda 1, Zelda 2, Ocarina of Time, and Majora's Mask. Now, if they released a second version of this for example, Wii edition, including A Link To The Past, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, people would buy it in a heartbeat. Same could be said for the Mario franchise...Mario 1, 2, 3, World, World-2, and other miscellaneous Mario titles could easily sell.
Now, Square hasn't figured this out yet, but they should do it for all consoles for FF1-6 and then re-release 7-9...
If Resident Evil can do it, so can they!



Drake said:

The Collectors' Edition version of Majora's Mask was horribly buggy. It'd be incredibly stupid if they release it on VC without fixing those issues.



slangman said:

The video looks and sounds alright, but I will still have to pass on this one. Especially if the game is boring as the review makes out. Might check out the TG-16 version someday but i doubt it.



Digiki said:

Because that's a bad idea, why would Square sell 6 Final Fantasys in 1, when they can sell 1 in 1.



President_Leever said:

This review is awful. You're not basing the low score on anything but a lack of challenge (there are dfficulty options), a 'goofy looking' character sprite and apparently the lack of skateboards (the game has a medieval fantasy theme, and how would that work in 2-player anyway?). The game is at least a small improvement over the original Wonder Boy, and it certainly is a challenge played on a higher difficulty than the default setting, even if it is a trial & error-based challenge. My only real gripe with it is that the shooter levels are all exactly the same, they all play like the first level of gradius with enemies coming at you in a wave pattern before you enter a boss battle. Also I loved the music - very melodic and cheerful, very old school.. but the soundtrack doesn't come close to taking full advantage of the MD sound chip and it sounds awful in certain parts. I'd give this port a 6/10.



Outrunner said:

A 3?! I always wanted this back in the day but now... Well I'm glad I didn't get to since for a game back then I'd had to have saved up 4 weeks pocket money. I'm a bit disappointed.



Skrubber said:

I totally disagree witht the reviewer. While it is a pretty short game, it has high replay value and a good co-op option. Also, it is possible to adjust the difficulty level and the amount of lives, making it a beatable game, even for people like me.



JDesensitized said:

^I agree with the above review. I never understood why this game is so hated. Personally, I thought it was great.

But the Turbografx version is the better buy. (Which I personally think is true of with the entire Wonderboy series)

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...