Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Review
Through the dragon's eye
For every new IP or sequel that’s released, it seems the games of yesteryear are making appearances on current gen consoles just as frequently; sometimes it’s great being reminded of the good times, but other times it’s abundantly clear why games have moved on from the archaic crop of 8-bit titles and those playable by cassette only. It’s always a worry when developers decide to experiment with bonafide classics and try to make them see the current light of day, but with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, Lizardcube has done a sterling job in not only breathing life into an old classic, they’ve given it a brand new lick of paint in the best possible way.
The Wonder Boy series has been around for over 30 years, and for any of you who grew up in the 80s, owning a Master System would have customarily meant owning a copy of a Wonder Boy game as well. This remake was originally released in 1989 as Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, and instead of just a simple port, we’ve got what feels like an almost new game, due to the stunning art style and adventurous musical score. The story, gameplay, and mechanics are all pretty much the same, bar a few tweaks (like the ability to toggle weapons much more easily), but it feels like something fresh. It’s weird because it’s almost as if it’s taken influences from games like Fez, Owlboy, and Shovel Knight, which is clearly not the case as it came out in its original form so many years ago – it is those games that took inspiration from Wonder Boy.
The gameplay is nonlinear, and after fighting the MEKA Dragon and being cursed forever to exist as a Lizard-Man, you can go pretty much wherever you want, providing you have the abilities to do so. You can jump and use a variety of weapons (such as a boomerang, a whirlwind, arrows, and fireballs), but it is the different animal forms you can take that make the game much more interesting. After visiting the various areas of the game, you’ll fight a different kind of dragon, and once defeated that area’s boss, you’ll be transformed into one of six different forms. For example, being a Mouse-Man means you can jump onto chequered platforms and reach places you can’t as one of the others, or being a Hawk-Man will mean you’ll be able to fly. One great addition to this remake is the ability to play as a Wonder Girl as well, and this option is given to you before you embark on your quest.
I remember playing The Dragon’s Trap round my friend’s house in my hometown when I was about nine year’s old, often switching between this on the Master System and Ikari Warriors on the NES. Although I can’t remember a lot about how it played back then, the option to revert back to the 8-bit style or the chip tune soundtrack at the press of a button is such a great feature. It’s so weird stepping back in time and seeing how it was back then. Playing this now should only be done to bask in the glorious artistry of the new visuals, and enjoying the epic soundtrack.
It’s remarkable how the new hand drawn visuals make it feel like a new game. It was always ahead of its time anyway, but the way it looks gives it a new lease of life. The lighting and colour palette used across the areas is so different to the last, and the enemy designs are stunning. One of the best instances of being blown away by the art was standing on top of one of the temples in The Desert World, and the sun created a silhouette around the Lizard-Man I was controlling at the time – it showed just how much detail had been put into not only the world, but the characters as well.
My main issue with the game is the impact of getting hit by one of the enemies or the bosses, and how it incapacitates you for far longer than it should. When I was fighting the Mummy Dragon (one of the earlier bosses), I kept getting caught in his toxic breath, and it would stun me, leading to a few moments where I was completely disorientated. He would then rush at me, and I’d continue to be unable to do anything. I’d then try and jump away, but the toxic clouds would attack me again, and I’d have no respite.
Also, if you were to get hit by one of the game’s enemies, it almost does the same where you’re unable to move or regain your composure without the next attack stunning you once again. It’s difficult to recover from attacks in The Dragon’s Trap, and you can earn more hearts as you play through, or buy better armour, but it does become frustrating, and if you do die, it’s right back to The Village – right back to the start.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a beautiful recreation of one of a great game. The art style is gorgeous and the new score gives the game an air of wonder. Getting hit by enemies is frustrating, and sometimes your jumps and movement needs to be exact unless you fancy getting caught in a frustrating string of attacks. If you’re old enough to remember the original, or are taken in by the way the game looks, it’s certainly worth playing The Dragon’s Trap, just so you can say you’ve played one of the pivotal titles in the genre.
Hand drawn art style is gorgeous
Option to revisit the original style at any time
Can get too disorientated when fighting enemies or bosses