Wonder Boy Returns Remix Review (Switch)
Wonder Boy, quite possibly one of the most complicated IPs in all of video games. The franchise seemingly comes from a number of different developers and publishers, and what was thought of as a staple of SEGA consoles isn’t even owned by SEGA anymore. The franchise even spawned an entirely different series on Nintendo consoles called Adventure Island. It’s all a bit of a mess really, and to be honest, I’m happy that Wonder Boy games are still being released, because Wonder Boy Returns Remix for the Nintendo Switch is a nice addition indeed.
I had the original game that was ported over to the Commodore 64, and while it was far less bright and cheery as the Master System edition (the levels were all at night for some reason), it was one of my favourite games on that system. I was drawn in by the simple yet catchy theme tune that would get stuck in my head for days. The game was also very difficult for me at the time, as the Commodore 64 only had the one button on it which was assigned to running and throwing axes, while pushing the joystick forward initiated a jump. Playing the game again with multiple buttons on the Switch certainly made the game easier to wield for me.
Despite the word ‘Remix’ sitting smack-bang at the end of the title, there really isn’t much more to the game than the original. Aside from the updated graphics, what has been thrown into this version of Wonder Boy is a charged axe attack that Tom Tom (the main character of Wonder Boy) can use to cut through rocks in the path. There is also an additional playable character in the form of Tanya, Tom Tom’s girlfriend. Playing as Tanya results in a very easy mode for beginners, and offers a chance to get to feel the way the platforming works and enemy placements in a safer environment.
And some practice may be required for those without an understanding of how 1980’s platformers work. The platforming controls aren’t as tight as what many would be used to, with Tom Tom’s jumps feeling very floaty, as well as his ability to switch directions resulting in feeling as though Tom Tom is skating on ice. It actually has a similar feel to the original Super Mario Bros. game in terms of control.
As a unique mechanic that was only evident in this original version of Wonder Boy, Tom Tom must be continuously eating food to keep his vitality up. Throughout the level, apples, bananas, melons, ice creams and a variety of different foods pop up for Tom Tom to fill his constantly diminishing Vitality bar at the top of the screen. Other than simply existing, tripping over rocks also takes away Tom Tom’s vitality, so that is something to be wary of when timing those jumps appropriately as it can take some getting used to.
Where the game falters slightly is that as it is essentially a barebones remake of the original game, the game will likely have a tough time competing for your time if you aren’t already a fan of the game, or at least want to check out what the fuss was about thirty years ago. Many of the levels follow a similar pattern, and aside from getting a brand new head every four levels, the boss remains exactly the same throughout the whole game.
Despite this, Tom Tom’s original adventure is an utterly charming experience. His chibi characteristics coupled with a vibrant palette of colours and crisp two-dimensional graphics shows a lot of love and care that has undoubtedly been applied to remaking this classic. Tom Tom’s bizarre world where both cave men and skateboards exist is an absolute delight to watch unfold.
As well as the aforementioned ability to use Tanya as an invincible character to play an easier version of the game, there are two other difficulty levels to try out. Selecting “One Coin” mode enables the player to play the game similarly to the original Arcade game. Ten lives are given at the beginning of One Coin mode, and there’s no continues either, making it a good test to see how far someone can make it without losing all their lives. The regular mode enables continues, and each level completed get added to a level select. The level select is available in Tanya’s mode as well and allows people to shut the game down and start where they left off from their last session.
With these classic arcade games, these additional skill options are a welcome addition. The arcades had the inherent purpose to be difficult so that they could take more of your money. For many who solely played the arcade edition, they may not have even finished the game at this point. So to be able to tackle a more user-friendly rendition is welcome for all skill levels.
The first ever game in the Wonder Boy series doesn’t have all the bells, whistles and elements that were introduced in its sequel and beyond, so don’t buy into this expecting another deep outing like The Dragon’s Trap. What you will get is a gorgeous looking reimagining of a classic platforming game that constantly pushes you to keep going. The added features such as charged axes and new skill levels are welcome editions, making this one of the greatest versions of the game. As a fan of the Wonder Boy series growing up, I can’t recommend it enough to others in a similar position. For newcomers, it’s harder to recommend, but at least watch a couple of the trailers for the game to see if it looks up your alley first.
+ Bright, vibrant, crisp visuals
+ Skill levels for all
+ Retains the classic feel of the original
- Game isn’t exactly a “Remix” of the original
- Simplicity in levels/bosses may be a turn off