Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a fantastic platformer with a profound respect for its source material. Despite some navigation issues stemming from the original game, Wonder Boy: Dragon’s Trap should be used as a benchmark for future remakes of classic games.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap
Developer: dotEmu, LizardCube
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review.
Even as a Sega kid, I had minimal knowledge of Wonder Boy when I first heard about Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Platformers are always of interest to me, so I thought it would be worth a go to see if this classic game could work in the modern world of games, and happily, I can say it very much does.
The blissfully simple story is as follows; as the hero of what could be another adventure-filled game, you’ve reached the end of your journey. As you battle the “final” boss, you are cursed at the moment of your victory, transforming you into an anthropomorphic dragon. Seeking to reverse this odd ailment, you wander through different parts of the world, earning a number of new and different transformations, in the quest to return to your original human form.
Starting at the end and working your way to the beginning of the game is a fun change of pace from other platformers. The background characters are all silly and charming in their own ways, whether it’s the bored pig-man who sells you weapons and armor, or the snappy nurse who encourages you to get hurt more so she can heal you for more cash. It’s a lot of fun to interact with all of these quirky characters, as they add a sense of life to the already vibrant world.
Wonder Boy‘s gameplay is incredibly fun, even if some of the issues from the Sega Master Drive era are still present. For most of the game, the main gameplay system has you running, jumping, and fighting your way through beaches, deserts, volcanoes, and other such areas. The platforming aspect isn’t overly difficult, rather it’s the combat that makes the game truly challenging in a very old-school way. Every type of enemy has a unique movement pattern, keeping you on edge with each transformation and their different attacks. As a 2D side-scrolling platformer, the combat is pretty standard in that you attack the enemies in front of you with your different form-based weapons or the power-ups you find throughout the levels.
Each form has entirely different attacks, providing variety in the otherwise decent gameplay. The dragon form shoots fireballs, the mouse form slashes with his sword quickly at short range, while the lion form uses slow and heavy attacks. Each transformation provides its own challenge, making even the most commonly seen enemies a new challenge in each form. This makes the game’s understandably short length (as it’s an old-school platformer), enjoyable for the majority of its playtime. Exploring old areas with each form’s new abilities, like climbing walls or swimming in water, gives parts of Wonder Boy a somewhat Metroidvania vibe, which makes the segments of exploration feel truly rewarding.
The problem with Wonder Boy‘s gameplay is in its lack of navigation. While you can openly go to any area using the necessary abilities, there is very little in the way of direction. No one tells you where to go, or really gives you any helpful tips, instead opting for vague tips from the fortune-teller in the hub town. This means you’ll likely wander for a fair amount of time to try to figure out where you need to go, which can become frustrating, as it takes the wind out of your sails.
I cannot put enough emphasis on how gorgeous Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap‘s visuals are. The beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds and characters are breathtaking to say the least, and each character moves with a feeling of flow that is only achievable in such an animated format. To add on to this, a simple button tap instantly changes the visuals to their original Master Drive/Genesis look, meaning you can choose to play portions of, or the entire game in its original format. This ease of choice is something that needs to be in every remake of this caliber, as it shows a great deal of respect for the original game while still showing off how wonderful the remake looks.
The sound is just as perfect as the visuals, often feeling light and happy thanks to the soft instruments and relaxing tone. Like with the visuals, the tap of a separate button switches the sound and sound effects between the high quality remade sounds, to the original Master Drive sounds. This means you can play the game with original visuals and sound, remade sound and old visuals, or any other combination. This is a sense of freedom that is rarely seen in remakes, so it’s almost revitalizing to see a game like Wonder Boy do a remake so well.
The Final Word
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is what future remakes like this should look to as a prime example of mixing the old and the new to create an experience tailored to everyone. While finding your next objective can be unnecessarily difficult, the gameplay, visuals, and sound are all more than enough to make up for this imperfection. Anybody who wants a refreshing platforming experience needs to grab Wonder Boy, and I hope to see more games like this in the near future.
MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good