How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Like Wonder Boy in Monster World You still weave around a hub world in a more level-like fashion, but this time youi’re completely tasked with figuring out where you’re supposed to go next, for better or for worse.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap was played on Steam.
Buy Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap if you like…
- 80's Style Game Mechanics
- The best kind of remake, staying true to the legacy while updating it
- Trying different gameplay styles (via animal forms)
- Grinding money or items to succeed
- Finding secrets
▼ Review continues below ▼
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a magnificent remake of the classic Wonder Boy III released in 1989, and it sets a standard for how accurate remakes should be done. Whether you’re a fan of the original or prefer an update, this version serves up the best of both worlds by letting you switch between the Sega Master System’s 8-bit graphics and the newly animated graphics seamlessly. Emulating every single glitch and design choice of a video game work isn’t necessarily always a good thing, but when it comes to staying true to the legacy of the original there isn’t a more perfect way it can be done.
While the gameplay and physics have been copied with meticulous care, The Dragon’s Trap makes a wonderful argument for why graphics truly matter in game design. Like its sequel, Wonder Boy III suffers from some floaty and slippery controls, which doesn’t mesh very well with short ranged melee attacks. By adding just a few more frames of animation though, the new graphics show the character wincing and sliding as they turn around, which effectively telegraphs the slippery part of the movement. This really enhances the “feel” of the game, making it easier to predict when you’re going to smash into your enemy, hand helps you time your jumps and attacks accordingly. Putting together all of these smaller details, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap becomes an improved game without actually changing the gameplay
The gameplay itself is very “80s” – it feels almost like an arcade, reminiscent of the original Classic Castlevania games. You’re presented with long hallways with gauntlets of enemies, but unlike its sequel – Wonder Boy: In Monster World – there’s a greater emphasis on terrain being a factor since most of the time you’ll be playing as some other creature than your titular human Wonder Boy. There are still too many parts where you’re just dispatching hordes of enemies but they tend to combine enemies in clever ways more often. Each monster you can control fights slightly differently, or can walk on walls, swim, or fly to spice things up. There’s less of a sense of repetition overall, with a lot of fun scenarios to conquer.
The best part of the game though is the exploration. You’re never really told where to go next. Each time you beat a dragon incarnation, you’re presented with a new animal form with nothing to go on except your new form’s powers. To me solving the mystery box is a ton of fun, and of course there are a plethora of interesting secrets to find along the way. Since enemies scale pretty linearly, you’re going to want to find as much treasure as possible to afford new armor and weapons in order to survive. Nothing is so expensive that grinding out new gear is unreasonable, especially if you find the various treasure caches hidden within the world.
Some of the secrets stink of that 80s obtuse design though, and the new graphics only help a little bit in this regard. There are these invisible doors that you just have to know when to push the up button to enter, and while I think the game is beatable without entering a single one, there are still some very important items hidden behind some of them. Some of these untelegraphed secrets got some visual hints, but others still remain in the dark – no pun intended.
I think the hardest pill to swallow is that there is exactly one checkpoint in the entire game. The original game used a password system (which you can still use in this version) – but that meant that you always started in the town with whatever items and accomplishments the password gave you. This version of the game keeps that setup, so when you die or start the game, you always start in that town. So yes, that does mean that you have to retread entire levels if you fail in the middle of them. This can be enormously frustrating if you don’t know where to buy potions or find them for free infinitely. Once you do find where to get them however, it might even be a little too easy. The archaic difficulty design here is likely to put off a lot of players, but then it’s definitely better than Wonder Boy in Monster Land; There aren’t any insane bosses or platforming sections with super poor telegraphing.
If you can get past the oldschool aspects –either by accepting them or just using a guide –Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap can be a really fun and relaxing game to play. I definitely think it’s worth experiencing to see the awesome animations Lizard Cube put together and to enjoy this piece of history.
There are some very good ''Classic Castlevania'' style hallways, but combat encounters can get a bit repetitive
Not really a focus, most of the game's challlenges take place in straight hallways
There are a lot of great secrets to be found, even if some of them are behind untelegraphed doorways
The good puzzles are balanced by some pretty obtuse ones
It's straight forward. A dragon likes screwing around with the hero, and you kick his butt for it
The new animations in this remake are perfect, and a testament to how animation can affect game feel
The remixed music too is very well done and addictively catchy
Not a whole lot of reasons to go back and play besides trying other difficulty modes
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