Reviews Archive

Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

      Turbografx CD Mega Drive
monster lair sprites on turbografx cd monster lair sprites on genesis
wonder boy 3 on turbografx
wonder boy 3 on genesis
monster lair snow level on pc-engine cd
monster lair snow level on megadrive
monster lair shooter level on turbografx
monster lair shooter level on genesis
  TG-CD - Much like the original arcade game, the detail here is generally adequate. Most of the backgrounds are fairly plain, and there's some repetition in graphics as you progress, but everything does the job, and a few of the stages (such as the ice level) are pretty attractive.

One of the game's graphical strengths though is its sprites. The main characters and all of the monsters are drawn with a lot of style, they're memorable designs and are all full of charm.

Differences to the arcade game? well, there's a few, but nothing too major, I noticed that one of the types of cloud is absent from the first stage for instance, there's a missing tree type, as well as the bridge and fenced animals it level 4, the game has a little more flicker. All very minor stuff Overall.

Mega Drive - The developers of the Mega Drive version attempted to revamp, and re-design all the graphics. Overall I would say that this has created a very mixed outcome.

On the one hand I would say that the backgrounds tend to be more detailed here than in the TG-CD game. Apart from the fact that this version is higher resolution, the columns spread throughout all of the flying levels also have a little more detail and shading in them here, and the floor patterns also have have an embossed look added to them (see screenshot 3). Other examples I noticed include an additional field of crops added to the level 4 stages (again, see screenshot 3), bigger, more elaborate totem polls, and larger explosions. This retains a few more of the graphical elements from the arcade too, the second cloud type is retained in level 1, as are the bridge and fences of level 4, and more of the tree designs, there's also less sprite flicker.

On the other hand though I have to say that the re-designed sprites lack a lot of the charm of the original arcade, and TG-CD versions, they're just blander looking and more run-of-the-mill in appearance. Going into a little more detail I would say that the male player sprite here looks pretty weak in comparison to his original arcade counterpart, and the dragon you fly on looks more like a confused flying Hippo than a dragon.

Overall I'm going to give it to the Mega Drive, but only by a hair.
  Winner Is: Mega Drive
  TG-CD - Overall this is very well coloured, looking very close to the original arcade game. We've got a lot of very nice pastel colours that are very easy on the eye, and sprites have lots of smooth shading.

On the flip side? well, there's not much to complain about really, there's some noticeable dithering here and there (see screenshot 1), but overall nothing too notable.

Mega Drive - The backgrounds are pretty well coloured here, probably around par with the PC-Engine version, but just with different choices. Some elements have fewer colours, whilst others have a few more here and there (such as the coconuts in pic 1). There's a little more dithering here than there was in the TG-CD game, so I'd say the background colour is maybe slightly worse.

Where the sprites are concerned though this is definitely inferior to the TG-CD version. The sprites here look noticeably lower colour, with a lot of shared colours standing out in contrast (looking at the hermit crab enemy for example, on TG-CD it has completely different colours specific to its shell, whilst on Mega Drive the shell re-uses the pink of the crabs body, and the body re-uses the yellow of the shell for highlights).

Definitely a win for TG-CD in this category.
  Winner Is: TG-CD
  TG-CD - The animation here is actually very good, the player sprites have a lot of different actions, all animated quite well, but even all of the monsters are given quite a few frames.

Overall its very good in this area, very close to the original arcade game

Mega Drive - This is actually very noticeably inferior to the TG-CD version.

Starting with the player sprite. The animation which happens when you're being pushed by the edge of the screen is completely absent here, and most actions have one fewer frame (walking, firing, taking damage etc), the animation for skidding is also absent for all levels except for the ice stage.

The enemies here tend to have around half as many frames of animation, here they're usually only assigned two frames of each, whilst on TG-CD they tended to get three or four (sometimes more).
  Winner Is: TG-CD
  TG-CD - The scrolling is good, but there's no parallax.

Mega Drive - Good scrolling, parallax retained.

  Winner Is: Mega Drive
  TG-CD - This has completely remixed CD music.

Quality wise this is obviously excellent (its essentially all real instruments now instead of chip music), composition wise I'd say that overall this is an improvement, I'm not too keen on some of the arrangements (for the first level for instance, which sounds a bit cheesy in my opinion), but for the most part its well done (I especially like the boss music, and end of level tune, but there's a lot of good stuff here). All in all this could arguably be considered an improvement to even the original arcade game's music!

Mega Drive - This does a pretty good job of recreating the arcade tracks, and sounds much more faithful than the TG-CD version does (hardly surprising given the circumstances), it definitely sounds a little weaker, and there's less punch to it than the arcade game but its generally good.
  Winner Is: TG-CD
  Sound FX
  TG-CD - This is a good recreation of the arcade game's sound fx, some of the sounds are a little harsher than they originally were, and the sounds of the arcade game were not really anything particularly special to begin with, but it does the job and a few of the sounds are fairly memorable.

Mega Drive - There's really not very much between the two, but I'm probably going to give this round to the Mega Drive simply because I slightly prefer its fruit collection sound effect, and one or two of the other sounds seem a little less harsh here (though the missile sound is definitely inferior).

Overall a slim win here for Mega Drive.
  Winner Is: Mega Drive
The gameplay of Monster Lair has each level alternating between simple platforming stages which auto-scroll, and traditional horizontally-scrolling shooter stages where you ride a dragon. The game is 2-player, and has you shooting at the enemies as well as collecting a variety of temporary shot power-ups.

There's a simplistic points bonus system here, which has you gaining extra points for collecting fruit in quick succession (if you collect the fruit singularly you usually get 50 points for each, collect them quickly in a line though and each subsequent fruit doubles the points you got from the last one). On top of that you can shoot some of the fruit to make it larger and burst into multiple pieces, again allowing you to get a point bonus for each piece you catch. Being that you get extra lives whenever you hit points targets, the points system is definitely worth taking into account whilst you're playing the game.

TG-16 - This is actually very, very accurate to the arcade original. I only really noticed a handful of differences here, the impressive flame weapon seems to appear slightly less than it originally did, and the power-ups don't time-out during boss fights, which makes the bosses a lot easier but is often a fairly enjoyable change as some of the boss fights used to drag a little, so I have mixed feelings there.

Mega Drive - This version's gameplay is noticeably inferior.

Firstly, and most importantly, this version is actually missing five whole sets of levels! Both the platforming, and shmup stages are missing from levels 5, 6, 9, 12, and 13. These levels don't particularly stand out, or do anything different to the ones which did make the cut, but this is still a pretty serious issue.

Secondly a lot of the power-ups here are weaker, and feel underpowered in comparison to their arcade, and TG-CD counterparts. The missiles, and circling blades are especially weak, with the circling blades ending up being more of a liability to the player than helpful power-up.

When played on 2-player this version is also plagued with slowdown, its pretty much ever present, even on 1-player there is still some slowdown, but its at much more acceptable levels.

Outside of that there's just a whole load of factors which add up to make this version less interesting than the others. The boss fights aren't as exciting anymore, and feel much more subdued, the bosses just don't bob and weave around the screen like they do in other versions. The player handling feels simpler, and more basic, with the characters not having they little bit of momentum and skid that they once had. The scrolling also feels a little slower in the platform stages, and the shmup stages less populated.
Winner Is: TG-16
TG-16 - Not really anything much to speak of, there's not even a demo.

Mega Drive - The same really. There's a demo screen here, but on the other hand the 2-player select option is less optimal, with you having to press start on player 2's controller instead of simply choosing 2-player.

I'm just splitting hairs here really.
Winner Is: Draw
  Overall this is a pretty confident win for the TG-CD game. Whilst the Mega Drive version is higher resolution, and has parallax and some extra details here and there, its sprites lack the charm of their Turbografx counterparts, the colour is worse, and the animation just isn't as stand-out. Music wise the Mega drive just can't compete with the high quality CD audio of the TG-CD version, and the gameplay doesn't hold the interest quite as well either (and this isn't even going into all the missing levels).

An easy win for the Turbo overall.

  Overall Winner Is: TG-CD
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