MINOR UPDATE: As you all know, I’ve been working on a retrospective of sorts for the Wonder Boy/Monster World series. Last December, I wrote a standalone review of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. I did not originally intend to review the entire series. Instead, I was just going to talk about The Dragon’s Trap and Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom when I got around to finishing the latter, but I eventually decided to marathon the series so I could have the necessary context. Now that I have recently cleared Monster World IV, I learned a lot about the series I didn’t know when I originally wrote that piece. As such, I amended the introduction and parts of the review proper to better reflect the series’ progression. You can read the revised review by following this link.
Indeed, one of the things I had to come to grips with when tackling this series was that there were somehow two Wonder Boy IIIs. It makes a bit more sense in context. Both are sequels to Wonder Boy in Monster Land, though only The Dragon’s Trap is a direct continuation. In Japan, the titles are less confusing. While Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair has the same title in Japanese, what Western fans know as Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap is called Monster World II: The Dragon’s Trap domestically, enforcing the venture that Wonder Boy in Monster Land was a spinoff. Then again, the Sega Genesis game Western fans call Wonder Boy in Monster World is called Wonder Boy V: Monster World III in Japan, so perhaps it’s more accurate to assume the series are intertwined?
Even more confusingly, the Master System version of The Dragon’s Trap wasn’t released domestically, only debuting in its original form (so to speak) for the first time on the Game Gear. This got to the point to where when Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was released in 2018, I assumed there was a previous installment that began with “Monster Boy”. Only later would I learn Game Atelier’s effort was the first title in the series to begin in such a fashion, being a spiritual successor to the original Wonder Boy franchise that Sega still owns the rights to.
If that wasn’t enough, the first version of The Dragon’s Trap the Japanese received – the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) port, was named Adventure Island (Dragon’s Curse abroad). This is especially egregious because Hudson was given the original Wonder Boy to reskin and release on the Famicom (NES) – a console competing directly with Nintendo. The name of this reskin? Adventure Island. Technically, it was called Master Takahashi’s Adventure Island domestically. Furthermore, the Adventure Island that was a reskin of Wonder Boy has an entirely Japanese name whereas the port of The Dragon’s Trap uses the English words “Adventure Island” in its own title.
Surprisingly, Wonder Boy isn’t the only series to have done something like this.
As a result of Nihon Falcom losing a significant portion of their staff following the release of Ys III, they outsourced Ys IV to various companies. Two of them, Hudson Soft and Tonkin House, ended up creating their own interpretations of Ys IV based on the outline provided to them by Nihon Falcom.
This means there are two Ys IVs – one with the subtitle Mask of the Sun and the other with the subtitle The Dawn of Ys. Naturally, I had no idea why that would be considering neither game was released internationally, although the circumstances do make a bit more sense than what happened with the Wonder Boy franchise. It wouldn’t be until 2012 that Nihon Falcom would finally make their own version of the series’ fourth installment entitled Ys: Memories of Celceta, featuring many of the improvements they introduced in the series’ main installments leading up to that point.
Being such a long-running franchise with several installments, Mega Man is its own can of worms. In Western localizations, Capcom decided to use Roman numerals as opposed to Arabic numerals in addition to removing the subtitles each installment had in the original Japanese version starting with Mega Man 2. This didn’t prove to be a bad idea at first, but then Capcom ended up releasing Mega Man X in 1993. That’s not a “ten”, but rather the letter “X” for those unfamiliar with the series; Mega Man X started an entirely new spinoff series set after the classic series. Suddenly, Capcom of America had no choice but to switch to Arabic numerals for the classic series starting with Mega Man 8 (the seventh classic installment was called Mega Man 7 on the box and Mega Man VII in-game), though it wouldn’t be until 2010 that a Mega Man 10 would at last surface.
Making matters even stranger is that while this was going on, another Mega Man series was unfolding on the Game Boy. In an attempt to keep them distinguished from one another, fans continue to refer to these games with Roman numerals while using Arabic numerals to describe the classic series – even though Roman numerals continue to appear on their respective title screens. With video games being an overall less prolific medium than films, having more than one game with the same name and number becomes quite daunting to keep in track of – something that could’ve been at least partially averted had Capcom decided to keep the subtitles.
Amusingly, when Capcom began localizing the Ace Attorney franchise in the 2000s, the opposite scenario occurred. The Japanese versions would be numbered while the English version added subtitles to the names and ditched the numbers. This does make it slightly more difficult to determine the chronological order – particularly when you factor in the Ace Attorney Investigation games, but it’s otherwise no more difficult than researching the chronological order of a long-running series of books or films that stopped numbering the sequels after a certain point.
Now it’s your turn.
Which series do you feel conformed to an especially confusing naming convention?