Wonder Boy Review

Developer: Sega Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1988 Also On: None

I’m still a bit uncertain about topics like this, but according to what I’ve heard, videogame companies back in the day used to share ideas. Wonder Boy is an example of this supposed truth and presents one of the best comparisons between the Master System and the Nintendo Entertainment System. Before beginning, let me state at the outset that Sega did not copy off of Hudson Soft. Hudson’s Adventure Island and Wonder Boy were the same game essentially, just for different systems. The latter, in fact, was without a doubt the better of the two.

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Graphically, this game is wonderful. The colors are vibrant and abundant with excellent animations for all the characters. The title screen is pretty showy for its time. The backgrounds tend to be somewhat flat since there is usually no sense of depth, but this isn’t true for some levels. However, again, remember this is an older game, so I can’t mark it down in this category because of something like this.

Wonder Boy’s music and sound is as equally impressive as its graphics. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again, the Master System doesn’t have a good sound chip. However, in spite of this, the programmers did an excellent job here. This is probably the only area where the NES version shines in comparison, but still this title is nicely drawn together by its music. It’s basically the same throughout with some variation, but still very good. Sound effects are fitting and well placed.

If you’re familiar with Hudson’s Adventure Island, then Wonder Boy will seem right at home with you. It’s the same game essentially, with little difference other than a better presentation and better gameplay. Basically, you control Wonder Boy who has to save his girlfriend from an evil king. There are nine levels in all with four stages each and a boss at the end of every fourth stage. You run, throw stone axes, ride skateboards and collect fruits/vegetables so your life bar doesn’t run down to zero and you lose a life.

There are some bonus areas, hidden surprises, as well as a hidden level that you can only unlock if you locate and capture all thirty-six “dolls” on levels 1-1 through 9-4. Level 10 is a culmination of the game’s difficulty in its entirety and it’s pretty hard at points. Overall, very basic but a lot of fun. Where the Master System version is better is that Wonder Boy is just a lot easier than Hudson’s Adventure Island, mainly due to the controls, which are much more responsive in this game. Also, the NES version was just a lot more difficult to the point that it becomes tedious. You won’t find that here.

As far as creativity is concerned I really don’t know what to say. Both Wonder Boy and Hudson’s Adventure Island were released around the same time, but one of them had to have come first. I don’t know the answer to this, and marks would have possibly been higher had I known the history behind both titles. Regardless if it was before or after, I decided to give it a generally high rating because it’s an excellent game with plenty of variety.

I’ll certainly play this game again in the future. It took close to two hours to beat, which is much shorter than the four hour run through Hudson’s (with cheats!) for a worthless ending. Though Wonder Boy carries the same ending, it’s a lot more enjoyable through the duration and can easily capture the interest of anyone interested in older games. Plus, it has a hidden level that I don’t seem to remember being in Hudson’s Adventure Island at all. I could be wrong, though. Tons of replay value here.

Wonder Boy is without a doubt one of the best games for the Master System. Three excellent sequels followed, which I will be reviewing in the future. They’re totally different than this particular game, but it’s still a lot of fun to play an old title like this and find it just as good as when you remember picking it up at the store. Plus, it’s one of the best games to use to compare and contrast the abilities of the SMS and NES, the former winning out this time. If you have a Master System and don’t own this game, make a point to get it as soon as possible. It is easily in the top ten.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 10
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 10
Final: 9
Written by Stan Review Guide

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