Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection gets a lot right. It features six great titles in the series, with complete region variations and all their alternate console ports, from arcade to SG-1000, to Master System, Mega Drive, and Game Gear — 21 titles in total. It has a bevy of in-game options for finely tweaking the image with CRT filters, screen curvatures, mask ratios, and just about everything else one might desire to recreate the look of an ancient, nigh-on blown-out TV screen. You can also utilise rewind features and access save states and in-game maps if you feel no guilt about cheating your way through many of the game’s labyrinths.

The package includes Wonder Boy, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Monster World II: The Dragon’s Trap, Monster World III, and Monster World IV, the latter two being salient Mega Drive entries among a series of generally excellent games. Presentation is simplistic, but fine, with wallpaper for 4:3 aspect ratios and some nice music accompanying the menus. There’s even an enormous gallery section absolutely stuffed with everything from concept art to arcade flyers, accompanying soundtrack options, and more.

Want to know what really grinds our gears, though? Eight months ago we reviewed Wonder Boy Collection, citing a decent package but criticising content held back for the Strictly Limited Games physical release. Well, now all that content is here, adding back the two missing games (Wonder Boy III and The Dragon’s Trap) and all the console variations. To quote our conclusion, “It’s totally feasible on current-gen hardware to include every Wonder Boy title, on every platform, with every region variation, rather than limiting the standard production to a nicely curated but somewhat meagre selection of four.”

So, if you shelled out your hard-earned cash for that collection, you are now the proud owner of an inferior package less than a year down the line. Additionally, if you overspent on a physical ‘Strictly Limited’ copy, you might feel none too pleased that it’s no longer strictly limited whatsoever.

The final nail in the coffin, though, of this poorly conceived marketing exercise, is that you can own this, the comprehensive ‘Anniversary’ collection, in digital format, for the grand total of $50. Yes, you read that right: fifty dollars. For many fans, you no doubt own these games in some form or another already, since they’ve been released multiple times over the decades on various platforms. For that princely sum you would have to be an absolute Wonder Boy die-hard to consider it — and digital die-hards will have doubtless purchased the previous collection, meaning you'll be doubling up if you want the full set. Oddly enough, there are listings for the physical release online that are selling for $10 less, not including shipping.

Based on these circumstances, our appraisal is a difficult task. If we were tallying solely based on the content of the package, it would do well. If price isn’t an issue and you didn’t purchase the previous release already, you can add three digits to the scoreline, as this is certainly the superior of the two collections. But our primary job as reviewers is to provide information that helps you decide on how to spend your disposable income - income you’ve no doubt worked very hard to accrue. Since the entire release structure and its exploitative nature is so distasteful, however, we feel genuinely loathed to award a lofty score that indicates glowing praise.