Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap was one of those games on the Sega Master System that even back 30 years ago, you knew was special. However, this version implores gamers to ask the age-old question, do retro games really need to be remade? The answer is yes and no. Nevertheless, before we begin our argument as to why this game is so damn charming and incredible, let’s look a few things first. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap isn’t your typical High-Def remake of a game. The developers at Lizardcube put so much time and effort into The Dragon’s Trap, it’s almost really hard to place into the category of a remake. Every little detail of this game was carefully looked over, fine-tuned and measured in such a way, that it could arguably be considered the best remake of all time.
For gamers not familiar with the Wonder Boy series probably spent most of their time playing Zelda or Metroid on the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). However, the good news is those new to the Wonder Boy series will instantly catch on, as this is much like the beloved NES games mentioned above. This game is crammed full of exploration opportunities and even has a feature where you can use the original codes from the 80s’ version, radical!
Possibly the sweetest thing about this entire game is being able to switch from the current new-age graphics to the retro 8-bit graphics, on the fly. Literally, at the push of a button, it’s like you are playing two different games. This feature isn’t an unlockable or DLC add-on, but built right into the game itself.
The music and sfx have also been given a facelift. The score originally written by Shinichi Sakamoto, has been revamped and is composed by Michael Geyre and Romain Gauthier. So, whether you want to listen to an original soundtrack or switch to the 8-bit version of the game music, the option is there at the push of a button. It’s quite beautiful how seamless this feature is.
Additionally, a new hero not seen in previous The Dragon’s Trap games has been added. Gamers now have the ability to play as a newcomer, Wonder Girl. While there seemed to be no obvious advantages by playing as Wonder Girl/Boy, it is nice to see developers starting to cater toward gamers of both genders.
Right off the bat, the game is everything I remember it to be. There is a cool little prologue added to the game that allows you to battle the Mecha Dragon. Upon defeating him, a bolt of lightning strikes your character and you become cursed, taking the form of Lizard Man. For the most part, this is the animal form who you’ll grow accustomed to while navigating through the game. You'll eventually discover that there are several animal forms that have their own unique abilities that help unlock different areas of the game to explore. Scattered throughout the game, there are several power-ups and loot to collect that will allow your character to cash in on better gear or attack special enemies.
Much like the Zelda games, your character’s life is measured by hearts, however, instead of taking out quarters or halves of your hearts, enemies will deal different levels of damage according to their power abilities. Essentially, if you face a enemy that is twice as strong as you, they could possibly take out two hearts instead of a quarter facing lower-level enemies. Good news is, by visiting the local town hub in the game, you can purchase armor and weapons upgrades to assist you in your quest. Even though the weapons upgrades have no physical representation in the game (the upgraded swords and shields visibly look the same), it does provide you with all the advantages like blocking certain ranged weapons or stronger attacks that deal more damage.
The graphics really stand out in The Dragon’s Trap and I’m surprised to notice that there are hardly any hiccups when switching from the remastered version to 8-bit on the fly. No lag, no visual or sound issues, flawless. The coders really did their homework. To add on top of the already beautiful hand-drawn characters and environments, everything pretty much looks true to the originals. Players take note: pay attention to the ability to switch between modern and retro graphics. The developers have added in secret walls that can only be viewed in certain styles.
As much as I wanted to give this game a perfect score, there isn’t one game I’ve come across that didn’t come with its own funky quirks and The Dragon’s Trap is not immune. Remember the sliding kick attack that M. Bison from Street Fighter could use and was pretty much unavoidable? Yep, still annoys me to this day. Nonetheless, where I’m trying to get at is this, enemies in this game will piss you off. I found it hard at times to avoid certain enemies and their attacks (wait until you encounter the cloud guy with sun glasses). If anything, there also seemed to be a slight delay between when your enemy attacks and when your character can strike. Let’s say, when your enemy has a jumping attack, as you approach to strike, there is a period of delay and you will almost always take damage. Enemy attacks can also result in being knocked back or can repeat stun you enough that will kill you in seconds.
There are several modes of play including Hard Mode, where players are not only racing against a timer, but enemies also deal extra damage. There are more challenge rooms waiting for you depending on what form Wonder Boy takes on and requires that you use your skills and wits if you wish to find them.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is by far the best representation to why certain retro games deserve a makeover. Not just because they can, but developers such as Lizardcube have taken careful thought and conducted lots of research, love and time into this game. Should DotEmu and Lizardcube decide they want to take aim at another retro game *coughs* Shinobi… I wouldn’t mind at all.
If you have time, follow us on YouTube and check out the reveal trailer here.