Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 18.04.2017 3

Review for Wonder Boy: The Dragon

The mighty adventurer slayed the dragon and ended its tyrannical reign. That's typically how the epic story goes, right? The day is saved and everybody goes home happy. Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap doesn't play by those silly conventions. When the Meka Dragon was slain, it released a powerful curse, transforming the young hero into a scaly monster. Well, now, isn't that just a hoot? There are five other dragons that inhabit Monster Land. Maybe they have a solution to this dire predicament. After all, what happened earlier was just a fluke, a freak accident, even. It's absurd to think that any of these other legendary creatures are capable of cursing adventurers…

Back in 1989, owners of the SEGA Master System were treated to a fun action-adventure game by the name of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap. The eponymous hero travels through Monster Land, known far and wide for its scalding deserts and skeleton-infested jungles. Somewhere in the farthest reaches lie labyrinths that the dragons call home. If the hero manages to defeat one, they're "rewarded" with a new curse that changes their form. This is a surprisingly joyous occasion, because each form has a unique ability, allowing players to explore more of the wondrous land. Traditional RPG elements such as the necessity to acquire gold and purchase equipment help to round out this charming tale.

For the 2017 remake, Lizardcube has given this classic a shiny coat of paint. Actually, "a shiny coat of paint" is severely understating just how beautiful Monster Land has become. Each moment looks positively immaculate. The amazing backgrounds perfectly coordinate with the fantastically drawn characters. Everything is exceptionally well-animated, and Lizardcube added some clever details that really make the visuals come together. To give an example, the hero (or heroine) will slide when changing directions, after running for a short while. In the remake, this slide is given its own unique animation that meshes incredibly well with all of the other ongoing action.

Screenshot for Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap on PlayStation 4

There are numerous other subtle visual touches that breathe new life into an old relic, but that's not all. With the push of a button, the player can switch between the remake and the original SEGA Master System game. It's completely seamless. It doesn't matter if the player is standing still or in the midst of a chaotic boss battle, there isn't a single hitch or pause when jumping between versions. Furthermore, nothing looks out of place, which results in a very impressive 1:1 conversion. This push button feature also extends to the sound. The newly arranged and quite remarkable soundtrack along with its accompanying effects can be swapped out for traditional chiptunes at any time.

Despite all of its attention to accuracy, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is not a straight port. It is, however, an improvement in every way. Unlike the original game, this edition runs at sixty frames per second. There also isn't a need to accrue "charm points" in order to purchase higher level equipment from shops. This annoying mechanic was excised in the Game Gear version, and it's very nice that the remake follows suit. Exceptional adventurers are also likely to stumble upon some intriguing secrets. With enough effort, a handful of optional areas with unique challenges can be discovered. As a bonus, it's possible to play as not just Wonder Boy, but also Wonder Girl. Granted, most of the quest is still spent as an anthropomorphic creature, but it's appreciated all the same. A trio of difficulty levels are available, with the hardest setting adding a time limit. Whenever the hourglass runs out, the hero loses a portion of health. It's a neat call back to the arcade game Wonder Boy: Monster Land.

Screenshot for Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap on PlayStation 4

This definitive edition also inherits all of the original game's flaws. The level of difficulty is very dependent upon the player-character's equipment. If they're wearing the best stuff money can buy, then monsters can't hope to lay a scratch on them. Conversely, those same fiends can lay down a serious beating on anyone who skimps on the armour. This is not an uncommon aspect of RPGs, or even games with RPG elements, but it goes a little too far here. It's almost binary, like a switch is being flipped from "get crushed by everything" to "crush everything."

The practically untouched level design is also not likely to impress. Each area is completely linear and doesn't offer anything in the way of verticality. Expect a deluge of hallways filled with obstacles to stab or jump over, but not much else. There aren't even any moving platforms! The multiple forms of the player-character are underutilized novelties. Mouse-Man's diminutive size and ability to climb onto certain walls is really neat. Unfortunately, its few clever implementations are overshadowed by a tedious trek through the Zombie Dragon's lair. Piranha-Man has to swim in order to reach the sunken galleon belonging to the Pirate Dragon. It's a shame that once inside the vessel, there aren't any more swimming challenges. At least the final dungeon mixes things up by requiring the hero to switch forms at certain points.

Screenshot for Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap on PlayStation 4

Still, there's quite a lot that this title does right. The controls are excellent, which makes for a game that just playing is a joy in itself. There's some strategy in how to handle every foe. Most of the time, running right up to an evil creature and jamming the attack button isn't the greatest idea, especially if they have help. Encounters are swift and require just the right amount of finesse. There are several limited use items that offer creative solutions to everyday problems. While the game can be completed entirely with the sword, there's no harm in throwing a few fireballs or lightning bolts to clear the way. The boomerang is a little overpowered, though, especially since it can't be lost. Provided, of course, the player remembers to catch it after it's thrown.

Another plus is that this game nails the sense of discovery that's lost in modern action-adventure games. Nowadays, there are often too many clues, too many flashing arrows, and secrets never feel all that…secretive. Monster Land is rife with hidden doors and suspicious dead ends, which makes exploration very engrossing. Players might even come across upon a few red herrings, such as false passageways that lead absolutely nowhere. It's baffling, but at the same time very cool.

This quest is a masterclass in pacing, as well. The desire for expensive equipment doesn't have to be satiated via a soul destroying grind. There's enough treasure to keep smart shoppers well-funded. Thus, more time is spent hunting down the dragons. Convenient warp doors result in minimal backtracking. Everything is neatly tied together, thanks to the smartly designed hub.

Screenshot for Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is a superb remake. It's a flawless port with various minor improvements sprinkled throughout. It's also drop-dead gorgeous. The original game's age is clearly shown when it comes to matters such as equipment and level design. Even with these issues, the quest still hits all of the right notes. It doesn't waste the player's time, nor does it ever get overly frustrating. Each leg of the adventure makes a lot happen with very little, thanks to smart enemy placement and rock solid fundamentals. Altogether, this journey is one that any generation can find joy in.

Developer

Lizardcube

Publisher

DotEmu

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

With the push of a button, the player can switch between the remake and the original SEGA Master System game.

That is brilliant. I wish more remakes had that feature.

From the trailers I've seen, that works really well and looks amazing! I love how you can apparently mix new visuals with retro music, and vice versa.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Our member of the week

Azuardo said:

With the push of a button, the player can switch between the remake and the original SEGA Master System game.

That is brilliant. I wish more remakes had that feature.

The remake of The Secret of Monkey Island let you do that as well in one press of a button. I love that kind of feature as well Smilie.

I'm on the fence about getting it on the Switch eShop, cause if a physical release ever comes out later down the line I'll regret putting the money in a digital version, but I'm definitely interested by the game nonetheless.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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