Title: Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC (available in June), PS4, and Xbox One (reviewed)
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Old school 2D platforming at its finest
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Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is actually a remake of the original Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap ,which was released way back in 1989 for the SEGA’s 8-Bit system: the Master System. It was the third entry in the Wonder Boy series, which was preceded by Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy in Monster Land, which originated as arcade titles followed by ports on the Sega Master System. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap was a 2D platformer originally developed by Westone Bit Entertainment and published by SEGA. The development of the remastered edition was handled by Lizardcube, while publishing duties were handled by DotEmu this time around.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap kicks off after the events of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, as the titular hero sets his sights on Mecha Dragon’s lair in order to slay him. Unfortunately, doing so rewards our hero with a curse which transforms him into a Lizard-Man. Wonder Boy travels across the land taking down hidden dragons, and each time a dragon is slain, the curse changes our hero into a different form. In order to remove the curse, Wonder Boy needs to hunt and kill the Vampire Dragon to retrieve the one thing that will cure him: the Salamander Cross.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a 2D platformer with a Metroidvania twist to it. As the titular Wonder Boy, players wander the land in order to find and kill every hidden dragon. The first twist being, once a dragon is dead, a Blue Flame is born and once players touch it, they will morph into a different creature such as dragon or a mouse, among others. The other twist, where the Metroidvania genre comes in, is that every form has a unique ability that will help players reach new areas.
For example, the mouse can walk on different surfaces, allowing him to walk up walls and upside down in order to reach new areas and avoid enemy attacks. What makes it difficult is that every time you die, you’re thrown back to the beginning. Meaning if you’ve been out and about for 20-30 minutes trying to find your way and meet an unfortunate end, back to square one you go. Once you see the Game Over screen, a Wheel of Fortune like screen appears, which can result earning a Blue Potion, which acts like a life in the game.
Thankfully, to prolong the inevitable death, players can purchase stronger gear as they process and earn coins by killing enemies. Players can equip a sword, a shield, and armour. Obviously, the more expensive the gear, the more efficient it’ll be. As you explore the areas, you’ll find additional heart containers which will increase your HP, meaning you’ll have some “help” staving off that next death.
So how does the gameplay hold up almost 30 years later? Surprisingly well! While I admittedly never played the original Master System version (I was a Nintendo kid), the developers used the same code as the original meaning the gameplay remains the same today. Be advised, however, that players used to a more tight gameplay (such as 2015’s Mega Man Legacy Collection), will honestly need a bit of time to adapt, as every surface will feel slippery. During platforming sequences, make sure to watch how you land, so you don’t slide and die.
This is where this game shines. While the new aesthetics feature beautifully hand-drawn visuals, and are accompanied by a new enchanting soundtrack. Players can easily revert back to the original 8-bit visual and soundtrack. The new score is wonderfully played and feels quite soothing; a nice contrast to the frustration that lays ahead. The new visuals are also very well done and can be appealing to the younger gamers of the family, as it looks a bit like a cartoon.
So is Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap worth a purchase? Definitely. However, prepare to face quite a challenge, as this is as old school as you can get. The game is straight out of the 80s, where we saw the era of Mega Man and Contra games see the light of day. While the presentation is definitely one of the strongest point, the gameplay holds up surprisingly well despite being over 20 years old. As mentioned above, it does take a bit of an adjustment period; however, once players get a hold of it, they’ll keep coming back. The only hurdle I can see is the tolerance for being thrown back to square one after dying.
- Switching between visual styles on the fly.
- Old school gaming at its finest.
- Prepare to start over. Often.
- The mouse is the worst form.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is rated PEGI 3 and Everyone 10 and up thanks to the presence of fantasy violence and use of tobacco.
This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.