Interview With Omar Cornut: What Makes Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap So Wonderful

We recently had the chance to interview Omar Cornut, Technical Director and Designer for Wonder Boy, and Stephanie Tinsley. We talked about the changes in the remake, PSX, and what they love about the original.

So tell me a bit about Wonder Boy 3.

Omar: It’s an old personal favorite of mine, kind of an early Metroidvania kind of game. Your character can transform from a curse. You’re turned into a lizard creature, and then a number of animals throughout the game. You only really play as “Wonder Boy” at the beginning of the game.

It’s kind of open-world, where there’s an exciting lack of direction. It leads you to explore, to find things. Every form has different abilities to get you to new places, so you can explore the big connected world. It’s kind of a cult game for Sega kids.

Why did you personally want to remake Wonder Boy 3, why this franchise in particular?

Omar: We love this game, and it’s something we’ve wanted to make. Lots of kids haven’t played it, so this can help give those people a chance to try it. I play it every year, and it never gets old. It’s a simple game that feels nice, it feels just right.

It’s a love affair I guess. The musician is a big fan of the game, one of the programmers is, everybody’s making it because we love the original game.

What are some major changes to the original game?

Omar: The biggest change is that everything is hand re-drawn. We recreated all of the landscapes to look more like a cartoon, to make it beautiful. We did the same thing with the music, where we recorded a very nice soundtrack for it. The original soundtrack is one that a lot of people love, so we remade it in a way that wasn’t chiptune.

It’s smoother than the original, the physics are better, it’s in widescreen, but overall it’s very similar. We’re adding some challenges and improvements here and there, but overall it’s very true to the experience. We added in a couple secrets and some difficulty modes, so that people who’ve already played it can find new things. We also made the regular difficulty a bit easier. It’s meant to feel like an old game, so it’s classic, but still accessible for say, your kid, or a friend who doesn’t play many games.

We had to look into the game code for a bit, to see if there were any secrets we never found. Doing that, seeing how the game works, made us feel like we could make a new version of it. It’s not guesswork, since we’re starting from a knowledge of how the game works.

What is YOUR personal connection to Wonder Boy?

Omar: I grew up with the Master System. And once I went back into retro games in the late 90’s, I always went back to the Master System. I played this game a lot, and it never really left me.

Why do you think Wonder Boy will appeal to a newer audience?

Omar: It’s hard to generalize. There are so many different types of people out there, and people who love the Nintendo style of games will really like this. It’s simple, but very skill-based, which works for that audience. It’s hard to say who will like this game or not.

I think people will be attracted to it because of its visuals and music. People are liking what they’re seeing so far, and I think that’s because the recipe really works. Things like Zelda have been made so many times, but they still work today. People accept that these are old games, and they play in similar ways.

Stephanie: When we were at PSX, people who hadn’t played Wonder Boy when it was originally out, but knew about it or heard about it, really enjoyed it. The two things we heard a lot was that it’s an interesting platformer because of its imaginative world, and its striking art style. It has a very distinct look and feel to it, and that comes through as soon as you play it.

It also has very finely tuned controls, and there’s more to the gameplay than meets the eye. A lot of people are attracted to it from the visuals, but then when they played it, they’d comment on how there was much more to it than they thought, that it’s deeper than they thought. I only got hands-on at PSX for the first time myself, and my experience really mirrored what other people said.

How was your experience with the game at PSX?

Omar: It was great. As Stephanie said, it was the first time we showed the game to a large audience, so it was great. It went well, people really enjoyed it. When people first fall into a hole in the game, they expect to die, but there’s a moment after when they just fall into a new area, that they realize there are a lot of ways to go.

Stephanie: And from a presentation perspective, out of the dozens, or hundreds, of games featured at PSX, Wonder Boy was featured in most of the top round-ups of the show, “shouldn’t miss”, “check out”, etc. The reception was incredibly positive, and the inclusions in all of these lists alongside these first-party titans and other great indie games, it’s a really important indicator for us when it comes to interest and perception/

Omar: My mother also said it was great. [laughs] We’ll put that on the box!

Any last statements?

Omar: We hope people enjoy the game. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, where we show off small videos and photos as we develop the game, so check it out!

For more information on Wonder Boy 3, check out the game’s official website here.

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