Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch)

Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection should be a slam dunk, as compilations of classic games often are. And in some ways, it is just that. But a handful of curious decisions knock it back from a great collection of great games to simply a good collection of great games.

Actually, hold that thought. Are all these games great? The answer to that may depend, to an extent, on your nostalgia. But let’s quickly, and I mean quickly, go through my favorites. There are six games (with a whopping 21 variants overall), so I apologize if I can’t delve into each one. You can search the site for past WB games we’ve covered.

The original Wonder Boy (1986) is a title that gamers respect for launching the franchise. And even if you’re new to the series, there’s a good chance you’ve played this debut. Adventure Island, anyone? This isn’t the last instance of a WB game being virtually adapted and ported under a different name. The reasons behind this are both interesting and confusing (at least when experiencing these games as a kid…who am I kidding, I’m still confused), but that’s a story for another time. Wonder Boy is a fun, if brisk and challenging, platformer and the game with the most significant representation in this collection. I personally enjoy seeing the SG-1000 port, with its choppy flipbook presentation in motion. Revenge of Drancon, an additional naming oddity, is another game I remember as a kid on Game Gear. Whether you have a similar mindset to mine and get a kick out of exploring unique ports, or are content with just a single definitive version, this game is a classic.

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair (1988) is what drew me to this particular collection, as it’s less widely available than some of the other WB games; I missed this on the Wii Virtual Console back in the day. That version was based on the TG-16 CD’s Monster Lair, which I remember as a Duo owner. Sadly, that version is not in this collection (none of the PC Engine versions are). The Genesis port is fun, but I long for that CD-quality soundtrack. In any case, this auto-scrolling platformer/shmup hybrid is underrated and a lot of fun in co-op. So, grab a friend for some old-school fun.

1994’s Monster World IV (dropping the Wonder Boy moniker) has a new character, Asha, in the lead, who won me over with her cute and fluid animation. The platforming here is tight. Coupled with clever combat, creative designs, lush colors, and more, this might be my favorite game in the collection, and it has made me interested in the remake. The plot is mixed, but the catchy music doesn’t get old. I wondered how I could have missed a game of such high quality back in the day, as I played a lot of Genesis in 1994. Then I remembered that it didn’t get a North American release until 2012 via the Wii VC. Like the original Wonder Boy, this was also released in the initial WB collection.

Therein lies an issue that I can’t pretend doesn’t exist. As you may recall, “the perfect Wonder Boy package” was released on the Nintendo Switch less than 7 months earlier. Now, you have a more expensive collection that still lacks some system ports. It puts a damper on what should have been an easy recommendation.

Make no mistake, I still recommend this as a good collection overall. And there are plenty of extras like art, scans, maps, etc. The soundtrack feature curiously pulls up more art, not music; I’ve always preferred other user interfaces over ININs. I am grateful for the means to remap controls, something I recommend you take advantage of.

The shadow of a prior collection from mere months earlier, plus the fact that this is pricier (while still feeling incomplete), is tough to ignore. Yet there are still plenty of good games here, so Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is one to grab on sale.

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