Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap, which originally released for the Sega Master System back in 1989. It introduces a lot of new neat concepts and updates the presentation but manages to stay true to the original title.
“Unlike games such as Shovel Knight or Momodora IV, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is locked as a 100% faithful remake of the original and that means all of the archaic designs from the past are still present”
The game is an action-RPG with a Metroidvania level design. This means you’ll need to go through towns and talk to people to buy items, the levels are non-linear in design and you can later gain new abilities that will allow you to access blocked sections in previously explored levels.
Fortunately, you’re dropped into an intro stage first and the game intelligently teaches how the mechanics work through intuitive level design instead of relying on an abundance of text boxes.
One of the main gimmicks here is that the titular Wonder Boy – or Wonder Girl, since this remake now adds the option for a female character – is cursed and transformed into a dragon, referred to as Lizard-Man. As you beat more bosses and clear more areas you’ll be able to transform into other creatures such as Mouse-Man, Piranha-Man, Lion-Man and Hawk-Man. Each new form grants different abilities like being able to fly, walk on ceilings or traverse through water better.
Unlike games such as Shovel Knight or Momodora IV, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is locked as a 100% faithful remake of the original and that means all of the archaic designs from the past are still present. This can lead to some instances where the difficulty spikes incredibly high but fortunately this doesn’t happen too often.
This means you can still run into a few instances where an unseen enemy could lead to an unfair death or you’ll find yourself grinding a little bit just to buy a one-use item. There’s even a possibility of not getting a powerful weapon simply by using the key on a different door.
“If all of the new visuals and music don’t work for you then you can simply revert back to the original 8-bit and the original chip-tune music”
I would criticize the game a lot for not introducing more updates and innovations but it’s just so fortunate that the game, by default, is so damn good. There are only a few cheap instances and moments of frustrating design that I can give it a pass – but just barely.
For the most part, the best way to do a remake is to keep it familiar but still, innovate and improve where possible. This was done for Metroid when it was remade into Metroid: Zero Mission and that is definitely the better method of doing a remake.
So what did the remake bring new to the table? For one thing the graphics have seen a major overhaul. Now the title sports beautiful visuals in a hand drawn manner. It all looks like a gorgeous cartoon come to life.
Then there’s the music. All of the tunes have been updated, courtesy of Michael Geyre. While he uses the original tracks by Shinichi Sakamoto he also utilizes a blend of different instruments and styles, incorporating tango, classical music and more. Fans of the original Wonder Boy III will recognize the melodies but still find something fresh with the way they are presented.
If all of the new visuals and music don’t work for you then you can simply revert back to the original 8-bit and the original chip-tune music. When I discovered this I finally understood why the developers kept this remake so slavishly reminiscent of the original.
“Overall, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is as good now as it was back in 1989. The updated graphics and music are really amazing and the option to play the original game is neat for those who prefer it that way”
On a side note, it is possibly you’ve probably played a Wonder Boy game without even knowing it. Most games in the series are action-adventure games with RPG elements such as this one but the very first game was a pure platformer and it was ported to the NES. Hudson couldn’t use the title “Wonder Boy” since Sega owned the license for that so they changed some of the graphics and titled it “Adventure Island.”
Yes, that Adventure Island is actually an NES port of Wonder Boy. While Wonder Boy II and Wonder Boy III became action RPGs, Hudson made their own sequels to Adventure Island and kept them as platformers.
Overall, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is as good now as it was back in 1989. The updated graphics and music are really amazing and the option to play the original game is neat for those who prefer it that way. It can show its age from time to time but the title is, without a doubt, one of the best pioneers of the Metroidvania genre and it’s just nice to see it step back into the spotlight.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is available on PC via Steam and is also available on consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and the Playstation 4.