Blondie skate-boarding midget
by Tibe (2013)
While Nintendo hits hard with Super Mario Bros on the NES in 1985, Sega who is already looming as the biggest rival of the firm, releases Wonder Boy the following year. If the red-dressed plumber operates in a "console" gaming style, Master Sega chooses the arcade for its title. So, there are two main differences between these softs: Wonder Boy is beautiful, using the capabilities of a stronger hardware, and Super Mario Bros is much more complex, with its vast levels, secret passages and scoring system. As we will see, our blond boy wearing a leaf named 'Tom-Tom' (like the GPS) will not be ridiculous face to the little fat mustache man: its remarkable success in the arcade rooms propels it on absolutely every 'home' system available at the time, computers and consoles, making it a literally legendary must for any gamer from the eighties.
The gameplay of Wonder Boy has some important differences with most other platform games of the era. Our hero has a power gauge: it empties inevitably over time. This is smart for two reasons: the first is that this concept replaces the 'Time Out', fundamental in an arcade game. We don't want a player to stay for hours on a cabinet without putting coins in it! Now here's the second reason: the editor hasn't been totally a bastard and put health bonuses in form of fruits, cakes and other food all over the levels. These not only restore some life, but they also earn points! It is essential to collect as many of these items as possible on our way, only in order to stay alive long enough to clear each stage. Thus, our blond boy in (organic) underwear have to go through thirty-two levels. Two buttons are used: one to launch the hatchet (provided you have collected it before), the other to jump. Like in Mario, if the fire button if hold, the speed of the character is increased as well as the amplitude of jumps.
In addition to collecting food, are also found here and there dinosaur eggs: these contain some particularly interesting items! First, it's inside them that you will find your tomahawk, the only weapon in the game. They can also contain a fairy, whose presence makes you invincible for about ten seconds; a fungus that transforms all fruits in cakes and other pastries, providing more points. But the most interesting item is for sure the skateboard! This allows to rush through levels, providing speed and maximum amplitude jump. Take care not to hit anything on the road, as it is destroyed every time you touch something (enemy, rock, fire, etc). Nevertheless, this accessory provides an incredible fun to the gameplay, at a point that sometimes it's exhilarating to see it appear before tough passages. Pay attention to 'evil eggs': their appearance is slightly different from normal eggs, and they contain bad things, such as a small demon who follows you for a while, slowing you down and making your health decrease faster.
Finally, I'll briefly talk about the Wonder Boy's realization. The game looks way better than Super Mario Bros, to name it. Remind we're in 1986 when the game is released, and we are still far from the graphical prowess of the Neo Geo! WB is cute and colorful, and packs a smooth and fast animation, a real plus for the gameplay. However, the backgrounds are a little repetitive, but it is conceptual: the thirty-two stages of the game are actually four worlds looping eight times, with a few differences each time and a boss who changes his head every time. The musical themes, two main plus some 'gingles', are also not varied enough. That's not a big deal, as Wonder Boy is still very taking! The simple gameplay becomes quickly addictive... moreover, the player improves quickly and the difficulty is well-balanced. No doubt is not allowed: with Wonder Boy, we are dealing with a true classic of platform game, which has stood the test of time successfully.
|Back in the context (1986), Wonder Boy's graphics are colorful and well drawn, but not varied enough.|
|Action is fast, fluid, and sometimes intense (I mean, five or six enemies simultaneously on screen) with no slowdowns to report.|
|There's only two main themes and a palette of effects rather limited... but all this participate in the 'old-school' atmosphere of the title.|
|The game is made of four worlds looping eight times, with a Boss changing his head each time. The game is long (more than one hour to clear), the difficulty is good... but it's a little repetitive.|
|The controls are simple, the hero responds well, with a slight inertia you quickly get used to. Skating phases are excellent and it's a pleasure to come through the levels.|
|Sega's Wonder Boy is a legendary platform game, which simplicity combined to quality gameplay made it a timeless classic.|
SAME ON THE NEO?
Blue's Journey is a pretty good choice in a quite similar platform register on Neo Geo. However, this one looks more like Wonder Boy in Monster World with its 'RPG' atmosphere, with the shops, various items and secret passages. Plus, the game can be played two simultaneously and offers different paths.