In Retro Gamer Issue 124's 'A Westone Retrospective' feature, Westone co-founder Ryuichi Nishizawa stressed that he wanted to create a feeling of pressure for the player when developing 1986's arcade game Wonder Boy — the first of four retro games in Bliss Brain Corporation's Wonder Boy Collection, which compiles two arcade and two Mega Drive/Genesis titles from this side-scrolling platforming series.
Developed by Escape before its Westone age, and set in the stone age before the release of prehistoric platform games like Bonk's Adventure and Caveman Ninja, Wonder Boy's tension is built by a constantly time decreasing health bar, which is topped up by collecting snack food, as well as a skateboard power-up that tests your reflexes with fast auto-scrolling platforming.
The second arcade game in this selection is 1987's Wonder Boy in Monster Land, which was ambitious due to expanding into light RPG gameplay design, with you visiting town shops to buy items, improving your weapons, armour and shield, plus uncovering secret areas. Apart from the first Wonder Boy, this running theme of mild RPG mechanics influences three quarters of the games in this single player compilation.
Distinctly, the collection's first two games were designed as arcade coin munchers, so later levels in both have unfair difficulty spikes, cheap hits, and infuriating platforming gameplay that has aged poorly, despite being synonymous with the mid-1980s Ghosts 'n Goblins era.
The gameplay is better balanced in the Wonder Boy Collection's two Mega Drive games, including Wonder Boy in Monster World from 1991. 1994's Monster World IV is especially a highlight, as a faster moving 2D action adventure platformer with beautiful pixel art.
If you flash back to a concern exacerbated from our Turrican Flashback review, Wonder Boy Collection's paltry four titles puts pressure on retro gamers to question its value for money, because it omits series defining titles and key console ports when compared to the more expensive Wonder Boy Anniversary Collection from Strictly Limited Games — which has sold out of its 2,000 PS4 retail copies. It's also worse value than retro compilations that released within weeks of the Wonder Boy Collection, when set side-by-side against the cheaper and more complete Pac-Man Museum+ and the superior extras in Sonic Origins.