Wonder Boy (video game)
International brochure for the arcade version.
|Developer(s)||Escape (arcade version)
Sega (console versions)
|Arcade system||Sega System 1|
|Display||Raster, standard resolution (Used: 256 x 224)
Wonder Boy (ワンダーボーイ Wandā Bōi ) (also known as Super Wonder Boy for its Sega Mark III release in Japan and Revenge of Drancon for its Game Gear release in North America) is a 1986 video game published by Sega and developed by Escape (now known as WestOne Bit Entertainment, not to be confused with Westone). It was the first in a long-running series of games and was followed up by five sequels, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV.
The "Wonder Boy" in question is a character known as "Tom-Tom" - a caveman-like character whose girlfriend, by the name of Tanya, has been captured by a monster. The player must guide Tom-Tom through seven "areas", each consisting of four "rounds". The levels are made up of forests, hills, oceans, caves, ice palaces and occasionally mountains lands. The levels always run from left-to-right, with some vertical movement.
Tom-Tom can arm himself with a stone hammer, which he can throw at oncoming foes, a skateboard with which he can rush through the levels and survive one attack by an enemy, and temporary protection by a fairy which allows him to destroy foes by simply running into them. All of the aforementioned power-ups are obtained by breaking open eggs. These eggs can also contain unpleasant surprises - curses which cause Tom-Tom to lose vitality more quickly than usual, and poisonous mushrooms which reduce Tom-Tom's vitality in one go. "Bad eggs" can be easily spotted, as they are covered in red spots, whereas "good eggs" that contain hammers, skateboards and fairies are plain white. The player must remain aware of the vitality meter, which constantly runs down at a steady pace and can only be refilled by collecting fruit throughout the level. There is also one doll to collect in each level, which doubles the bonus points awarded at the end of the level and, as already mentioned, if all dolls are collected "hidden levels" are unlocked.
At the end of every "area" (thus every four "rounds"), Tom-Tom will encounter an incarnation of chief antagonist Drancon as a boss character. Once defeated, Drancon's mask flies off and transforms into an item such as a tea cup or a piece of fruit for Tom-Tom to collect. Drancon then subsequently makes his escape.
A two-player mode was available, but as per many arcade titles of the era, it was a version of the one-player mode whereby each player would take alternate turns between lives.
The game also contained an hidden eighth area, which could be accessed by collecting every one of the 28 dolls in the game.
The first home version of Wonder Boy was released exclusively in Japan for the SG-1000 (Sega's first video game console) during the same year the arcade version was released. The game was released in a "My Card" format, which required the "Card Catcher" peripheral. Because of the severe hardware differences, the game was remade completely for the SG-1000 with an all new set of stages. Certain enemies and stages were also omitted, such as the skateboard.
Master System and Game Gear 
The version of Wonder Boy for the Master System and Game Gear was a direct port of the arcade title, with some minor reductions to accommodate the more limited hardware. In Japan, the Sega Mark III version was entitled Super Wonder Boy, although the overseas releases dropped the word "Super" from the title. The Game Gear port in the United States was entitled Revenge of Drancon.
The graphics were lifted straight from the arcade version, but the HUD was restricted to a simple vitality bar — the score and number of lives were displayed prior to starting the level. The sound was modified slightly to adapt it to the more limited audio hardware. The graphics were brighter. The controls were modified slightly to make it possible to only perform a high jump when the run button was pressed, whereas it was possible in the arcade version to perform one simply by being in motion when jump was pressed.
However, the most important aspect that differentiated it from its arcade counterpart was the addition of "areas". Wonder Boy for the Master System and Game Gear had nine areas; this included all seven areas from the arcade original + two new areas created specifically for this version. The new areas featured unique level design different than the rest of the game. These two areas were dubbed as the fourth area and eighth area in the game. This resulted in a modification on the numbering for the areas lifted from the arcade original (for example, what was the fourth area on the arcade version became the fifth area on the SMS/GG version).
As with the arcade version, collecting all dolls in the game would reveal an extra "area" which, in this case, would be the tenth area.
ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC 
The license to produce the home computer versions of Wonder Boy was awarded to Activision, who produced versions of the game for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC in 1987. The game was true in spirit to the original, although the levels beyond level 4 differed to allow for the necessary multi-load system. The first round of each area was always a forest, the second an ocean, the third a cave and the fourth a forest at nighttime (the C64 had round 1 at night time and round 4 during the day). This was not the case in the console and arcade versions, in which the areas provided more variation (although based on these same four themes). Interestingly, the Amstrad CPC version contained the graphics used in the C64 conversion, but the sound from the Spectrum conversion.
Some Spectrum versions were afflicted with a bug that prevented the game from preloading all four levels in 128K mode — the fourth level's graphics would not load correctly, and it would be impossible for the player to move before the game crashed and the computer rebooted within around three seconds. As a result, 128K owners were forced to boot into 48K mode to run the game, and did not enjoy the benefit of having all levels preloaded as was designed. Under 48K mode, however, the 128K music still worked.
Mobile phone port 
Wii Virtual Console 
On March 31, 2008, Wonder Boy was made available for play on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console in North America. Japan & Europe got the game a week later. The game is available for 500 Wii points, and is an emulation of the Sega Master System version.
Escape/Westone had a licensing arrangement whereby they owned the rights to the game, but Sega retained rights to the main characters, bosses, and names. Because of this they teamed up with Hudson Soft to produce a conversion of the game for the NES, under a new license. To get around the licensing issue, Hudson Soft simply had the graphics of the main character and the title changed. The result was Adventure Island, which instead of featuring Tom-Tom, featured a character known as Master Higgins, who bore a striking resemblance to Tom-Tom, albeit with a hat. The game was, however, Wonder Boy in all but name. In this arrangement, once again, Hudson Soft retained the rights to the character and name, allowing them to continue to produce future games using the Adventure Island name and characters. These sequels are not based on the Wonder Boy sequels but instead continue the style of gameplay from the original Wonder Boy.
Hudson released Champion Takahashi's Adventure Island for the MSX. This version featured Master Higgins as the main character but retained the music of Wonder Boy, unlike the NES Adventure Island which had a completely different soundtrack.
Arcade hardware 
The game ran on Sega's proprietary System 1 hardware, based on a Z80 processor running at 4 MHz. Audio was provided by two 2 MHz SN76496 chips with a 4 MHz Z80 co-processor. The graphics were provided by a raster video unit at a resolution of 256 x 224.
The game required a cabinet that provided a two-axis joystick and three input buttons - one to act a start button, two as gameplay buttons.
Critical reaction 
|Computer and Video Games||7/10|
Arcade version 
The game was lauded for the detailed, bright, colorful graphics and simple addictive gameplay, whilst some criticisms were leveled towards the lack of variety and what was then considered to be a notable similarity to Super Mario Bros., though many contemporary writers now note that both games may have a common ancestor in Pac-Land.
Amstrad CPC version 
Amstrad Action awarded the Amstrad CPC version of the game 68% on its original release in 1987, and 62% on its re-release three years later. Computing With the Amstrad awarded the game 88% on its original release.
ZX Spectrum version 
CRASH remained unconvinced, citing technical shortcomings, including poor character-based scrolling, considerable slowdown, and confusion induced by the monochrome display. On its re-release, while quoting the aforementioned problems, the reviewer was willing to overlook them, highlighting the quality of the sprites and the fun offered by the game, and offering it 69%.
Sinclair User was the most enthusiastic about the game, offering it 8 out of 10 on its original release, and 72% on its re-release. Your Sinclair offered 7 out of 10 on its original release and 67% on its re-release.
Mobile version 
IGN awarded it 7.1 out of 10, praising its accuracy to the arcade original .
Fan base 
Wonder Boy and its sequels (as well as Adventure Island) have enjoyed a considerable fan base over the years, and the success that this has generated led to a number of sequels being produced. The final worldwide release title, Wonder Boy in Monster World, was the last, due to the series being past its commercial prime, although a sequel, Monster World IV, was released for Japanese consoles only. The fan base persists nonetheless, with a number of fan sites around the Internet, including the authors of the MEKA emulator, who have campaigned for the Wonder Boy series to be continued on the (now defunct) Dreamcast.
- Sega :: Games
- "Cruis'n USA and Wonder Boy Now Available on Wii Shop Channel!". Nintendo of America. 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- "Wonder Boy review". Computer and Video Games. July, 1986, p. 94, 95.
- "The Legend of Wonder Boy".at IGN
- Crash Magazine, issue 43, p. 82
- Crash Magazine, issue 79, p. 49
- Sinclair User Magazine, issue 65, p. 67
- Sinclair User Magazine, issue 100, p.26
- Your Sinclair Magazine, issue 20, p. 32
- Your Sinclair Magazine, issue 54, p. 51
- Wonder Boy - Wireless Review at IGN