Unless you were a diehard Sega fan back in the day, you’d be forgiven for not remembering Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap when it originally released on the Sega Master System way back in 1987. In fact, it may be surprising to many that The Dragon’s Trap is actually a remake of the third entry in the Wonder Boy series, but arguably the best entry. As soon as it was announced that it was getting a remake earlier this year, I knew (finally) people would be able to experience one of my favorite platformers growing up.
My time with this remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was a mixed bag. On one hand, the graphics have been beautifully remastered and recreated. The sort-of hand-drawn styling of all the characters and environments are absolutely gorgeous. Quite honestly, it felt as though I were playing a different game just from the art alone. Characters are beautifully realized, and each of the worlds are colorful and full of life. From Lizard-Man to Hawk-Man, all of the characters looked exactly how I imagined a modern-day take on their original characters would look like.
But while I was boggled by the amount of work that went into the art behind the game, I soon realized that the actual gameplay mechanics behind the game don’t hold up as well today as I had wished. Yes, The Dragon’s Trap’s characters all return; Lizard-Man, Mouse-Man, Piranha-Man, Lion-Man and Hawk-Man all play exactly how they played in the original. All of the levels and gameplay controls return as well, for better or worse. Wonder Boy III took many inspirations behind Mega-Man’s gameplay element of different “men” with each having a special ability that would allow a player to traverse different levels and areas in different ways. So while I appreciated that the gameplay was exactly the same as the original, platformers have come a long way since the late ‘80s. Most of the characters played way too “floaty”, making it difficult to determine when/where to jump and navigate the world. Many times I found myself mistiming a jump, only to easily land on an enemy and lose health. In other words, modern platformers have been able to tighten these controls; I just wish the developers behind this remaster improved some of the gameplay as well as the graphics.
But don’t get me wrong, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is still a fantastic remake from a classic platformer. While classic and under appreciated, this remake provides enough for old fans to revel in some nostalgia, while offering very little new features to consider it a worthwhile investment. It’s pretty cool that you can still enter old game passwords from the original game into this new remake, if you feel like digging through the internet for a quick google search. The ability to play as a girl (or Wonder Girl) throughout the entire game is also pretty cool, and provides a different cosmetic touch to all of the characters. Players are also able to switch between the new art style (which again, is beautiful) and the original 8-bit styling. While all the features are cool, it would have been cool to have one or two new gameplay features. There are new difficulty settings, but no New Game + is a notable absence.