You’ll learn very quickly that I’m a HUGE fan of Westone’s brilliant, beautiful Monster World series, which consists of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (Monster World II), Wonder Boy in Monster World (Monster World III) and Monster World IV. While the original games appeared on Sega systems, Hudson Soft ported all but one of them to the PC-Engine/Turbo Duo with slight cosmetic changes.
Over the weekend I finished the Genesis original that I had slowly been playing bit by bit over the last week or two and immediately started the Turbo Duo version (almost finishing it in one sitting). So I got the idea to write up a comparison piece on the two. Will anybody care or benefit from this information? I don’t know, but it’s occupying some time while I sit here bored at work and that’s all that matters to me… so here we go!
Graphics: Both games look nearly identical. The color palette is a bit different between the two; the Genesis version seemed brighter and more colorful whereas the PC-Engine version seemed to have a deeper color set. However, the Genesis version gets the slight edge for a couple of reasons. First of all is parallax scrolling; while not frequent, it’s something that is missing in the PC-Engine version. Secondly, and probably more important, are the previously mentioned cosmetic changes. The main character, the princess, the helper characters and the bosses have all been redrawn. The redrawn bosses look pretty good and the helpers and princess look decent, but it’s the main character that suffers the most. Outfitted in what I can only guess is a suit of beetle-inspired armor; poor Dyna looks pretty dumb compared to the blue-haired Shion. The helmet is what does him in. Obviously, this is a matter of personal opinion but what I can say, and what I feel gives the Genesis version the easy win based on the redesigned characters is that they’re obviously of different design than everything else in the game. The original characters are more cartoon-like and fit with the rest of the games cute characters and colorful backgrounds.
Sound/Music: The sound effects are identical in both games. The music between the two versions is vastly different. The Genesis version has an excellent soundtrack by Shinichi Sakamoto, who composed the music for all four Monster World games. The PC-Engine version has an excellent CD audio soundtrack. Now I’m sure you’re thinking “Well, the PC-Engine version will be the clear winner here,” but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the CD soundtrack is great; in fact it’s some of the best work outside of Falcom’s games for the system. However, the CD soundtrack lacks the charm and melody of the Genesis version. Fans of the previous games have no doubt caught themselves humming along with the catchy tunes and it’s no different here. These songs are catchy, they’ll get in your head and on top of that, there’s also a remix or two of previous Monster World songs (notably the Dragon’s Castle theme). I’ll declare a tie here because both soundtracks have something to offer. Rest assured that if the original music had been arranged for CD audio, the music comparison would have been one sentence long.
Other: Here’s where I’ll go over what’s changed and added in the PC-Engine version.
- All the game text is different. The text in the Genesis version is pretty much just there. It’s bland, but it does its job to clue you in on what you need to do next. The PC-Engine version (well, the Turbo Duo version, since here I’m comparing the English text) has a lot of extremely amusing dialogue. Here are some examples: “Poor today, eh?” when you can’t afford an item, “Buy something or I’ll sting you!” “Good morning! Bedbugs bite? Go get ‘em!” Maybe it’s not so amusing to others, but it’s definitely a LOT more colorful than the Genesis English text.
- Next, in the Genesis version, each shield you get has a different visual graphic. All but the final shield in the PC-Engine version look the same (and on a Super CD-ROM² no less, shame on you Hudson).
- The PC-Engine version has an animated introduction sequence with an accompanying vocal song. The Japanese song is pretty catchy, and I usually don’t like Japanese pop-sounding songs. The English song is excellently cheesy, but loses points for being recorded over one of the in-game tracks (a village music, I believe) as opposed to an original composition.
- The Genesis version has one save slot. The PC-Engine version has four.
- One of the villages in the Genesis version is a dragon village. This is changed to a bee village in the PC-Engine version (I guess there’s a big theme going on here with the faeries, beetles and bees, more obvious if you see the character artwork in the Japanese manual). The bees in the village look pretty much like faeries with hats that have bee eyes on them. I like faeries though and one of them offered to sting me.
- In tune with the change of the Dragon Village, your dragon partner is now a bee (faerie) partner. She’s actually a bit more useful as she can fly, but like the other helpers, she’s generally not that helpful.
- When you beat the fifth boss in the Genesis version, he turns into the Prince of Dark World and clues you in on the REAL source of the problem in outer space. Once you get there and face the final boss, you are unable to damage it. The Prince appears, heals you and sacrifices himself to penetrate the boss’s defenses. In the PC-Engine version, after the fifth boss nothing happens except for the curiously placed force-field outside the entrance to the sky castle is gone. Once you go into outer space and face the final boss here, your helper friends sacrifice themselves to penetrate the boss’s defense system and heal you. I felt this was much better personally.
- The final boss itself has been severely neutered in the PC-Engine version, removing the buzz-saw and conveyor belt that makes the final battle in the Genesis version a royal pain the ass.
- The ending is slightly different; the PC-Engine version involves the revival of your friends while the Genesis version is just typical “Thanks for saving us!” text. Both involve the respective princesses subtly confessing their love for your character. The credits take place before the ending in the Genesis version and are simply a text scroll. The credits take place after the ending in the PC-Engine version and are of the fade-in/fade-out variety with an nicely animated Dyna running through the various locales of the game, coupled with large character art of your friends and the princess.
Look, they’re pretty much the same damn game (and what a great game it is). The Genesis version’s graphics and music in my opinion feel more true to the overall style of the game as opposed to the PC-Engine’s but the PC-Engine does have slightly more interesting dialogue and some neat extras. The Genesis cartridge can be found quite easily, about $1 or $2. The U.S. Turbo Duo version (switching up the name to talk specifically about the English release) is the single rarest Turbo Duo title, some (like myself) wonder if we’ll ever see on in person. Truly a holy grail to be had.
If you haven’t played either game, get one and play it! It’s a fairly short game but it’s one of my personal favorite series that seems to be largely unnoticed.