Thursday, March 31, 2011

Buyer's Remorse

It was a perfect storm, really, a combination of events against which I was powerless.
Recently having played through Athena on the NES, I was in the mood for more action-adventure goodness. World of Warcraft was down for maintenance, so my lunchtime gaming was in jeopardy. I turned to Steam and saw an ad for Sega Genesis Classics, most of which I already own in one form or another on PS2 or 360, but... hang on... what's this? Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair?

Many years ago, my friend Jason let me borrow his Power Base Converter and the Sega Master System game Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap. It was a fantastic platforming game with some RPG elements, had an exploration element, and was one of the few SMS games I ever played that felt like it could stand in the same league as the NES greats. I had always heard there was a Sega Genesis entry in the series. The numbering felt a little weird, but I chalked it up to my creaky memory. Maybe Dragon's Trap was actually Wonder Boy 2? (It wasn't.) Monster Lair is probably like Dragon's Trap, but with all the power of the Sega Genesis behind it!

So I bought it. It was only $2.99, after all.

It turns out that it's not the game I thought it was. I wanted another hybrid RPG action-adventure game, but Monster Lair is actually a... shooter?

It's a very basic one, too. Every World is divided into two stages. The first one is a forced-scrolling platforming stage where your life constantly degrades and you pick up fruit to fill it back up, and you get various powerups that let you shoot enemies with varying degrees of effectiveness. In that screenshot above I have the Wide Shot, which fires straight ahead of you and suddenly flies open into a nearly screen-high wall of death. This next screenshot reveals the powerup you never really want, the Whirly Blades. They spin around you extremely tightly, daring you to smash into enemies in an attempt to make this cruddy weapon useful.

The second stage of every World is a forced scrolling shooter where you're on the back of a dragon and have free movement, eventually facing off with a Boss. The Bosses up to the point I've seen so far (the fifth World, I think, although they're all pretty samey and run together) are not incredibly exciting, but apparently there are some interesting ones later on. Right now they seem to be bags of hit points that spawn streams of enemies at you to dodge.

It's not a *bad* game, and I've already put a couple hours into it and will keep going until I've seen more of it, but it's just not what I wanted. It's extremely simple and straightforward, just about the opposite of Athena in every way, and the only thing it shares with Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap is that it has similar character designs.

Oh, and if you're wondering, it turns out that there's the main Wonder Boy series, and some of those entries are part of the 'Monster World' sub-series. The Monster World sub-series is the one with the exploration and RPG elements I craved. So Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's trap on SMS is actually Wonder Boy 3: Monster World 2, and the Sega Genesis game I was expecting is actually Wonder Boy 5: Monster World 3, or as it was called when it was released in the U.S., Wonder Boy in Monster World.

How could I ever have confused that with Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair?

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