20th Jul2021

Retro-Spective: ‘Wonderboy: Asha in Monster World’ & ‘Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

Video game nostalgia seems to be at an all-time high right now; either that or video game studios have just run out of ideas. Whatever the reason, we’re currently in the midst of a wave of old-school early video games getting reboots, remakes or reduxes. Case in point, the recently-released high def remakes of Wonderboy: Asha in Monster World (aka Monster World 4) and Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX

Wonderboy: Asha in Monster World

My experience with Wonderboy, unlike a lot of British gamers who grew up with the Sega Master System, is not actually an experience with Wonderboy. Let me explain… You see some of us actually were Nintendo fans back in the day and bought an NES rather than the SMS – in my case when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pack-in set was released in the UK and put on sale in Boots of all places! So how does that correlate with Wonderboy? Well on the NES we had a port of the first Wonderboy game in Hudsonsoft’s Adventure Island (which couldn’t be called Wonderboy due to legal wranglings between Sega and original developers Westone). That port lead to a myriad of sequels on the NES and SNES whilst the original Wonderboy franchise continued on it’s path of Sega’s systems – of which this game is a redux of the SIXTH title in the series, Monster World IV (Yes, 4. Confused?) which originally debuted in Japan back in 1994.

The plot of Wonderboy: Asha in Monster World is simple: Asha is chosen to leave her village in order to rescue missing spirits and to save the world. Simple right? Asha is also accompanied on her quest (once you unlock it) by her blue flying friend Pepelogoo. A friend who also opens up the game double-jump mechanic, which sits alongside a rather simplistic move set (remember this is a remaster of an old Megadrive game and thus controls were, at the time, limited) of a single sword swing hat can be implemented in ALL directions – including up and down, a rechargeable “magic hit” for extra damage and a shield. Asha can also throw Pepelogoo to do various tasks such as retrieve items and push buttons. Which also helps immensely when the game throws in puzzles to test your gaming skills!

Visually, whilst some have [wrongly] decried the art style of the remaster, to me Wonderboy: Asha in Monster World looks stunning. The cartoon style, complete with bright colourful characters, Mario-esque simple level art, is perfect for a fun game like this. The graphics scream fun and that’s perfectly matched by the gameplay which does TONS to recreate that old-school platforming experience but for modern audiences. Even if you haven’t played a Wonderboy/Monster World game before you easily get a feel for this one – the gameplay is that familiar to old-school gamers. My only issue was the manual save states. Unlike a lot of more modern games you actually need to save the game yourself whilst playing or – as I did on my first play – you’ll end up back at the beginning of the game when you restart it! It’s a minor quibble in a game that perfectly recreates the classic platform gaming of old in a more modern visual style.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX

Another Sega title getting a remake on the Switch is a surprising one. Well surprising if you grew up in the era of videogame company mascots… Whilst Nintendo had Super Mario, Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog. Whilst Nintendo had Kirby, Sega had Alex Kidd. Hell, Alex Kidd was so much a “Sega” mascot, a “Sega” character, the original Alex Kidd game –  the very game this is a remake of – was LITERALLY built-in to the Sega Master System and Master System 2. But that was then and this is now and sadly Sega are no longer in the console game (pun intended) so we get this, a remake of the original Alex Kidd in Miracle World, on the Nintendo Switch!

Now to be fair to this game, I never owned a Master System so my only experience with the original game was playing it round a friends house a few times. On the other hand as a HUGE platformer fan, I can appreciate any good platform game when I play it. And Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is, in my opinion, a great game! The main reason? Because it harkens back to a time when games were tough – there’s no forgiving here, you need to memorise levels to get past traps, beat enemies, collect essential items and more. And sometimes you still need to rely on luck to see you through… all of which remains true of this remake too! S0 if the game play hasn’t changed, what has?

Well, as usual, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX presents a graphically improved version of the original game and, like a number of remakes/remasters, you can actually switch between the more modern, updated graphics, and a “representation” of the original game, in its original 8-bit graphical style – all at the press of a button (or two). There are SOME tweaks to the game’s structure however, some that change the original game for some unexplained, some might say unwarranted, reason. Namely changes to boss battles to, honestly, make them easier. There are also more levels in this game than the original, which isn’t as big a deal as changing boss battles obviously – in fact it adds more to the game in terms of value for money. A trade-off between the two perhaps? Easier boss battles but more of them? Who knows. But as someone with only limited experience of the original game – and yes, I did think those old boss battles were hard as nails – the changes are too detracting… I’d dare say that the changes to the difficulty are probably aimed at younger gamers, who don’t know the original game but are attracted to this release with its bright colourful graphics and “cheeky-looking” hero. It’s also probably why this version of Alex Kidd in Miracle World also includes infinite lives…

Hardcore fans of Alex Kidd might be disappointed but those of us who aren’t too familiar with the game, or didn’t spend hours, nay days, trying to complete it, will have a good time with Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX and I for one would certainly welcome remakes of the sequels too!

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