Genre: Action/RPG Developer: Westone Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1 Released: 1994
Never being a fan of the Monster World series myself, I started playing MW4 with low expectations not knowing that I’d be blown away. It has since proven to be one of the greatest games to never make it stateside.
Taking a step in a different direction than previous installments in the series, your hero is a green-haired girl named Asha. Hearing cries of help carried with the wind, Asha ventures forth to the rescue, leaving her parents and village behind. As the game progresses you arrive at Rapadagna, which acts as a sort of central hub, from which you can access all the different areas that need to be explored. The townsfolk tell of a dark, foreboding cloud and the Queen, of course, asks if you’ll save the land. At this point you are joined by a blue Pepeloogo (think: helpful Pokémon-type creature) who will aid you on your quest, then it’s off to crush evil in new worlds, accessed by four gates found in a Rapadagna cathedral.
Despite having RPG elements, the game is very much a platformer at heart and the controls are very intuitive as a result. If you want to walk through a door behind you or talk to someone you press up, if you want to run somewhere simply tap the D pad twice in that direction. Your blue Pepeloogo adds an interesting control element as well. Calling him with the A button, you can throw him at switches or make a double jump, among other things. Your little friend will grow as well, gradually changing the control dynamic.
While the RPG elements are in the background, they do play an important role. You can upgrade weapons and defense thanks to trusty merchants in Rapadagna, for instance. Superior armor raises your red heart count and killing enemies becomes quicker with every new sword. Simply pay for the upgrades with money collected in the game, through raiding treasure chests and killing enemies, although many enemies die leaving you nothing and others die leaving a red heart or Life Drop. These Life Drops upgrade your blue heart count (ten drops per heart). Life drops can also be found out in the open and in treasure chests. Various other items are stored in these chests, ranging from explosives to red hearts. And while rare, sometimes you’ll happen upon a vending machine where you can purchase red hearts. Also rare is the old man who saves your game for you, so don’t pass him up. Finally you’ve got a basic inventory system like you’d find in a Zelda title, which is pretty self-explanatory.
The visuals in Monster World IV are some of the console’s best. Colours are vibrant and the art style is cute, but on a tolerable level. The animation is also solid and you feel like not one frame was wasted. Moreover, the themes change often enough to keep things fresh. Sound is also excellent despite the Genesis’ lackluster chip. I can recall a few tracks from the game instantly, trumpets and all, each track sets the current mood nicely. They’re also varied enough to not wear on your nerves too much.
Now how can I say anything bad about the game? I mean, sure, it appears to deserve a perfect score but is there something I let slide? Well yes, there is one issue. When you’re running along and hit a jump, it would be nice to continue running upon hitting the ground. Sometimes flat land is sparse and I like a lot of speed in my games. It’s a tiny peeve though and doesn’t detract from the game all that much.
In the end, I believe this game to be a true classic. It’s a real shame that it never saw a release here despite the Genesis’ success. If you have any interest whatsoever I urge you to give the game a try, because I was skeptical at first and have since declared this gem as a personal favourite. No library is complete without it.
SCORE: 10 out of 10