Review: Wonder Boy in Monster Land (SMS)

Ale or mead?

Sega’s follow-up to the legendary Wonder Boy on the Master System took our hero Tom-Tom out of his former prehistoric setting into a medieval fantasy world. This game started out life as an arcade machine and also got ports to home computers and the Japanese PC Engine (TG-16) under the name of Bikkuriman World.

Wonder Boy II really set up the foundations for what the series would become. Master Higgins would carry on the skateboarding and axe throwing on Tom-Tom’s behalf. Sega’s fair haired hero would never be the same after this game. You start out the game defenceless but very soon you’ll pick up a sword to protect yourself against the fiends who dare to block your path. Defeating baddies will yield coins which you can use to level-up your armour, shield, and boots in true RPG style in the shops you will stumble across in your journey. You can also buy magic spells and healing potions. That’s really where the RPG elements end though; this is essentially an action platformer at heart.

For a game of this age it actually plays quite smoothly and had very responsive controls. That’s not to say the game is easy because it isn’t, you have to hit enemies with the sword just right in order to hurt them. When you hit them they freeze for a split second and you have to wait until they revive to get the next hit in. Sometimes this can be a bit of a pain when flying bats are added into the mix, but practice makes perfect!

The graphics are lovely and crisp, with nice use of colours. This was certainly one of the better looking Master System games from its era. The music is excellent also; it has a somewhat upbeat tone and fits the game perfectly.

The level design is really well thought out and you will visit many different environments such as woods, castles and caves. There are some tricky platforming sections which require precise jumps to negotiate, but this is exactly why you need to upgrade your boots along the way. Also some sections will be much easier with the use of bombs. If you are ever in doubt about what to do, you can ask a fortune teller provided you cross their palm with gold coins.

To get the key to complete each level you will have to defeat the big boss for that level. They can be quite tricky later on in the game, but they all have patterns which you can memorise to ensure success in true retro style. Some bosses even ask questions which make life easier for you if you get the answers correct, which is quite a nice touch in this game we feel.

The game has 12 levels in total and will take you a little while to complete. As with most games of this era there is no ability to save or password systems. When its game over, you simply have to start out all over again. Thankfully with the Virtual Console’s save state you can pick up from where you left off, this is a welcome addition. Extra lives can be picked up along the way to make things a bit easier, but do remember to watch out for the time limit on each level or your health will begin to drain; you can pick up some hourglasses along the way to counteract that.

Conclusion

This really is one of the better Master System games, despite being a bit rough around the edges in some places it has aged really well. The game concept is nothing original, but the execution is unique and the whole game oozes charm throughout. It was bettered by the excellent Wonder Boy III on the Master System, but the two are vastly different games so this is worth checking out on its own merits. If you are at all curious, why not check it out today?