The series itself consists of the main Wonder Boy series, and the Monster World sub-series. Games may be part of one, the other, or both. This has resulted in a sometimes confusing naming structure resulting in titles like "Wonder Boy V: Monster World III". In North America and Europe, the whole series is kept under the Wonder Boy brand, but in Japan there is one title that belongs exclusively to Monster World and is not part of the Wonder Boy series.
To further complicate matters, Westone had a unique licensing arrangement with Sega whereby Sega retained the rights to the names and characters of the games in this series, but Westone retained the rights to everything else. Westone, in turn, had a licensing arrangement with Hudson Soft, who created new characters and titles and ported these games to non-Sega platforms. The most well known of these is Adventure Island, which was more commercially successful than Wonder Boy was.
Condensed series chronology
There are a combined six official titles in the Wonder Boy and Monster World series with original release platform.
- Wonder Boy (Arcade) - Ported to Sega Master System as Wonder Boy.
- Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Arcade) - Ported to Sega Master System as Wonder Boy in Monster Land.
- Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair (Arcade) - Ported to Sega Mega Drive as Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair
- Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (Sega Master System) - Ported to Sega Game Gear as Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap.
- Wonder Boy V: Monster World III (Sega Mega Drive) - Named Wonder Boy in Monster World for non-domestic release.
- Monster World IV (Mega Drive)
Explaining the Wonder Boy series is complicated, as its history suffers regionalization, a once-common marketing practice of adjusting elements of a game to suit the area. This usually involved small edits to in-game art or changing the names of the characters, locations, or even the game itself. It has caused confusion for a number of franchises, including the Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy series.
The first game of the series was initially an 1986 arcade game simply titled Wonder Boy developed by Escape and published by Sega. Later in 1986, Sega created Wonder Boy for the Sega SG-1000, an obsure game available exclusively in Japan that was a great departure from the arcade version despite sharing the same name. Still in 1986, Sega developed yet another version of Wonder Boy, this time for the Sega Mark III. In contrast to the SG-1000 prequel, the game for the Mark III was a direct port of the arcade original. But since the name "Wonder Boy" had already been used for the SG-1000 incarnation, Wonder Boy for the Mark III was renamed Super Wonder Boy. Super Wonder Boy was the first Wonder Boy console title to be released worldwide, where by and large the SG-1000 was not available. Therefore, there was no need to differentiate between "Wonder Boy" and "Super Wonder Boy" outside of Japan, so the prefix was dropped. Super Wonder Boy became simply Wonder Boy for the Sega Master System in the United States, Europe and Brazil. This caused many players within the Occident to mistakenly believe that it was the first Wonder Boy title released for consoles.
Wonder Boy could not be ported to competing consoles since Sega owned the "Wonder Boy" trademark. Instead, Adventure Island was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This was legally possible, since Escape owned the rights to the actual game code. Adventure Island was essentially based on the Wonder Boy arcade version but with different soundtrack and characters, and slightly modified graphics. Although the TurboGrafx-16 never got an adaptation of Wonder Boy, such modified release from Hudson Soft was to become a common practice on the console for subsequent titles within the Wonder Boy series . In the case of Adventure Island, the series would continue on into its own franchise on Nintendo's consoles, entirely independent of Wonder Boy.
The following year, Super Wonder Boy: Monster World was released in Japanese arcades, but only its Master System port was released worldwide. In keeping with its predecessor, the "Super" prefix was dropped, and it was released as Wonder Boy in Monster Land in the rest of the world (except for the home computer ports in Europe, where it was simply titles "Super Wonder Boy"). As the game was nothing like Super Wonder Boy, and was the start of the Monster World series, it was set in a medieval world with added RPG elements. When it was released to the TurboGrafx-16, the version by Hudson again was not a Wonder Boy title, but modeled instead after the anime Bikkuriman.
In 1988, Sega released an arcade title that was to be the third in the Wonder Boy series, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair, although it was not considered a part of the Monster World sub-series. The title received a port from Hudson on the TurboGrafx-16 called Monster Lair. Later that year, Sega and Westone developed a title they intended to call "Monster World II". However, the Sega Master System was struggling in Japan, and the Japanese release was scrapped. In North America and Europe, the market was stronger, so plans to release the title went forward. Since it was a direct sequel to the second Wonder Boy game (Wonder Boy in Monster Land), Sega decided to call it Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap. The existence of two "Wonder Boy III" different titles led to some confusion among players. Officially, Dragon's Trap is the fourth game in the Wonder Boy series and the second in the Monster World series. Dragon's Trap would see an eventual release in Japan on Sega's Game Gear hand-held, as well as another Hudson port with the usual title/character modifications called Dragon's Curse for the TurboGrafx-16.
Wonder Boy V Monster World III was the final game in the Monster World series to be given a release outside of Japan, and the last game in the Wonder Boy series. Known as "Wonder Boy in Monster World", it was made especially for the home console market. Released on the Mega Drive and Master System, it was the only Wonder Boy game to be made for both systems although the Master System version was never released in North America and Japan. The TurboGrafx-16 version featured a different set of characters, and was called Dynastic Hero.
Monster World IV was the series' last installment, released only on the Mega Drive and only in Japan. Exclusive to that title is a main, female character named Arsha. Instead of boasting a medieval look, it features a Middle Eastern style. This is the only game part of the Monster World series while not being part of the Wonder Boy series.
Game classification by series
Part of both series
Exclusive to the Wonder Boy series
Exclusive to the Monster World series
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- Adventure Island (Called Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima in Japan) - Hudson Soft ported the original Wonder Boy to the NES with new music, different looking bosses, and a new hero: Master Higgins. Hudson went on to make Adventure Island sequels, but none of them are related to the Wonder Boy/Monster World series (although later entries have gameplay similar to the Monster World series)
- Saiyuuki World - A Famicom license of Wonder Boy in Monster World made by Jaleco. The graphics were mostly overhauled and the storyline was altered so that it was loosely based on the Journey to the West story.
- Whomp 'Em - A Western released sprite swap of Saiyuuki World, set around Native American mythology.
Most games are downloadable through the Wii's Virtual Console service.
- Wonder Boy - The first game in the series, the Sega Master System version was released on March 31, 2008.
- Dragon's Curse - The TurboGrafx-16 version based on Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap.
- Wonder Boy in Monster World - The fifth game in the series, originally released for the Sega Mega Drive.
- Dynastic Hero - Originally available on the TurboGrafx-CD, based on Wonder Boy in Monster World.
- Monster Lair - The TurboGrafx-16 CD port of Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair.
Sega Game Gear
- Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Japanese title モンスターワールドII ドラゴンの罠 (Monster World II: Dragon no Wana ))--The maps are altered slightly to fit Game Gear's lower resolution.
- Revenge of Drancon (North American title for the Game Gear version)
Sega Master System
- Wonder Boy (Japanese title: スーパーワンダーボーイ (Super Wonder Boy))
- Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Japanese title:Super Wonder Boy in Monster World), basically Wonder Boy II
- Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (Japanese working title: Wonder Boy IV: Monster World II (unreleased in Japan))
- Wonder Boy in Monster World (unreleased in Japan)
Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
- Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair (Only released in Japan and Europe)
- Wonder Boy in Monster World (Wonder Boy V: Monster World III in Japan)
- Monster World IV (Japan only)
- Bikkuriman World -- HuCard -- (An adaptation of Wonderboy in Monster Land, released only in Japan)
- Dragon's Curse -- HuCard -- (Curiously, this game is called Adventure Island in Japan) -- Another version of Wonder Boy 3: Dragon's Trap
- Monster Lair -- TurboGrafx-CD (CD-ROM2) -- (Called Wonderboy III: Monster Lair in Japan)
- The Dynastic Hero -- Super CD (Super CD-ROM2) -- (Another version of Wonder Boy in Wonder Boy V: Monster World III)
The first three Monster World games were published in Brazil by Tec Toy, Sega's official Brazilian distributor. The games were translated into Portuguese and the characters were replaced with characters from the Brazilian comic book, Turma da Mônica (Monica's Gang). Other cartoon characters were superimposed on the Brazilian releases of Teddy Boy, Ghost House, Astro Warrior, Psycho Fox, and Kung Fu Kid. (The latter three forming the Sapo Xule series)
- Mônica: No Castelo do Dragão (Monica in the Dragon's Castle) – Sega Master System
- Turma da Mônica em O Resgate (Monica's Gang: The Rescue) – Sega Master System
- Turma da Mônica na Terra dos Monstros (Monica's Gang in Monster Land) – Sega Mega Drive
Wonder Boy was adapted into two stories that ran in Fleetway's Sonic the Comic, which is loosely based on the Monster World series of games. "Wonder Boy in Demon World" ran between issues 2-9 and saw Shion, the protagonist who has a dislike of being referred to as Wonder Boy, fighting to save some people whilst staving off a demon curse. "Wonder Boy in Ghost Land" ran between issues 22-27, and saw Shion travel to a world of ghostly dinosaurs.
- The Legend of Wonder Boy at IGN Retro — Retrospective of entire Wonder Boy series, including all off-shoots.
- Hardcore Gaming 101 - Wonder Boy, chronicling the history of the Wonder Boy series of games.