“The power of change will help you grow, and set you free. Only you can save tomorrow.” Believe it or not, if you’re searching for a resource that will quickly put you into speed about the basics of Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom’s plot, the best way would be to simply listen to the awesome theme song featured in the intro of the game. Not only it will straightaway transport you into the days of your childhood when you’ve anxiously waited for your favorite Saturday morning Anime cartoons, but it really gives away the most crucial moments of the game, including all about your unusual powers of transformation which make you just about unstoppable, and the fact that the future of the world basically depends on your actions.
As you can see, there’s some really heroic stuff waiting for you in Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, which is just what you would expect from the official sequel to the Wonder Boy, a legendary franchise which, through the second half of the eighties and early nineties inspired many a young fervent gamer to try out this special side-scrolling platformer/action adventure hybrid. To make the bonds of continuity even stronger, the guys from Game Atelier were reinforced by the man himself, a famous game developer Ryuichi Nishizawa who made the classic Wonder Boy and made sure that it’s in keeping with the sensibility and vibe of the original saga.
This time around, you’ll play as Yin, a boy whose destiny is to stand up to his evil uncle Nabu, a comically megalomaniacal fellow with a jester’s outfit, a bad drinking problem and an even worse attitude, whose master plan is to turn everyone in this fairyland kingdom into animals. Finding out accidentally about Nabu’s devious plan, our fledgling hero takes up his shield and sword and goes after his pie-eyed, barrel-flying uncle looking for some answers. Thankfully, after this first unsuccessful confrontation, Yin will discover that his greatest weapon against his crazed uncle isn’t plain cold steel, but his unique ability to transform into different animals at will. With the help of these animal manifestations (the magic-wielding menagerie consists of pig, snake, dragon, lion, frog), there won’t be a situation the titular Monster Boy won’t be able to conquer. Each of these animals has its special powers and playstyles, so, in order to overcome certain hazardous situations and obstacles, you’ll be required to proficiently combine their abilities.
Although I personally think that story is charming, with just the right amount of fairytale naiveté (especially with the character of Yin’s awful impish uncle who looks, talks and acts just like some deviant hobgoblin), the storyline itself is rather unobtrusive. It’s obviously there just to push you through the grand doors of adventure and to give you the ability to transform yourself into different animals and enjoy in superb gaming mechanics. Although at the casual glance you could mistake Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom for a mere side-scrolling platformer, the game is actually quite a bit engaging. It can best be described as an action-adventure platformer of the Metroidvania subgenre, which means that you’ll be exploring quite a bit – a thing that will delight most players because the visuals and the overall level design are simply top-notch. That also goes for phenomenal soundtrack done by a supergroup of legendary Japanese game composers, which give a decisive note to this great game. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is a prime example how you can take older concept or franchise and present it in revamped form so that it can appeal to the modern audiences, even those who never played original series. I dig it a lot and, chances are, so will you.