Title: Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Available On: PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PS4
Genre: Platforming Side-Scroller
Official Site: www.thedragonstrap.com
Release Date: June 8, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, Playstation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace, eShop
Back in 1989, a game called Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap released for the Sega Master System. This game incorporated RPG elements such as armor and weapon upgrades into a side-scroller where you the player would use currency from dropped baddies to continually make yourself stronger and more durable. The game would go on to receive Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) magazine’s best game of 1989. Well, with the help of some dedicated developers, this game has returned, and it looks and sounds better than ever.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a platforming side-scroller rereleased and remade by Lizardcube studios on all major platforms that put you the player in control of “Hu-man,” or “Hu-woman” for the first time, a brave adventurer who kills the terrible Meka-dragon and is cursed with a lizard form. You set off in search of the Salamander Cross, the only thing that can lift the curse and return you back to you original form.
Along the way, you use your new abilities to conquer other dragon bosses, and each time your form changes, giving you both new abilities, as well as access to new areas. When you initially start the game, you are fully powered and fully armored and nothing can stand in your way. But when the curse finds you, Hu-man loses all of this and starts again from scratch. The only way to get new equipment is to destroy your enemies and use the loot they drop to upgrade your equipment. Chest and hidden areas are scattered around as well, some requiring a specific form to get to.
The gameplay feels like an old-school side-scroller: you continue going right or left bashing enemies a number of times depending on their color outline and collecting the gold and hearts they drop. At the end of each stage is a boss fight that requires you to dodge out of the way and hit only when the time is right. Then upon defeating this boss, your form changes and you use your new mechanics to go to the place you couldn’t access before. In addition to dropping gold, some enemies will also drop special items that allow you to attack things you may not have been able to hit, like a floating cloud dropping bombs on you. These are especially handy in boss fights, as they can be more reliable than your actual strikes.
One of the best parts about this game is the completely renovated look and feel. The art design is simply gorgeous, with a vibrant array of colors and the hand drawn feel of the entire game constantly present. The soundtrack is also superb, as having a fully orchestrated set behind you as you set off on a dragon killing adventure is exactly the kind of motivation you’ll need to keep pressing forward. And if at any point in time you forget how good these things are, the game lets you swap back to the 8-bit version of both the game and the soundtrack individually on the fly. This version of the game feels just as true to the original as you’d hope, as well.
The game still has a fairly high difficulty spike, as you’d expect from a classic game like this. The developers put in three separate difficulties for players, but the difficulties in a game like this don’t seem to come from how much damage you take so much as the classic game mechanics feeling antiquated. More often than not, my deaths in the game were caused by a damage loop of enemies constantly running into me and bouncing me back into another enemy who did the same thing. In boss fights, this was especially apparent. In a game where there are no real checkpoints before boss battles, dying because of one of these damage loops felt pretty terrible knowing I’d be playing the entire level over again.
As I played, I also felt like I was expected to grind enemies for gold since some of the armor upgrades were far above anything I had obtained in a full run of a level. And with each armor piece being specifically for one of the forms and not all of them, it never made sense to purchase a high powered armor set for a creature I was just about to be transformed out of.
Verdict: As a whole, the game doesn’t just stay true to the original; it redefines it. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a truly beautiful and epic retelling of a game that probably would have been lost to the 8-bit era, and the homages it has to the original in the form of the retro form of the game being incorporated make sure that never happens. While it still feels like a classic game in difficulty and mechanics, it does a lot right to both satisfy those who loved the old one, and also bring in newcomers into the series.
- Fluid, customized combat
- Intriguing level design
- Somber, yet humorous personality
- Repetitive after a point
- A few technical glitches
- No climax