Return of the real Boy Wonder!
Always leave them wanting more is a phrase that is often saved for TV Shows or franchise films where a sudden stop of new material at a high point can secure a legacy for all time.
When this happens in videogames it can often lead to head scratching, heartache and a sense of loss because games take you into fantasy worlds with a level of interaction no film or TV Show can replicate. When it just so happens to involve a character once directly connected to Sega's own sense of identity then fans can be left wondering what on earth happened. Today we look at a return of a much missed hero who has been off of our screens for far... FAR too long.
Wonder Boy! What is the secret of your power?
Some games seem like they have been with you forever. It's important to note however that this is often a very good thing where videogames are concerned. After a while a character or series attach themselves to your brain in order to be remembered but also your heart in order to remain loved. That being said It's the heart that keeps a memory in the mind because It's the heart that most of the time tells you that It's always good to have more.
For Sega fans this has been the case for 30 years now for a game character and series that through the 8-Bit and 16-Bit era's felt right every single time it got a new title in the franchise. There was a time when the name 'Wonder Boy' often resulted in huge expectation and anticipation followed by pinpoint perfection of execution from the series developer. A Sega system didn't feel right without a game from the franchise and each one was an absolute pleasure to play. Then, one day he went away and something went missing from the industry.
Now, one dedicated and exceptionally talented team are bringing him back. Not just a collection of the old games or a remake of a classic title in HD, those same Sega fans will, in 2017, get to experience a whole new adventure. A familiar face in familiar guises in whole new situations. For those who missed one of the greatest characters to ever sit in a Sega console's slot, the long waiting game is almost over. Today Megatron's_Fury went looking for some answers regarding Monster Boy & The Cursed Kingdom and spoke to the Studio leader at 'Game Atelier' about what to expect regarding this whole new adventure.
Fabien Demeulenaere and his team of 10 creative souls are busy putting final touches to the game which is due to ship on PS4, XBOX ONE and PC but took some time out to entertain a 42 year old man still as excited about a new game in the series as the inner child within who grew up on them.
Fabulous Fabien's Wonderous World!
RGG: Thanks for speaking to us today, please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about who you are and what exactly you do.
Fabien: Hi! I’m Fabien and I am the studio manager at Game Atelier in Paris France. I am currently leading a 10 people team and handle communication with our publisher FDG Entertainment based in Munich Germany.
RGG: Currently RGG has been tracking your new project with huge interest so can you please tell the readers what this game is called and a little bit about its story?
Fabien: Monster Boy is the new Wonder Boy, featuring a hero named Jin. While he was peacefully fishing in the sea, Jin is suddenly attacked by Nabu, his eccentric uncle. Nabu is acting more crazy than usual and now has a magic wand with the power of turning any living thing into a monster. While on the rampage he turns Jin into a pig!
Your mission is to find what happened to Jin’s uncle and get back his human form. Thanks to magical orbs that you’ll get by beating each boss, Jin will be able to transform into 6 different forms in total, each of which grants new unique powers and allows you explore new areas of the game’s open world.
RGG: Some folk out there (those living in a cave or something) may not be aware that this didn’t start out as a brand new and original Wonder Boy adventure (albeit with a clever name change) so for those living in the dark can you give us some more details about its origin please?
Fabien: We started this project as a tribute to Wonder Boy based on our first game universe (Flying Hamster) and wanted to raise funds via Kickstarter.
Just before launching the KS campaign we showed the project to the original creator of the Wonder Boy series, Mr Ryuichi Nishizawa and we had the incredible chance to have his support: he granted us the use of some monsters, designs and music material from the Wonder Boy universe. At the time, all our team members minds were blown!
RGG: When was the magic moment when the decision was made to create a new chapter in a franchise very much beloved by Sega fans? Who made the final call? How did you proceed getting any needed permissions?
Fabien: Shortly after the Kickstarter campaign started in 2014, FDG Entertainment contacted us and showed interest with funding and publishing the game. With Mr Nishizawa granting us permissions from LAT Corporation (owners of the Wonder Boy franchise assets) and FDG as a co-developer and publisher involved, it was obvious to create the next Wonder Boy, not just a tribute.
Monster Boy is the magic combination of Mr Nishizawa, FDG Entertainment and Game Atelier.
RGG: The creator of the mascot character, Ryuichi Nishizawa, not only gave his blessing but has been a consultant on this new game, describe what it feels like to work with someone who created something of such vision. Did you naturally look upon him with hero worship eyes and how much of a challenge does that set for yourselves to keep the quality of the franchise at the highest levels?
Fabien: Mr Nishizawa gave us his impressions about graphics or designs over some screenshots, graphic material or builds we sent to him. He is a crazy source of motivation for all our team by simply knowing that he endorsed Monster Boy. We never forget that our project wouldn’t exist without his legacy and we all hope that he’ll enjoy the final version of Monster Boy as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Monsters on Standby, waiting to say 'Hi'
RGG: With its release very close how are you feeling regarding its imminent release? How have the feeback sessions gone from the numerous public demos at shows etc?
Fabien: Monster Boy was featured on many shows from the PlayStation Experience to the Gamescom or Paris Games Week. The players who had the chance to put their hands on it gave us a real positive feedback, whether they are hardcore Wonder Boy fans or new to the series.
We really intended to create a new modern game that the players can enjoy by feeling a real sense of adventure, exploration and rewarding challenges. Getting close to the release is intense as we want every single moment in the game to stick to that feeling, so you can imagine how we’re putting a strong effort into it right now!
RGG: For those who love to collect physical copies of the game do you have any plans to at some point produce a retail boxed version? If so could there be a special edition?
Fabien: We love physical copies! While there’s no confirmation about a Monster Boy boxed version at the moment, you can be sure that we’ll try to work it out. No special edition is planned though.
RGG: It’s probably impossible but can you put down into words how the character of Wonder Boy and his games have impacted you and the studio as lovers of videogames? Which ‘one’ game connected with you the most and why?
Fabien: Wonder Boy had a big impact on my childhood: I had the chance to play all of the episodes released on Master System and Megadrive systems at the time and they all brought me great gaming memories. Every single person from our studio who played these games didn’t forget the unique atmosphere that they tried to replicate when creating Monster Boy.
The two episodes that influenced us most are Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap (SMS) and Wonder Boy in Monster World (MD): the first for its game structure and transformations, the second for its monsters, equipment and environments.
And of course as shmup fans we couldn’t miss the occasion to add a little of Monster Lair (MD/Arcade) in Monster Boy.
RGG: 2017 looks like it’s going to be a superb year for fans of retrogaming and for lovers of one of Sega’s best ever released creations, with a remake of a classic Master System game in HD due out as well as your gorgeous looking new adventure what do you hope will happen for this franchise moving forward?
Fabien: It is very tempting to say that we had so many good ideas we couldn’t include in Monster Boy that we could create a second episode right away, but first things first: let’s finish Monster Boy properly!
No doubt that 2017 will be amazing for any Wonder Boy fan around.
What makes a monster master tick?
RGG: Now let’s see how your gaming likes and dislikes look shall we? Imagine you are banished to a far off land with only a TV, Electricity and some games consoles to keep you company. Please tell us all what your top 5 games you would take would be.
Fabien: If I’m not alone on this island I’d bring a Bomberman 94’ (or Saturn Bomberman), Street Fighter III Third Strike and Mario Kart 8!
Then I’d probably bring Zelda 3 ALTTP (SNES), Radiant Silvergun (Saturn) and... Wait, is it already finished?! Damn there are too many great games!
RGG: With indie gaming seeming to continuously move forward in both size and scale from both its development community and its consumers how much of an impact do you believe smaller studios now have on this mammoth games industry as a whole?
Fabien: I think good games and concepts go beyond the price of a production. Game creators take their inspirations in many various medias and of course as players themselves they are influenced by the titles they play whether it’s big or not.
As a player myself I know that there are times for spending 60+ hours on an RPG and other times for a 5 minutes play session on my phone. Both experiences will impact myself, in totally different ways of course. Nowadays players make the difference between small and big productions, knowing that they’ll provide a different kind of entertainment, but they need both of them in the end.
As long as a game is good, AAA or indie, it will naturally stand out and impact the other titles in the future.
RGG: Finally, because this interview is a chance for you to share with us the things that you feel need to be said or highlighted this is the moment when you can create your own question and then go crazy on its answer. Did we miss anything out? Is there something instrumental to the game we haven’t picked up on and most importantly feel free to sell this game to everyone reading it. You have clearly worked so very hard on this project so please, sing it all to the internet
Fabien: Question: Why does the Monster Boy music sound so good?
Answer: Because half of the soundtrack is made from re-arranged themes from the classic Monster World games composed by Shinichi Sakamoto and the other half is new music especially made for Monster Boy.
And also because the music production team includes outstanding music composers like Motoi Sakuraba, Michiru Yamane, Yuzo Koshiro, Keiki Kobayashi, Takeshi Yanagawa and Haruka Shimotsuki.
RGG: Everyone connected to RetroGameGeeks.co.uk is watching this new game with glazed eyes and those butterfly feelings that only love and excitement of expectation can produce. Thank you for your time, we hope this was fun for you too?
Fabien: It was a real pleasure to answer your questions and we hope that you guys will enjoy playing Monster Boy in 2017.
Game Atelier out!
Retro Game Geek's Final Thoughts
So there you have it folks! Some super cool gossip from the man behind one of this writers most eagerly anticipated game release in years... I mean that as well, I'm not being polite or going for an effect. The second I saw this being announced a part of me that I only let out when I'm in the Games Room started doing cartwheels in my stomach. I may also have let out a yelp and did a little dance but there's no proof of this, so don't go google searching my name and the phrase 'Break Dancing Man'.
You see, here's the thing... When you grow up and leave behind that Childhood it's pretty much a given fact of life that all you will ever take with you are the memories. From time to time something may come along that stirs up those past days but very rarely does something completely new turn up on your doorstep with a note around it's neck that reads "Hi there you, I'm your childhood... In a new and improved form!"
That's what this game is! It's those treasured and beloved moments when you, or you and some friends, sat in bedrooms, front rooms or basements and were whisked away to far off lands for fun and adventure with a game character that just completely resonated with you. When you take a look at any single one of the huge array of screenshots on this page you will instantly see the magic of a game series that has been far too long forgotten.
When you sit around and talk about the games that helped create the magic moments of your childhood with others, it's hard not to want a new story to chat about. So how fantastic it is when people of a similar mind go that one or two... or 20 stages further and actually bring that into the world for other fans to lose themselves in. That original gamer generation grew up but some kept their hearts young. Now, many years after the franchise's last proper outing one of the original character mascot greats is about to come back and in such a glorious manner that you have to pinch yourself to know it's not a dream. Monster Boy may be the new name and it may look ultra modern and gorgeous but underneath it's pulse is that of a hero, too long without an adventure worth his magnificence.
Maybe modern Sega forgot exactly who and what helped make them so fantastic in the first place, way before a super fast Hedgehog rocked up. Fabien and his team didn't. Fans of the Golden Era certainly haven't. Much like Opa Opa and Alex Kidd, Wonder Boy is a legend for a reason and in 2017 old school fans and new gamers alike are going to fall in love all over again. Take a bow Game Atelier, because oh my word... You have nailed it!