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Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Review

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Review

Remakes and remasters are an excellent way of introducing classic games to a new audience. A well executed remaster can not only revitalise a forgotten franchise but can also help a developer create the game they had originally envisioned. Technical limitations that may have been in place can now be overcome by more powerful modern systems allowing many classic games to be revisited and given a new lick of paint.

The Dragon’s Trap: Wonder Boy is a remake of the 1989 Sega Master System classic Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap developed by Westone. The series will certainly be more familiar to a European audience due to the popularity of the Master System in Europe. While the NES enjoyed huge success in the USA and Japan, it was outsold by the Master System in Europe. So it should come as no surprise that remaking The Dragon’s Trap has been taken on by Paris-based developer Lizardcube.

The journey begins right where Wonder Boy in Monster Land left off. The first level of the game is actually the final level of the previous game, allowing you to control a fully powered-up hero with all the best equipment. This is an excellent way of bridging the gap between the two games and is a system that has been copied by many great games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Unfortunately, the intoxicating feeling of power does not last long as tracking down and slaying the titular dragon results in our hero or heroine being cursed, transformed into a green-skinned Lizard-Man, and stripped of their powers and humanity.

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After being cursed, the dragon’s castle crumbles, and you fall to earth landing in a village that serves as the central hub of the game. The village has a number of shops to visit which contain items such as swords and armour that enhance your defence and attack stats. All the subsequent levels branch out of this central hub and will require different animal forms to access them. The game plays like a fusion of 2d greats; the platforming of Mario is combined with the combat, exploration, and RPG elements featured in Metroid and Zelda. As you explore the world and defeat bosses you are transformed into new animal forms which enable you to access new areas and explore for secrets. While this mechanic can, initially, feel restricting it teaches the required skills needed to progress further. Thankfully, the ability to switch forms at will is unlocked later in the game providing you with a greater sense of agency and increasing power. Each animal form has a different set of abilities, the Lizard-Man can shoot fireballs from a distance, the less powerful Mouse-Man can climb walls, and Hawk-Man can fly to new areas and avoid combat. All the various animal forms complement each other well and consistently provide interesting new challenges.

The Dragon’s Trap is, essentially, a quest to reclaim your humanity. While the story may not be a complex, allegory filled, tale it provides enough motivation to see the quest through until the end. What the game may lack in story depth it makes up for with the excellent game design that has withstood the test of time. Playing the game nearly 30 years after its initial release reinforces the point that gameplay is always more important than graphics and sound. However, this is a remake after all, and the new hand-drawn animated graphics and fully orchestrated score breathe new life into this cult classic.

Visually, the game looks like a Japanese anime from the 80s and 90s. The hand-drawn animated characters and backgrounds are a joy to behold and really bring the world to life. The attention to detail in the animations and subtle ambient environmental effects, such as shadows and particles, are excellent. As Lion-Man runs through a stage a metal ring jiggles on the end of his sword whilst the lava-filled Canyon level features nice shimmering heat effects, lava oozing and flowing in the foreground, and an active volcano in the background spewing smoke ominously into the air. The updated visuals, crafted by Ben Fiquet, really add to the overall experience, providing tangible depth and a sense of place to the world. There has clearly been a great deal of care and attention lavished upon this remake and Lizardcube has certainly shown how to visually update an old classic.

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The updated soundtrack composed by Michael Geyre is fantastic. The new fully orchestrated and remastered original 8-bit themes provide a rich, textured score that gives the quest an epic feel. The main village theme features flutes, guitars and mandolins which give a chirpy glee to the wonderful medieval inspired track whilst adding a feeling of security to the village. In contrast, the haunting underwater Shipwreck theme which, sounds similar to the Aquatic Ambience track in Donkey Kong Country, evokes feelings of loneliness, isolation and souls lost in the deep. The score has been expertly crafted and truly elevates the action on screen whilst providing extra character to the individual areas.

Also included in the package is a gallery filled with concept art, sound recording sessions and design documents which are all very interesting to peruse. There is also the ability to play the entire game in its original form. Pressing the right trigger changes the graphics back to their original 8-bit format and clicking down the right stick changes the audio. This is a nice little touch and will be interesting and informative for new players. Unfortunately, there are some legacy issues that could have been rectified in this remake. Some of the enemies hit boxes and hit detection feels off and imprecise which can lead to unnecessary deaths early in the game. Some of the puzzles and item descriptions can be a tad obscure and could lead to moments of frustration for new players familiar with more modern gaming sensibilities. These issues could have easily been rectified with a hints system and clearer item descriptions.

The Dragon’s Trap: Wonder Boy is an excellent remake of a beloved classic. The enhanced visuals and superb audio really bring the game into the modern age complementing the excellent design of the original. Unfortunately, inherited design flaws such as some obscure puzzles, imprecise hit detection, and the lack of a hints system do hold the game back. However, these issues do not detract too much from the overall experience. This modern version of a classic game will appeal to a new generation of gamers and also remind longtime fans why they fell in love with the original.

8.00/10 8

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Reviewed on Xbox One)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

The Dragon’s Trap: Wonder Boy is an excellent remake of a beloved classic. The enhanced visuals and superb audio really bring the game into the modern age complementing the excellent design of the original. Unfortunately, inherited design flaws such as some obscure puzzles, imprecise hit detection, and the lack of a hints system do hold the game back. However, these issues do not detract too much from the overall experience. This modern version of a classic game will appeal to a new generation of gamers and also remind longtime fans why they fell in love with the original.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Mark

Mark "Mr Black" Brearley

Staff Writer

Lover of the 80s and vests

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COMMENTS

Martin Taylor
Martin Taylor - 05:50pm, 18th April 2017

Yes! Pretty much my earliest gaming memories are of playing this on the Master System. As busy dad with a full time job and precious little time for games these days, I'm selective about what I play. This will definitely be next on my list

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Mr Black
Mr Black - 11:05pm, 18th April 2017 Author

It will certainly bring back the memories mate! A great remake and a game you will be able to share with your children.

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