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RELEASE DATE (JP): April 1, 1994 GENRE: Platformer
// review by SoyBomb

The dénouement of Monster World is grand indeed.

Although the Adventure Island series hogged most of the spotlight, it was Wonder Boy that was the true pioneer. Starring the eponymous Wonder Boy, he would dash through 32 stages of crazy snails and terse eggplants to save his beloved girlfriend. It was successful enough to spawn a full-fledged series with the advent of its sequel, Wonder Boy: Monster Land, for the arcades (or Super Wonder Boy: Monster World for the Sega Master System). This began the series' slow transition from a simple side-scroller to a more action-RPG-based approach with a greater focus on Wonder Boy's exploration of Monster World. The Wonder Boy series ultimately had six entries, culminating with Monster World IV, a game so far removed from the original that it no longer held the "Wonder Boy" moniker and isn't even really considered part of the series, despite its "Monster World" connection to the rest. No games ever followed Monster World IV, which is a shame because this title is rather impressive.

Monster World IV is notable for not only lacking in having Wonder Boy in it, but also for boasting only a female protagonist, a bit of a rarity in the mid-1990s alongside such other notables as Super Metroid and Tomb Raider. We follow the exploits of Asha, a young woman dressed in the finest Arabian puffy pants (she's certainly not headed to an M.C. Hammer video shoot), who dreams of being a warrior. After hearing voices from the spirits, she finally gains the nerve to dash off and achieve her goal while saving those vocal trapped deities in the process. Testing her skills in the Tower of Silence, she happens upon a magic lamp which contains a genie. The genie takes her to Rapadagna City (where, apparently, most people have similar thoughts because many citizens say exactly the same thing), and it is from the Queen that Asha learns of how to save the four spirits. She also is given an egg that contains a cute Pepelogoo, which is also going to become an invaluable friend. Got all that?

Asha will have to visit a variety of different themed areas, such as a volcano, icy caverns, and a casino-themed castle in the sky. These places can be treacherous, and with only room for a single Healing Medicine in her inventory, she'll have to be very agile and ferocious when meeting with enemies and traps. Asha is equipped only with a sword and trusty shield, so combat is pretty basic. She can either just slash forward, or leap in the air and perform an upper- or down-thrust move, both of which are very handy at times. To block oncoming attacks, Asha can hold up her shield to the left or right; if you're facing the wrong way, however, you'll take damage. The controls are generally tight, so any untimely deaths are probably your own doing. Asha can upgrade her sword, shield, and armor in Rapadagna City, but it'll cost you big money. Better slay plenty of juicy slimes to earn the necessary funds.

The armor you have determines how lengthy your life meter is (with hearts, not unlike a certain other series which shall remain Zelda), but that's not the only way to increase your health. Tear drops are located sporadically along your journey, so you'll have to keep a close eye out and explore everywhere. Collecting ten of them adds an extra heart to your life meter for that extra burst of vitality you need as you tackle those fearsome bosses.

Not many heroes can pull off stunts like this while wearing puffy pants.

Monster World IV is full of puzzles, most of which are fairly easy to solve. I doubt it will be necessary for anyone to consult a walkthrough to get through the game, provided you're paying close attention to the messages of the townspeople and the elements in your vicinity. For example, in the Ice World, you'll have to seek out and collect five different statues and place them on a row of pedestals. You'll be given small clues as to what order they should be placed, but it's up to your brain to figure out the rest. In that same world, you will also be put up against using spells triggered by specific controller button combinations; more often than not, you'll be given clues to the spells' activation, but not the button combo itself, requiring a bit more thought on your part. Nothing is ever too difficult, however, if a little ingenuity is in your pocket.

But here's the problem: Asha can't jump very well. Oh, she can leap, but she can't really get much distance. That's where Pepe, your trusty puffy Pelelogoo, comes in. With Pele following you around everywhere you go like a loyalist, you can whistle for him to come to your aid. He'll either lift you up to help perform a double-jump, or you can use him as a parachute to float across wider gorges. But that's not all! Pepe also seems to dig fire for some reason, and he'll be helpful in passing fire-based traps. For example, if balls of fire are falling from above, use Pepe as a little umbrella to guard Asha from the scorching heat. He's not a fan of ice, though, but you can freeze him into a solid block of ice to push around, should the opportunity arise. Plus, he can even be thrown a distance to sniff out certain secrets or push buttons. Is there anything Pepe can't do?

I am very impressed by the splashes of colour used in Monster World IV. As soon as you start out in your home village, you'll immediately notice how vivid the scenery is. Monster World IV spares no expense in keeping your eyes pleased, as every sprite is quite animated and well-detailed. The backgrounds, though not always particularly exciting, also work well in setting a specific tone. The music is also awesome, often with upbeat Arabian flair, worthy of a quick on-couch boogie session.

Monster World IV definitely takes the series out with a bang, and it's a rather challenging adventure that illustrates just how remarkable a side-scrolling action-RPG can be. It even put forth proof that having a female protagonist does not negatively impact the value of a game. Sadly, Monster World IV for the Sega Mega-Drive (the Japanese version of the Genesis console) did not leave the shores of Japan when it was first released in 1994. In 2012, however, Sega re-released many of their vintage titles on the Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade, including Monster World IV with a brand new translation that's fairly consistent with the original Japanese text, finally making it available to the rest of the world nearly two decades later. It's definitely worth your time and energy to give this game a shot.

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