Monster World IV is something of a semi-official sequel to Wonder Boy 5: Monster World 3. It’s a cutesy, large-sprited side-scroller in which the player takes on the role of a young girl named Arsha.
The game is mostly a linear platformer with some rudimentary puzzles and RPG elements, but its highlight is the cute little sidekick Pepe. It’s easy to initially assume that Pepe will help you fight the various enemies you encounter, but he never actually attacks anyone. Instead, he can be used to help Arsha traverse the game’s environments. This might not sound like a big deal, but the there’s lots of variety here:
As a side note, the second jump’s animation is a somersault, which is a bit different from the standard leap of the first jump.
And aside from Pepe, here are the rest of Monster World IV’s significant bits:
- A very colourful, vibrant take on an Arabian theme in an anime style.
- Arsha is a mostly silent protagonist, only speaking during the game’s ending sequence.
- A HUB town allows you to upgrade items and enter numerous other areas — an approach that would become very popular in later 3D platformers.
- A magic genie, one of Arsha’s other companions, can return her to the main HUB at any point in the game. An animation of him carrying Arsha is also played when first entering a zone.
- Arsha’s health meter is composed of two rows of hearts; the red one is her armour rating, while the blue one represents her hit points.
- Whenever ten blue tear collectibles are obtained, the game pauses and the tears spin out and encircle the player. They then gradually move towards the HUD and combine into an extra blue heart. An interesting side note to this is that the blue tears stop appearing in levels after the player has collected the maximum amount of blue hearts. This is a somewhat casual mechanic as it gives the player plenty of chances to get the highest health rating.
- The hitboxes of enemies aren’t always harmful. In fact, Arsha will often simply bounce off of an enemy (especially when she’s jumping) if she touches one during its non-attack phase. A similar kinetic rebounding mechanic is executed when an actual attack connects, with the reaction being based on the circumstances of the contact, i.e., did Arsha attack successfully, did she get hit, how strong was the hit, was she blocking the attack with her shield, etc.
- The first enemy you encounter in the game can’t actually hurt you, while the last ones can attack you with a stream of projectiles from a screen or two away. Enemies gradually become more aggressive, block more of your attacks, gain new abilities and dish out more damage.
- Enemies often have a pre — and sometimes a post — state and animation to their attacks. For example, the pig warriors wind up for their 360 spinning club attacks, and once finished, they stumble over and remain dizzy for a short amount of time. When fighting these enemies, Arsha can quickly move forward and slash her sword to interrupt the wind-up, or wait for the spin to end and attack the stunned enemy.
The NPCs are aware of their own proximity to Arsha, which is used for some nice effects. For example, when first embarking on your quest, the townspeople will turn around to face you and wave goodbye as you pass them by. An interesting change up on this is when you later visit Rapadagna — the NPCs will not only turn to face you, but also follow you for a limited distance. This actually gives off a strong vibe that they’re suspicious of you, following you around to make sure you don’t do anything bad.
- In order to reach Aegis Island, Arsha travels down a cloudy runway and eventually boards a magic carpet. This initiates an on-rails, auto-scrolling section where the magic carpet serves as a floating platform. Arsha has no control over it, but she can still jump around and attack approaching enemies, and even temporarily settle down on fluffy clouds that dip under her weight. A nice touch here is that during this segment, Arsha has a unique idle animation. It shows her slightly crouched and bracing her face, giving off the illusion of an unstable platform and strong winds.
- At the end of the carpet ride, the Aegis Island castle comes into view in the background. This initiates a scripted sequence where Arsha flies “into” the screen, with the castle scaling up to meet her.
- When Arsha falls vertically, the camera follows her at a speed slower than that of her decent. Since these vertical falls are never too long, she rarely goes off-screen, but it can happen. This adds a sense of range to the actual fall, which is further accentuated by Arsha’s automatic animation change — if she’s in a falling-down state for an extended period of time, her animation switches to a somersault.
- Towns consist of various “layers” that can be traversed by pressing up to walk through doors. This transition involves a new screen buffer being blitted over the previous one via an expanding circle. Once this layer circle takes up the whole screen, control is returned to the player.
- Non-town levels also have doors, but these simply teleport the player around in a single layer. They do, however, all look different and initiate unique walking in/out animations. Some are even directly connected to the gameplay, i.e., they require a bomb to blast through, or a key/button combination to unlock.
- As Pepe eats fruits and grows, the ineraction animations between him and Arsha gradually change. For example, Arsha will hold onto just his hind legs when he’s small, but will latch onto Pepe’s whole body when he gets bigger.
- For dramatic effect, when bosses die they freeze in the current frame of their animation, cycle through some palettes, and finally explode in a shower of coins and body parts.
- The HUD is very responsive to the in-game action, which is especially evident with the coin purse. Not only does its numerical value scroll up as you collect money, but the purse itself bounces up and down as long as the numbers are changing. This is also consistent in all parts of the game, with the same effect being employed when you buy and sell items.
- The coins that fall out when you open chests or defeat enemies have the same standard collision detection as most moving entities. This is even used to hint at a secrets, e.g., in Aegis Island, a certain chest spills out coins that travel through a phantom wall, indicating that Arsha can do the same.
- A magical doorway in Aegis Island leads Arsha to a Lilliput land where all the tilesets and enemies are scaled up. Aside from being a cool aesthetic trick, it also plays into gameplay mechanics since the boss you encounter in this area can’t be hurt by the “miniature” version of your character. In order to defeat it, Arsha must push it back with her attacks far enough to go back through the Lilliput door. At this point, the giant blob will follow Arsha but stays shrunk, allowing her to finally defeat it.
- In a somewhat melancholy moment, when you finish the game, the magic genie tells you that this is the end of the series and it’s now time to go outside and play.