Wonderboy in Monster Land is the second installment in the Wonderboy franchise and the first game in the Monster Land series. This game is another example of Westone Studios playing Sega like a fool. Much like the first Wonder Boy game, the code for Monster Land was again sold to Hudson who released it as Bikkuriman World and changed the graphics and sprites to match the characters from an anime series of the same name.
The game starts with Wonder Boy in nothing but a grass skirt. The girl he just risked his life to save in the last game seems to be gone as well. Wonderboy then gets given a sword and some armor from an old mystic who lives in a tree trunk, and from there the Monster Land adventure begins.
There are a lot of differences from the first game. Firstly, the whole two-button-jump system has been replaced by standard one-button-jump normality. Secondly there is gold to collect, stores to shop at, magic to use and equipment to equip. These are RPG elements at their very simplest, but they add a hell of a lot to the game. One gripe I have with this system is that while they re-spawn, each enemy only gives one gold piece, once. This means that you can’t go out on a murderous rampage in the hopes of collecting enough gold to buy the best shield or boots or whatever, you simply have to make do with what you have. The shops also close up permanently after a few visits, some after just a single purchase. There are also no experience or attribute points, so there is no real need to grind at all, which I guess is kind of a good thing.
Wonder Boy himself is a little more developed as a playable character. The weapon and armour upgrades really have noticeable effect on gameplay. The better the sword, the more damage you deal and the better the armour the less damage you take (not exactly rocket science). Boots are a must-have as they greatly increase your running speed and jumping distance. That may not sound overly important in a game that classes itself as an action-RPG, but there are actually quite a lot of platform jumping sections in the game and many of them leave little room for error. The only item that seemed kind of pointless to upgrade was the shield as they all stop projectile attacks regardless of which one you have equipped. However I do recommend that you buy the shield, even the cheapest one, as soon as possible because it makes the game a hell of a lot easier.
While this game does have levels, with the game getting progressively difficult, there are no areas like the last game and boss battles are spread throughout the levels. There are doors at various points in the levels which lead to various establishments that correspond to the markings above the doors themselves (the pub, for example, has a picture of a beer mug above the door). There are a number of doors that do not have any signs or markings. Some of those doors lead to random encounters with towns folk who give out seemingly useless advice while others lead to boss battles. Some of the boss battles are optional but I would recommend fighting them all as even the fights that aren’t mandatory normally have a valuable item as a reward.
This game was well received when it was released and I personally think it has aged pretty well. It is a little more difficult than the first Wonderboy, but the game normally feels like a challenge as opposed to an impossibility.