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Wonder Boy (SMS) (Nintendo Virtual Console) Review
Review by 
8.25/10 from 6 user ratings
Let me know if you've played this one: in this platformer, the chubby hero has to rescue his girlfriend by avoiding obstacles, killing enemies with his trusty tomahawks, and occasionally hopping on a skateboard (while wearing protective head-wear, of course). His vitality is constantly ticking away, and must be refilled by grabbing fruits and vegetables in the levels before they disappear.

It's Adventure Island, right? Right. Well, Sega fans may have answered Wonder Boy, and they'd be correct as well: they are both the exact same game! Long story short: developer Westone made Wonder Boy in collaboration with Sega, who retained the rights to the name and certain characters. However, Westone retained the rights for everything else, and turned to Hudson to remake the game for the NES, practically unchanged save for the art, and the replacement of Tom-Tom, Wonder Boy's character, with Master Higgins, Hudson's spokesperson.

Now, don't go believing that since Wonder Boy is older, it is probably the worse version of this game. Not so! The Sega Master System was a very capable machine which output bright colors, and detailed graphics. As a result, Wonder Boy is probably more colorful than Adventure Island, and its hero actually looks like a cartoony human, unlike Master Higgins and his deformed face.

The level of challenge in this game is considerable: with a meter ticking away, you have to be constantly moving forward, but the cleverly placed obstacles push your reflexes (or your memorization capability) to their limits. The game may not automatically scroll forward (unless you have the skateboard power-up), but it definitely gives me that BIT.TRIP RUNNER vibe: you constantly have to go at breakneck speeds, but you are also constantly improving and learning. The challenge here is surmountable, as long as you keep at it.

The slipperiness of the hero may put off some people, but it is clear the character's abilities and the level design are perfectly tuned. He may not stop on a dime and his momentum means that it is near impossible for him to turn back after a jump, but that's the game: you cannot hesitate, as it will kill you more often than not. You have to press forward, always, and the obstacles are carefully placed to reward this type of play, with a few exceptions.

And that what makes this game a great arcade platformer, really. There are very few cheap deaths in this game which is all about speed, in a way, and I can't suppress the thought that this makes it the best platformer Sega has ever made, even better than the games of its popular other speedy hero.

I am astounded, really, at how much I have liked this game, as my memories of playing Adventure Island were not particularly positive ones. Now I am just pumped to play more games like this one. Sadly, the Wonder Boy series veered in a completely different direction. And the Adventure Island sequels, sticking closer to this formula, are sadly absent from the VC. Oh well. I suppose I can keep playing Wonder Boy over and over again, as I actually can't seem to get sick of it.

Fans of BIT.TRIP RUNNER and other platformers that are all about momentum and progression as opposed to exploration, check it out!

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 Excellent  9.0 / 10
04/11/11, 06:42
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I want this game now.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 07:02
Thanks for the review. I loved playing this game in the arcade and had the Adventure Island version when I was a kid. By the way, how did you format the Youtube video so it would look like that? I like the boxed look.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 08:54
It works only with youtube. (GVYT)code(/GVYT). Except, of course, using square brackets.

Use (GVYT=4:3) is it's not widescreen.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 09:02

Thanks. I'll use it for my Top Tens from now on (unless they are widescreen)

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 10:38
I too am surprised at how much I've been enjoying Wonder Boy. I've known of the Wonder Boy and Adventure Island games for awhile now, but this was my first time ever playing anything in either series. I'm definitely going to check out the later Wonder Boy games (I hear The Dragon's Trap is one of the best 8-bit games ever made), and the Adventure Island sequels as they hit the VC.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 11:55
I think I'd choose the NES version over this one just for the music. I certainly don't remember that version having such annoying music...

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 14:48
Guillaume said:

Fans of BIT.TRIP RUNNER and other platformers that are all about momentum and progression as opposed to exploration, check it out!
Sold. (I was going to get it anyways)

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 16:30
Don't you feel that it's your duty as an unpaid reviewer to play Adventure Island and check for differences?

I wonder what the cause of your severe about-face was. Maybe, like Zero, you hadn't played the original AI?

BTW, if you want more, you can always get New Adventure Island and Adventure Island WiiWare. And then mod your PS2 and import the Wonder Boy collection. There truly is a world of wonder (boy).

What a terrible name, though.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 17:47   Edited:  04/11/11, 17:48
@anandxxx We don't know that I haven't played the original Adventure Island. I probably have. But maybe I haven't. If anyone should know if I have, I should. But I don't.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 17:49   Edited:  04/11/11, 17:49

Geez, keep up! I already said in the retro game club thread that I'm probably going to get Adventure Island. And yes, I played it back in the day, but I guess not enough to "get it".

Also, I already reviewed the Wiiware game!

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 17:55
Haha, WTF? I didn't even see that. You are a machine, dude.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 18:08
The screen looks more smooshed than Adventure Island.

Optical illusion somehow?

--WOW. Music sounds a LOT better in Adventure Island (and it VARIES). Do yourself a favor. REALLY.
I can't listen to that anymore. Cripes.

Posted by 
 on: 04/11/11, 22:45
I see you really enjoyed this game Guillame, that's a high score! And good review, I enjoyed playing this (thanks to Retro Game Club #2!).

Unfortunately I have not played BIT.TRIP RUNNER yet, so I can't compare the two, but this game does seem designed for a "keep moving" type of gameplay. But the vitality meter, I found, is pretty generous, and fruit is a plenty, so even though I hesitated at some key platforming moments, I wasn't in danger of losing all my vitality.

And the music is not bad... I can tell you it sounds better in the game. I don't know what happened in that video recording, it sounds a bit... off, like high-pitched or something. I love the 8-bit synth sound, it reminds me of some Genesis games actually.

Posted by 
 on: 04/12/11, 05:04
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