Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
When I wrote about Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, I mentioned that it inspired many other console games to combine platforming action with role-playing elements. I hadn’t expected it to inspire arcade games to do the same, but that’s exactly what happened with Wonder Boy In Monster Land. The original Wonder Boy from 1986 (which I did not play for this series) was a straight arcade platformer, a design which works well as a coin-operated game. There are discrete levels of increasing difficulty played one after another, and players must start over from the beginning if titular protagonist Wonder Boy perishes. Learn the levels after depositing enough coins for several attempts, and maybe players could make it to the end, or at least reach the high score list.
Role-playing games, on the other hand, tend to be longer adventures that last for many play sessions, with characters gradually growing in strength and abilities along the way. That’s not typically a good match for the short form, repetitive nature of arcade games. Yet it seems to have worked in the case of Wonder Boy In Monster Land. Its Sega Master System port is fondly remembered as one of the better games for that console, and its sequel Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap earned such a cult following that it saw a full remake in 2016, followed by an entirely new spiritual successor in 2018. Curious about the enduring appeal of this series, I decided to play the Master System version of Wonder Boy In Monster Land, developed by Sega and released in January 1988, about six months after Westone Bit Entertainment’s original arcade release in July 1987.