In 1989, Westone Bit Entertainment released Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap to the Master System. I never owned a Master System. In fact, when this game was originally released, I wasn’t even alive yet. That matters not, though, because Lizardcube has remade the game from the ground up, all while leaving the original game intact within. What does this mean?
According to the developers, LizardCube, this remake was made by reverse-engineering the original Master System code. Furthermore, this game comes packed with the best feature I’ve ever seen in any remake, remaster or re-anything. I played on PS4 (the buttons will differ based on what system you’re playing on) and by simply pressing R2, the graphics on screen immediately switched from the remade graphics to what you would’ve seen on the Master System. Furthermore, clicking the R3 button changes the music and sound effects to what would’ve been heard in the original as well. You can play the remade version of this game or by pressing two buttons, play the original version. I’ve never seen a remake do this but going forward, I hope other developers see this and implement it into remakes they choose to tackle.
What does Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap look like, though?
It looks like a moving piece of art. The art is hand-drawn and it certainly shows. I often found myself clearing a screen and rather than moving forward in the level, I’d stand there and just watch. In the foreground, you’d find beautifully drawn enemies and obstacles and in the background, you’ll find daunting mountains, raging volcanoes and bolstering pirate ships.
And that’s just some of the things you’ll see. Quite frankly, this is one of the prettiest games I’ve played this year. It’s like playing a children’s book–colorful, engaging and imaginative.
The music, like the rest of the game, has been completely revamped. I often switched to the original music to hear what was going on, before switching back to the remade music to hear how they revamped the score. The music is incredible–flowing, moving and wondrous.
So, what is Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap?
You start the game by choosing your character: Wonder Boy or Wonder Girl. You’ll then advance through the game’s first level, fighting off enemies and platforming your way to the end where you’ll fight a boss. After defeating this boss, you’ll be cursed, and turned into a dragon. Soon after, you’ll be transported to the town or hub. Here, you can purchase weapons, armor, and shields, heal or talk to the townsfolk. When you die in one of the game’s many levels, you’ll be brought back here.
As a dragon, you’ll quickly realize that you can breathe fire. Like in Mario or MegaMan, you don’t need to be told to advance. You’ll simply know. As you make your way through the game’s levels, such as the desert, the underground or the canyon, you’ll fight many different kinds of enemies. You’ll encounter snakes, trolls, flame sprites, ghosts, skeletons and more. Each comes with their own movement system that dictates how you take them on. Snakes usually jump at you. Skeletons jump over you, back and forth, stopping you from moving forward. Ghosts spit fire.
One of my only gripes with this game is its enemies though. Too often, I found myself killing snake after snake, or crab after crab. Each level could have used a bit more diversity in enemies and how often the player has to fight them.
While fighting these enemies, you’ll be platforming through each level, which is where my only other problem arises. The character movement has momentum but almost always, too much. Anytime I landed, my character would unnecessarily slide forward a bit, causing me to fall off whatever platform I just landed on. I understand momentum in movement but I never felt that the momentum reaction matched my movement action.
When you reach the end of a level, you’ll fight a boss. Each boss is a variant of a dragon. Upon defeating one of these dragons, you’ll be cursed again and transformed into a new character.
The dragon character is Lizard-Man. There’s also Mouse-Man, who is tiny and can climb walls, Piranha-Man, who can swim underwater, Lion-Man, who is extra strong, and Hawk-Man, who can fly.
Each of these characters presents a new mechanic to master and help you through a level that previously, you couldn’t advance through. The game feels very Super Metroid in this way in that you’ll see a place to go, but won’t have the character mechanic you need yet to get there. Once you become that character, you’ll find yourself going back to that room to unlock its secrets. This not only kept the game exciting but eased the difficulty in that often, these rooms would have a heart vessel or enough cash that you can buy the sword you’ve been eyeing.
Even after completing the game, I find myself still playing, enjoying the switch from 2017 to 1989 graphics and sound, all while searching for something I might have missed. If you’re a fan of games like MegaMan, Mario, and Metroid, this is a game that you cannot pass up. In fact, I would recommend this game to anybody.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is out now on the PS4, Switch and Xbox One. The game is set to be released on PC this June.
A PS4 Review copy of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was provided by DotEmu for the purpose of this review.