Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch)- Review

Thanks to Bliss Brain for the review code

Title: Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection
System: Nintendo Switch
Price: $49.99
Release Date: 01/26/2023


Last year, we reviewed the Wonder Boy Collection, a four-pack of some rather enjoyable entries in the Wonder Boy series, that was missing two of the main installments, mainly for the sake of this very set, an ultimate collection that not only includes the main six games, but every non-hudson home port that exists, for twenty one variations in total. Yes, that even includes the SG-1000 version of the first Wonder Boy and SMS Monster World III port.

So, just how does this set compare to the older one, and was it even worth splitting this compilation the way it was? Well, let’s go into every variant, compare with the original collection, and find out…


Just like before, you have a collection of games emulated by Ratalaika, who seems to be hit and miss these days. While Gleylancer was godlike and the ultimate version of the game, recent ports from them seem to have some odd emulation quirk or oddity to them, and the prior Wonder Boy compilation from them had a huge one on the presentation front: a forced border that couldn’t be toggled off in any way, shape or form, and was honestly just unpleasant to look at, even in handheld mode.

Why the original collection never got patched to allow for a toggle (especially when prior Ratalaika ports let you toggle borders or had flat-out better looking ones) still bewilders me, and had me worried for this set, but thankfully, the Anniversary Collection lets you disable the border from the last set, which also is still the only border present. You can even adjust the saturation of it, if you want to make the four heroes look comic book styled. Pretty big bummer to not have added the key art of each game for wallpaper purposes, but turning the border off is still very, very welcome. Thankfully, the great CRT filter options are still available, and the display options are just as good as ever, making these games look very crisp on whichever display you play on.

In fact, just like the Turrican Anthologies, Ratalaika even added some cool extras! All the games have stage maps available as a menu option, and these come in handy for the labyrinthine final stage of Monster Land, finding secrets in the original Wonder Boy, or optional items in the Monster World trilogy. Also pretty rad, is the addition of a new color palette that makes the Sega Master System version of Wonder Boy in Monster World look closer to the 16-bit version, a very pretty quality of life boost for sure.


There’s even a gallery here, and speaking of which, it’s absolutely robust, including box art, manual scans, key art, and so much more from across every game in the set, definitely aiming to give the PS2 compilation of Monster World a run for its money, a far cry from the confusing and inaccurate single page gallery from the prior set. Really the only things off about it that I could notice, came from how some versions like US Game Gear Wonder Boy is missing manual scans and the Monster World II US SMS box art is that of the PAL version, despite the manual being from the US release, an odd mismatch to say the least.


Emulation wise, every game looks great, with no visual oddities of any sort that I noticed dabbling through every version. The SG-1000 port of Wonder Boy still strains itself to scroll and tears apart just like it originally did, though the audio is a little more quiet sounding, and the FM audio emulation for the first Monster World and Dragon’s Trap are done justice from what I can tell. The Genesis games all sound just like they should as well, which is no surprise since they were fine in the last set.


Same drill as always for these reviews: A lot of what I noted in the last review applies to the games present here, save for some QOL changes and the new ports on offer here, which I’ll focus on more in this set. With 21 versions in total, there’s a lot to cover, but I did my best to be as helpful with it as I can, both for those who bought the original set, and folks who want to start here.

WONDER BOY You know how I was annoyed by the Arcade version having an awkward multi button control scheme you couldn’t turn off in the original set, mapping stuff like the high jump and run to individual buttons? Well, it seems Ratalaika heard, or planned this division from the get-go, as now that “enhanced” control scheme is back as an optional QOL feature (also available for all the ports as well), and the proper, two button run and jump control setup is available as it should be, thank god. Otherwise, the Arcade Wonder Boy is just like it was in the prior set, only now way more fun due to better control.

So, how are the other ports? I’ve only played one of them before, and that version is here in the form of the SG-1000 version. It’s uh, rather ambitious, in all the weird ways. It really, really doesn’t want to run on the system, and scrolls so terribly due to how that console really wasn’t a system meant for scrolling platformers to begin with! It only has five stages, with the final one being in outer space for some reason, and the game even has backward warp zones, which trigger in such an abrupt way that you may even think the game has crashed when encountering one. Still, for an oddball port, it plays decently enough, and is definitely worth running through for funsies.

As for the Master System and Game Gear ports, they’re much better, aiming to replicate the Arcade experience and expand upon it, with both versions adding extra worlds as incentive for collecting all of the dolls hidden in each level. The SMS version in particular has very impressive spritework, with several feeling as if they’re 1:1 recreations of the Arcade, with only the UI and music change being the indicators that something is very different. Likewise, the Game Gear version takes the SMS version and shrinks it to a smaller screen, which impacts viewing, making a tough game even tougher, but not to the same degree as other ports from the Master System, and the music is a lot worse. Ultimately, these ports are fine additions, with the US Game Gear one having the nonsensical rename of “Revenge of Drancon” despite no visible gameplay or design changes from the other ports of the game.

WONDER BOY IN MONSTER LAND- The original Arcade game is back, with the same good emulation and control setup as before, so not much to note on that. New here are the Sega Master System versions, with the Japanese one having FM audio support. Oddly, you cannot toggle this for the US version, nor can you toggle it off on the Japanese version: US is PSG, Japanese is FM.

Both soundtracks have their own charm to them, and the SMS port of Monster Land is much, much nicer than the Arcade original. The timer isn’t nearly as abusive, enemies don’t hit nearly as hard, and the overall experience is a lot more easygoing, even if the lack of continues is a huge downer. (though that is where the rewind and save features come in handy, at least) There’s even some level changes/additions here and there, making this feel like a final, polished version of the Arcade game. Definitely worth a play, even if you didn’t care much for the arcade original.

WONDER BOY III: MONSTER LAIR- The first of two exclusive games in this set! This title is my favorite of the Arcade trilogy, and Monster Lair is just tons of fun. An auto-scrolling shooter, Monster Lair is a co-op adventure, tasking the player from going through run and gun platforming stages, before ending in a horizontal shooter boss stage. It’s simple, easy to control, fun for scoring, and a blast with a friend, with my only gripe being the game’s length since Monster Lair is an absurd 14 stage gauntlet that should have been half the length; it just overstays the welcome.


This is also the game I noticed a pretty glaring emulation error, in that diagonal movement with the left analog stick is impossible. This doesn’t mean a thing on the sidescrolling platform sections, but when it comes to the horizontal shooter segments where you’re supposed to move in all directions to dodge and shoot foes, it tripped me up several times, especially coming from the Astro City mini. Thankfully the D-Pad does allow you to move diagonally, but I’m a little surprised that control error wasn’t caught.

As for the Genesis version, it’s uglier and sounds worse, but is still a two player game, a little bit shorter, and has limited continues. Not much else to say, though I feel this game is the one to suffer the most for the lack of the Hudson ports, as the Turbo CD version, while also limited in continues, looks more Arcade accurate and has a rocking arcade soundtrack. Still, Monster Lair is a fine game, and I’m glad it got an OK port here, even if the Arcade version could use some extra polish in this set.

WONDER BOY III: MONSTER WORLD II: THE DRAGON’S TRAP- Long name to explain the place in the series history? Yes. But this came after Monster Lair, and directly follows up on Monster Land, turning the Wonder Boy series into a metroidvania where the main objective is to travel the land, regain your human form and use other animal forms to discover secrets and make progress.

Both US and JP SMS and Game Gear versions are here, with the SMS versions allowing for both PSG/FM audio toggles. Shockingly, the Game Gear port is fine-tuned for the hardware, and even has slight quality of life improvements over the SMS version, which is a pretty great version as well. Whichever way you choose to play, Dragon’s Trap is still a wonderful metroidvania that proves here why it got a modern remake, and all the versions included here play brilliantly.

WONDER BOY V: MONSTER WORLD III: WONDER BOY IN MONSTER WORLD: The first Genesis Metroidvania in the series, and a game that I have a fondness for! Each version here is pretty notable, and while the US Genesis one here plays just the same and is emulated as good as the prior set, the Japanese version may also be worth playing if you either can read the game enough like I can, or memorized the US version by heart, since it’s a lot easier and ditches the need to reload a save upon death, just sending you back to the last inn with reduced money.


As if that regional difference wasn’t neat enough, Sega published a full blown Sega Master System demake of the game back in the game, and it’s included here in this set, and is definitely a curio worth playing. Cutting out some screens, weapons, and parts of the game entirely, this crunches the 16-bit adventure into a fun 8-bit experience, although shoddy hit detection does make this a bit more annoying to play compared to the original.


Still, it’s impressive seeing how much of the experience made it onto the master system, and even without the enhanced palette, the difference in shading between the original Wonder Boy SMS game and this demake is worlds apart, showing how much the great Master System could handle over time. Since SMS MWIII used passwords, save states are super handy here, too, and this version ended up being the very first game I fired up, and the enhanced palette is an even cooler bonus!

MONSTER WORLD IV: The only differences between this compilation and the last one is the addition of the maps, and what really pleased me, the addition of a button to toggle the Super Debug Mode menu, something I lamented not being able to do in prior Ratalaika ports! Otherwise, you have the handy run button added, and rock solid emulation of both JP and EN versions, just now with the option to turn off that stupid border and destroy the sequence of the game if you so wish.


Not much else to add besides all the prior praise I had for it being a great game, and this is pretty much the best emulation of it that is available now. Third time’s the charm!


In conclusion, this could and should have been the ultimate Wonder Boy set, surpassing that of the PS2 one, even. In a lot of ways, Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection is that set, especially thanks to cool additions like the enhanced palette for SMS MWIII but in other ways it also feels like an annoying means to milk money out of fans.

While I didn’t mind the approach of a smaller retail set for Turrican Flashback due to how long off that set was from the full compilation (and how it fit as a starter set to that series), how it was done with Wonder Boy was just disappointing, with the last set not even including all the main games in the series, and having baffling presentation choices that were fixed here in Anniversary, but are still unchanged in that set, essentially making this more expensive pack the only means of playing the Wonder Boy games without an ugly forced border, or with weird, annoying control tweaks.

To make things even sillier on that end, this very set is getting imported to Japan in a month, which includes the base versions of the six original games… In Japanese only. Granted, some of these games don’t even need english, but it baffles me that ININ would make three skus for a series that is already known for a convoluted release history, and hold the best one behind a limited edition physical copy and this eShop version, with the Japanese retail version’s concept being what our retail version should have been (main games with great emulation, bonus version with all the extras and ports). So heed my words if you’re unsure which version of this compilation to nab, and pick up this Anniversary Edition of the Wonder Boy Collection via the eShop, even if you bought the older set, since it’s utterly made redundant now.

Unless they do a good deed and backport QOL to the older compilation to make the border in that optional and allow for classic Wonder Boy Arcade controls, that old set is all but useless now, even as a budget option, so while this big set is a step up above the M2 set and even surpasses it in terms of game variants and options available, I feel the nature of this compilation could have been done so, so much better, rather than feeling like an unintentional call back to the series’ confusing history, and outright making fans spend $80 in total on two sets if they didn’t know any better!

So, was the Anniversary Collection a good celebration of the series in the end? Well, thankfully it still is, so if you didn’t buy that prior set or have no knowledge of the series, even this steep $50 pricetag is worth spending to nab this set and get hooked, as it is indeed definitive and includes pretty much everything you could hope for outside of the Hudson-made ports. But for those who spent $30 on the last set, hoping for an upgrade path or updates to the old set, well, you aren’t gonna find much incentive to rebuy some of these games outside of the option to remove the border. If you liked that border and don’t mind the two missing games or home ports? Keep on playing the old set.

I give Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection a 7 out of 10.

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