Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap Review – Reviving a classic Sega title in its best form

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap was originally made for the Sega Master System and ported to the Game Gear and Turbo Grafx-16.  It involved the main character, Wonder Boy, fresh from his last adventure getting cursed by a dragon’s curse and then roaming the land to try to fix that curse.  

It also was a fantastic game that rivaled entries like Metroid and allowed players to return to areas they had been in before to find new rooms with abilities earned over time.  It was essentially a predecessor to what would be known as a Metroidvania. 

And so in 2017, Wonder Boy: The Dragon Trap was released, remaking the original title, but also improving it and giving it a more interesting overhaul to mesh with modern gamers.  While the original game can still be seen in the new release, the improvements will welcome gamers who aren’t looking for a replica of what a Master system was limited to. 

The story remains the same, Wonder Boy is cursed by a MEKA(robot) Dragon, who changes him into a lizard man, and from there the player has to explore the world, figure out which locations are available to him, and fight various bosses to attempt to break the curse.  Similar to the original game, each boss will transform Wonder Boy into a new beast, such as a mouse, or an eagle, and each transformation will open up new parts of the world.

The original game of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon Trap is still here, every room has been recreated, and the main game’s flow is the same as the original title, with a few minor tweaks.  The most noticeable change is that graphics have been overhauled, and rather than extremely dated sprite gameplay, there’s a default graphic mode that has beautifully animated hand-drawn characters. 

Fans of the original game should check this out just for the art.  It’s a gorgeous-looking game, and worthy of praise for that feature alone.  The audio has also been vastly improved, adding in FM audio tracks that were never before released in America, and a brand new interface was added to make it easier to control the game.  

However, purists still have the option to remove the improved graphics, audio, and inventory, and play the game as it was originally released, at least mostly so.  There are new areas of the map and the removal of the “Charm” system, but both of those changes benefit the game.

What is particularly interesting is how the improved graphics appeared to be a strange overlay for the original game.  While the two games look vastly different, the player still appears to be moving in the same ways, and the attacks are similar.  It appeared that somehow the new graphics are just an animated visual reference to the original game.  If so, it’s an impressive translation that feels unique, especially if players flip between the two graphical looks.

As mentioned, the game has now removed the Charm points, where players would have to have a certain amount of “CP” before different items were able to be purchased.  This system in the original game could be quite frustrating and often required players to backtrack so they could collect “everything” but didn’t significantly improve the experience of the game as most shops were locked off behind abilities and skills that players would gain over time. 

The new areas of the game are also a rather big change, but they are more challenging areas that are optional.  However, those are some of the most interesting areas of the game, giving a strong challenge and showing off the talents of the team who made the port because they are some of the best areas in the title. 

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap adds in new difficulty options, which tailors the game to player’s skill levels.  Hard appears to be on par with the original game, but Normal is a more reasonable challenge where players will be able to easily progress through the game.

The only real issue of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is that ultimately it’s unable to fully sever its connection with the original title.  The gameplay, combat, story, and major locations are all the same.  This is the true challenge with remaking a classic game.  To go any farther, even to change the dated combat from the original title, would make me question where the “remake” part of the title is as so much of this game has been updated and modernized. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap appears to find the correct middle ground, even if it can result in an uneven experience.

Players are going to be experiencing the best version of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon Trap, even with a slightly different name, style, and additions.  At the heart, this is a remake of a classic title, and while it has a lot of appeal to it, I am forced to wonder how many players want to go back and check out a classic Sega title they might not recognize.  I did, and I’m better for it, but it’s going to be a harder sell to many players, even with its improved experiences.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap as it is finds a way to position itself as a perfect throwback for players who want to check out a classic game, with some modern conveniences.  It’s a great way to revisit a classic title and get the best experience for players, and it makes me want to see this done again and again with many of my favorite titles. 

I give Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap an arbitrary 

8/10 

If you enjoyed this and want to see more from me, you can check out my youtube channel at 

https://www.youtube.com/c/KinglinkReviews

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