Sega aficionados will certainly remember the Wonder Boy titles. Platforming gems from yesteryear that consisted of clever level, enemy and mechanics design. Indeed, these titles are fondly remembered and for good reason. The third title in the series, The Dragon’s Trap, was a particularly celebrated entry, and this splendid remastering allows veterans and newcomers to enjoy it with precisely the kind of modern refinements you’d expect. And despite some inherited issues stemming from the original game still being present, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is another terrific remaster of a classic that absolutely deserves to be played.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a short game but one with enough complexity to put up a stiff challenge and consume many hours of your time. It’s a combat platformer that eschews tricky jumping for strategically placed platforms, falls, enemies and obstacles. Indeed it’s more akin to a Metroidvania title than a traditional 2D platformers, with the world open to explore if you possess the abilities and knowledge of how to get to each area. The difficulty comes in the form of understanding how to progress and overcoming the fiendish enemies.
A wonderfully simple story sets your adventure up, however, it’s told essentially in reverse. The hero has reached the end of their journey and you immediately faceoff against a fearsome dragon boss, only to be cursed at the moment of your victory, transforming you into a dragon yourself. You must now seek a cure to this ailment, wandering through different parts of the world, all the while transforming into new beasts each time you defeat a boss. It’s inventive and refreshing, both now and back when it was originally released.
Quirky NPCs help guide your way in their own silly and charming manner, whether it’s the bored anthropomorphised pig who can sell you weapons and armour, or the comically irritated nurse who encourages you to get hurt more frequently so to charge you more for her care. It’s smile inducing, light humour within a vibrant world, which sees you visit a wide variety of different biomes, is charmingly immersive, made even more so by the spectacularly hand-drawn visuals.
However, don’t let the cute visuals deceive you, behind it all is a challenging adventure. Your lack of patience is used against you time and time again, with enemies following a variety of different movement and attack patterns to challenge your attentiveness. Learning their quirks and defeating or avoiding them takes practice, and a lapse in concentration can easily kill you, forcing you back to the town area and often leaving you with a lengthy trek back to where you fell. This can make the journey arduous and frustrating. The abilities of the creature you currently have the form of can elevate this somewhat, and collectable special items can give you a boost in combat, but it’s so very easy to lose your heats that make up your health, with new bosses, areas and enemies constituting a considerable threat the first time you encounter them.
Furthermore, there’s a lack of direction and purpose to the adventure, beyond that of the overall quest to cure the curse. Vague tips from the fortune-teller in the hub town can point you in the right direction if you can decipher them but otherwise It’s difficulty to decide where to explore and how to access particular areas, forcing trial and error approaches that can hurt the fun. This can be especially frustrating as the deaths begin to pile up due to the stiff challenge. This is an unfortunate side-effect from remastering older games that could have used some attention. However, otherwise the respect for the original game is exceptionally nostalgic and enjoyable to witness.
You can switch between the old, pixelated visuals of the original title and the new, wonderfully hand-drawn visuals instantly at the touch of a button. You can also switch between the original sound effects and music and the new versions. It’s a neat trick that we’re seeing more and more of in remasters but it’s a superb visual and audio comparison between the old and the new to really tap in to the nostalgia.
Indeed, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a fantastic combat focused platformer, offering a short but impressively clever adventure with a stiff enough difficulty to test your patience and focus. Sure, these same elements are also the source of the majority of frustration you may suffer but overall it’s worth it.
Thanks to Xbox and DotEmu for supporting TiX