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Just go buy Monster World IV


Welcome to Living in the Past, a weekly column about what's new in old games. Now get off our lawn.

It is with no small amount of shame that I admit to waiting for a $1 sale before buying Monster World IV. It wasn't exactly intentional – I've been busy playing (and mostly reviewing) other stuff since its release, and just hadn't gotten to it yet. Then, last week, a PlayStation Plus deal dropped the PSN release of the Genesis game from $4.99 to $1.

Of course I bought it for $1, just assuming I'd get a chance to play it later. You should do the same. Go buy it now, before the PlayStation Store updates again tomorrow and the deal goes away. Then you can share in the savings (and the shame).

Why is it shameful to spend $1 on this game instead of the full $5? This isn't just any Genesis port. Monster World IV, a sort of sequel or spinoff of the Wonderboy series (don't worry about that too much), had never actually been released in English before Sega put it on PSN, XBLA and Wii Virtual Console in May. Sega even localized it, adding full English text for this budget-priced digital release. With that surprising amount of effort, I'm a heel for getting it on the cheap.

I stole an hour or so to try out my new game – just enough time to know that it's easily worth one US dollar. Even if you're not familiar with previous Wonderboy games, this is a worthwhile title. Besides, it's a totally original story. It's about a young girl named Asha, who goes on a quest to earn the title of "Warrior," and is then asked to rescue four elemental gods.

That first quest involves searching her town for the "Courage Crystal," which is required to make a tower appear. Asha ventures from her hometown, with everyone cheering her on, then makes her way through a gauntlet of slime monsters and evil mushroom creatures. The tower then rises out of the ground, full of traps, deadly monsters and treasure chests. Each main hallway has several rooms that must be explored to find keys and trigger the appearance of platforms to get you to the next level. At the end, Asha fights a big snake creature ... thing.

What really surprised me about this adorably drawn, beautifully animated game is that ... it feels so much like a Zelda game. Imagine a game that combined the storytelling and level design of A Link to the Past and the side-scrolling view and mechanics of Zelda 2. That's what Monster World IV is shaping up to be, based on this extremely promising first quest. It also has the Metroidvania thing of opening up more of the world based on acquired abilities, but that still reminds me more of Zelda than anything else, thanks to the other similarities.

I want to say we should support things like this to send the message that we want more localized classics ... but I have no confidence something like this will happen with any kind of frequency. So support it because it's cool, and because it's rare.

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