Not many of you might remember about the Sega Master System. For anyone who grew up in Europe or South America, that was the 8-bit console of choice, beating the NES in sales and reception.
One of the most beloved games for that console was Wonder Boy III, an extremely colorful and charismatic action platformer that was was a Metroidvania-styled game many years before we got to play as Alucard dealing with severe daddy issues in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Fast forward 18 years later to 2017, and developer LizardCube has graced us with a pretty good remake for modern consoles, Nintendo Switch included!
Right off the bat, you can see the developers went the distance to update the game with a much more modern look. Instead of trying to look retro with an 8-bit aesthetic, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was completely remade with great visuals and music. Just take a look at some of the pictures in this article: the game’s new look is pretty amazing, with everything looking like a living and breathing cartoon. The use of colors is great and the parallax scrolling is really well implemented. Same can said about the game’s sound, which is a reimagining of the original Wonder Boy III‘s soundtrack, with actual instruments this time around.
The developers have added a very nice feature if you’re actually very nostalgic about the original Wonder Boy III. You can easily change between the remastered and original 8-bit visuals by pressing a single button, as easy as it gets. You can even add CRT effects to the visuals, to maximize the retro vibe, as well as also being able to freely choose between the original and reimagined soundtracks. You can even choose to play with the old soundtrack with updated visuals, and vice-versa. Have it your way.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, nothing has changed at all. The game still plays pretty much the same: traverse through the somewhat open side-scrolling world, find a boss, beat a boss, get cursed by said boss which in turn changes your form and your current abilities, use the new form in order to overcome a previously difficult obstacle, and so on. Rinse and repeat until you acquire the Salamander Cross and beat the game.
It sounds pretty simple and easy on paper, but don’t be fooled, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is quite hard. It’s actually too hard in the beginning, when you have just one heart meter, weak attacks and little to no direction of where to go in order to proceed. This is a retro game in every sense of the word, including the challenge aspect of it. One of the main gripes regarding the game’s level of difficulty lies in a few gameplay flaws, by the way.
The main issue with the game lies with the fact that it’s basically a literal remake of the old Wonder Boy III in every sense of the word, just with a new facelift. That means some design and gameplay issues from the original 1989 game are still present, such as wonky collision detections and annoying knockback effects and physics. Hit detections are all over the place, sometimes you’ll defeat an enemy without actually touching it, sometimes your sword will go through it with little to no effect. Patience will be required, depending on your character and your current method of attacking.
Thankfully, the controls themselves are incredibly easy to learn and very responsive. It’s a game from a console which had just two buttons in its controller, so it’s not the hardest job in the world to translate that pretty well into a modern controller with dozens of buttons. A new exclusive input for your inventory and another for your secondary weapon are by far the best additions.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap turned out to be a true love letter to the original Master System game. Dare I say, it’s even better than the original. It might be quite frustrating in the beginning, and its few gameplay issues are quite annoying, but its carefree retro nature and fun joruney, accompanied by such inviting and charming visuals , are more than enough for you to consider giving this game a try.
The game is available in various platforms, but given its size and scope, getting it for the Switch is the recommended purchase. Now, can we get an Alex Kidd remake as well?
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC (in June)