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Monster World IV (Genesis) artwork

Monster World IV (Genesis) review


"What's interesting about the dungeons though, is that they all have different ideas about them, and while the overall conquering method stays the same, you'll need to borrow different approaches to do so."



Monster World IV was developed by Westone and published by Sega in 1994, and is the last installment in the Wonderboy action/adventure series. It was exclusive to Japan, but it's been recently transported to Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

It's a platforming adventure game with some slight role playing elements to it, which takes place in Monster World, a kingdom with a classic ''Arabian'' type setting. Baggy pants, flying carpets, snakes in jars...it's all there.
The disposition of said kingdom can be related to the earlier games, although besides Dragon's Curse, I haven't played any Wonderboy games. Fortunately, no knowledge of the series is required to enjoy this game. Play as Asha, indeed, a cute Wondergirl with green hair and a mean scimitar. A budding warrior who is sensitive to the spirits which govern the balance of the kingdom if not the entire world, she is embarked on her great quest when she receives pleas for help from the spirits. What happened to the spirits, and who is responsible for abducting them? Asha leaves her small village to respond to the call, and ultimately restore order to the land.

The story is rather cliché and a little barebones, but it completely makes up for it with its own unique charm, fun characters and dialogue, as well as, actually, some rather impressive plot twists. The kingdom is also home to the Pepelogoos, cute little round monsters that fly around with their ears. These creatures are vital in the game, both in plot and gameplay. While the storyline is total traditional save the kingdom fanfare, it does a great job of maintaining itself by including all its elements equally to construct an enjoyable experience. From the generic townspeople to a hilariously jaded genie to the stereotypically evil wizards controlled from beyond, everyone and everything has its place and job, and nothing fails to deliver. Now I may be a little biased, and am basing this on the idea that today, the dialogue seems kind of funny and goofy, and perhaps I wasn't to take it as such...however, despite this, there is quite an attention to detail, and you can tell that a lot of effort and work was put into the story and its environment. This, in my opinion, is very important, and in this case, Monster World IV delivers. The story progresses quite well as you go along, and never lets you down when it comes to interest, despite the lack of meat here and there.

The game is general platforming and hack and slashing, with nothing really new to offer, but what it uses for core gameplay works near perfectly, and most importantly, it's fun. Your life is a set of hearts, which you can increase by buying stronger armor from the main city, and collecting ''life drops'', blue tear shaped jewels scattered all over the game. Some are in plain sight, others require a lot of experiments and exploration to obtain.
Wage war against adorable but dangerous monsters like boxing werewolves and rapier wielding skeletons, travel through long and oppressive dungeons, free some spirits...it all sounds pretty simple, and it is, however, your skill and patience will often be put to the test.
You have six major dungeons to travel through, which are all rather lengthy. What's interesting about the dungeons though, is that they all have different ideas about them, and while the overall conquering method stays the same, you'll need to borrow different approaches to do so. One requires you to incant spells to pass through doors, solve puzzles where the hints are either rather easy or way too cryptic, (although I suspect that in some cases, translation issues are at work here) one area is a complete maze that, while it can be mastered, will force you to utilize brain and skill. Another stage is basically just fighting a legion of enemies, while yet another consists of horrendously perilous platforming where one hit deaths can frustrate players quite a bit.
But all the dungeons are really fun, and that they all have different aspects and goals to completing them keeps everything constantly fresh. Everything is always new and a challenge, and while some of the challenges can be steep, they are possible with concentration and determination. Nothing's unfair, it just doesn't grant you constant checkpoints or saving opportunities at every street corner.

It has to be mentioned, you have a pet that accompanies you for most of the journey. One of the aforementioned Pepelogoos. He helps you reach high spots, clear vast chasms, the bugger LOVES fire and you can get him to sniff out secret doors. Obviously, his tasks are necessary to clearing the dungeons and the obstacles within them; but you'll grow accustomed to him. The developers did a good job of making the player like him by making him a character in the story, as well as making him part of the gameplay. Although it's painfully obvious that you'd never be able to clear the game without him, or collect some vital life drops, he becomes your friend and, of course, a part of the adventure.

As tradition demands, foes and bosses are present, and they actually pose next to no threat once you get the controls down. It's easy to predict their actions after a few brief encounters, and I found myself breezing through the monsters like a mad sandstorm. They aren't without their threats; but it's all a matter of getting their patterns down.
Some bosses have hard up patterns you will absolutely need to learn in order to defeat them, while others merely seem to require you to wail on them until they die. I don't have any real qualm about this, but I do wish that the work on the enemies could have been beefed up; add a few more kinds, don't leave so many long stretches scarce...not a big deal, but definitely, the platforming will kick your ass a lot more than the monsters will.
As I mentioned, some of the platforming bits can be downright cruel and frustrating, but thankfully, the controls for the game work quite decently, and they get the job done. However...there are times where everything seems to be so hectic, and you end up getting knocked around or fly into complete hazard. Asha's reach with her sword is a traitor, because it seems unfairly short, but it actually hits foes a little further than where the sword graphic ends. Until you realize that, some enemies can be damn annoying. It's nice that bumping or jumping into an enemy makes you bounce back instead of taking damage, but it can be a double edged sword. Sends you into pits, hazardous obstacles or into other foes. The control works, to be sure, but it does take a little bit before you can get around its slight hissy fits, and take advantage of something I don't personally think was intended by the developers. The controls are highly responsive and accurate, for the most part. If they aren't, it's usually your fault, until you learn to master and take advantage of them. Downward thrusts and jumping thrusts are fun, but only vital in some few rare situations.
Although I'm not sure how necessary it was to add such intricate measures of combat to such a simplistic battleground, the animations are pretty cool. :D

Which brings me to the graphics. Excellent work, and while it's simplistic, it's pretty, bright and colorful. I looked forward to new areas constantly just to see what they would look like and see what kind of critters I would gace, and seldom was I disappointed. Some areas can be a little bland and a little too tradiitonal looking, but mostly, it's some good eye candy. If you like cute stuff, you're sure to enjoy the look of the game. Asha looks totally adorable when she jumps, and it's hilarious seeing your money bag bounce around as it's getting filled with coins. If you're not a fan of super deformed characters or big Arabian pants though, there's still a lot to enjoy.
Big ominous bosses, such as an angsty flying horse with a morning star, something that looks like a nuclear powered ice dispenser and even an angel with big fluffy wings who hurls fire at you. I wish I could talk about the last boss, seriously. When the colors or epic factor isn't there, the originality and fun sure are. From your main city to simple blue turning to red skies, I was never bored with the graphics. The work is there, the developers obviously wanted to create something you could get into, and it works, even by today's standards, considering the age of the game.

What's left to speak of; the sound. The sound works. Nothing too impressive, but it's quite charming. I can't really say the music is all that amazing. It's done well for what it is, I'm not saying it's bad. But it's nothing memorable. The game has a theme song, which it re uses and remixes a lot through its entirety. Won't get on your nerves, in fact it's pretty cool; but it won't inspire you to become the President or anything. Everything is crisp and clear though. The sound effects are really neat. I like the whoop! sound it makes when Asha hops off a platform, and it's funny that when she lands on the ground, it sounds like she's wearing a suit of chainmail. Blings and bweeps are forever present as you strike down foes, collect loot and even go through doors.

The point of this review is to try and show people that, while the game doesn't offer anything new nor does it excel at much of anything that might be considered a stellar level...it is what it wanted to be. There was passion and an idea at work here, and it shows through atmosphere and gameplay. The game is very charming, playing is fun, the anticipation for progression is there and hell...took me less than a week to finish it, but I found it sickeningly addicting. It has its flaws; the controls take a bit to get used to, despite that it's nothing that should be complicated at all, it's a linear game, (but it does have a fair bit to explore, with some rather non evident secrets to locate) with some few uninspired moments...but it has a life of its own, and it wants you to have fun with it. And you will if you like action adventure games, despite some seriously hardcore platforming. Nothing in this game is unfair, if you have that little old school touch. And this is an old school game that most Western folks don't know about; but is totally worth discovering.

I give it a nine because of some lack of inspiration here and there, controls that are a little too full of themselves and the linearity of the game itself. (and not being able to revisit areas you already beat, but that's my trophy whore speaking here, which doesn't actually affect my given score) All that can be forgiven though, I had a total BLAST with this game. I think a nine is fair. :)

Rating: 9/10

JujuZombie's avatar
Community review by JujuZombie (May 27, 2012)

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