Thanks to CYBERFRONT for the review code
Title: Wonder Boy Returns
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 03/30/2017
Being a remake of Westone’s 1986 Wonder Boy Arcade game, you play as Wonder Boy (known as Tom-Tom in the Arcade game) who sets out on a quest throughout many worlds to save his beloved Tina from an evil demon!
Right off the bat something that’s very likely to turn away fans of the original is the new artstyle, which looks really strange compared to the 8-Bit design of the original. Rather than go for high quality animation like in Teslagrad or improved 2D sprites like in Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, Wonder Boy Returns looks as if it was taken from one of those old flash game websites you visited back in high-school, with cartoony character designs and choppy animation. It’s rather jarring considering how the menus and cutscenes are well designed (if poorly translated) and the animations of Wonder Boy and Tina are much better compared to every enemy in the game.
At least the backgrounds don’t look half-bad, staying faithful to the original while adding in some cool new designs later on. On a side note, you can unlock the original 8-bit Wonder Boy as a playable character upon collecting a certain amount of Tina Dolls (more on that later) and every one of his animations are lifted straight from the arcade game. Even the axe and skateboard change to 8-bit when you play as him, though unfortunately the enemies and music do not.
Speaking of music, that has also been upgraded from the original, although like with the visuals it might turn away long-time fans. While there are a few catchy remixes (such as the title screen theme and themes of the Ocean and Cave levels) a lot of themes old and new have this strange techno sound to them, and it can get grating real quick, especially with tunes such as the forest theme. (Which being the iconic Stage 1-1 theme really hurts to hear) The sound effect of defeating an enemy might also annoy you, since it’s nothing more than a squeaky toy sound, for whatever reason.
Considering this is a remake of the original Arcade Wonder Boy, the gameplay is exactly the same as the original, and I’m pleased to report that the game controls really tightly all things considered. You can move left to right using the D-Pad, while jumps are done with the X button, and Running and high jumps are done by holding down the square button in combination with moving or jumping. That right there is the entire control scheme, and the main objective of each level is to avoid all the enemies, rush to the end of the stage and grab all the fruit that pops up in each of the levels, just like old times!
While it does seem like the game itself is a straightforward platformer with little depth, there’re some improvements to the remake to make it appealing to modern gamers. For starters, each of the 60 levels have three Tina Dolls hidden around, which act just like a star coin in the New Super Mario Bros series. Find all three in a stage and you’re good to go for completion purposes. Thankfully none of these dolls are as annoying to get as the ones in Wonder Boy due to the level select and infinite retries, which keeps things a lot more fair than the Arcade original.
Another thing that helps make it accessible comes from the three difficulty levels, each of which offer their own way to play. Easy Mode is a super flexible mode where you can choose any level in any order you like, meaning that you can jump right to the final level and beat the game if you so desire, and there’s not many hazards. Normal and Hell modes simply add a few more enemies to the mix and lock every level until you clear the level preceding it, making the progression the traditional linear method.
And finally, the last mode of the game is the Challenge Mode, where the progression is just like the arcade counterpart, forcing you to run through every single level on hell difficulty without a level select or continue option. Getting all 120 dolls in this mode requires total mastery of the game, and is the go-to mode for masochists.
In conclusion, Wonder Boy Returns is a remake that plays it safe. While it does add a few new additions like different playable characters and an improved difficulty balance, this is pretty much the same game you remember but with a coat of paint that may or may be not appealing to you. If you can get past the odd presentation, you’ll find a game that’s still a lot of fun to play and is pretty solid overall. Unfortunately, the $15 pricetag is rather steep for a game like this, as outside of the very basic trophy list, there’s really no motivation to replay the game after 100%ing it. Since the game’s trophy difficulty is rather high (since it requires beating Challenge mode) you could argue that you’ll still get your money’s worth through the difficulty alone.
However, for those who simply want to kick back and go through the game once without worrying about trophies, you won’t really have much in the way of content, so I’d recommend waiting for a sale if at all possible. With all that out of the way, I give Wonder Boy Returns 6 a out of 10, and for the current price I can only strongly recommend it to fans of the series who are curious to give the formula of the original entry another shot. All in all, it’s a very fun platformer, although a shallow and basic one.