Review: Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap

Wonder Boy has a rather complicated history. It began in parallel with Nintendo's Zelda series - both had their original games in 1986, with a second entry each in 1987. Whereas the first Wonder Boy had been a simple platformer, the second introduced light RPG elements and thus it was the first in the "Monster World" series. The second Monster World game (and confusingly the fourth Wonder Boy) was released to a certain amount of acclaim in 1989. Sega hedged their bets and just called it Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap.

Whilst I never owned a Master System, my friend did. I used to go round his house and try to assist him with this charming and mysterious game, full of strange environments and secret doors. We never beat it.

Fast-forward 28 years later, and developer Lizardcube has given this 8-bit classic the remaster it deserved.

Wonder Boy

First, let's address the elephant in the room - £17.99 is a lot of money for something you're not sure about. I was in two minds myself. So I thought I'd set out to describe the game as best I can, and explain why I personally think it is worth buying.

The Dragon's Trap starts with an evil dragon placing a curse on Wonder Boy. He must then traverse the overworld, accessing more and more transformations until he can (hopefully) return to human form. It's a mixture of combat, platforming and exploration - none of which are emphasised too heavily, and all requiring a reasonable amount of skill. There are three difficulty levels - Easy, Normal and Hard. I only tried Normal, but found it extremely well judged.

The graphics in this game are gorgeous. Line thickness, colours and character proportions are all expertly managed. There have been many beautiful hand-drawn 2D games over the years, but this is the first that has truly resonated with me. The music is catchy, and superbly orchestrated. One thing I particularly loved was the feel of collecting a bag of money. The sound effect, combined with rumble, is pitch perfect. There's never been a more satisfying collectible in a game!

Combat is just right. This is a game where shields are genuinely useful for blocking projectiles, and whilst the bosses all have to be struck the same way, there is much variety in avoiding their attacks. The platforming requires some skill, but is not going to frustrate too much. Incidentally, there are six secret areas called "The Unknown", which provide a bit more optional challenge. They're not over-the-top, and have a stiff-but-fair learning curve.

Wonder Boy

As for the exploration, it's not a massive overworld, and the first half of the game flows very smoothly. Speaking of smooth, it's possible to switch between the modern graphics and the 8-bit visuals. Whilst these look basic, the gameplay in this mode runs much more smoothly than the original cartridge.

My only complaint is that the game can, at times, be too obscure. It's a short game, designed at a time when a Master System cartridge had to last a fair while. As such, there were moments when I didn't have a clue I had to use new abilities, even though I did actually have them. I would also say a couple of "The Unknown" entry points are overly difficult. Lion Man's, for instance, is hidden by a foreground object in the modern graphics, but visible in 8-bit. And as much as I like the charm of the secret doors, I really feel there could have been some subtle visual clues to highlight their presence. I wouldn't be surprised if Lizardcube had debated how closely to stay accurate to the original game in this case.

The Dragon's Trap is extremely faithful to the original, so much so that it is the one game I've played that actually could do with a "Zero Mission" style extra level (ie. return to human form and re-fight the enemy who placed the curse). I was fighting a rather difficult boss last night. Once I'd defeated it, it genuinely took me about 10 seconds to realise I'd completed the game!

Nonetheless, The Dragon's Trap is very replayable, just for the sheer enjoyment of it. I've already spent 14 hours playing - 7 hours with the male protagonist; 7 for the female. It serves as a perfect example of how many 8-bit (and 16-bit) games have inherently good designs; they just need a lick of paint and smoothening up. I'm hoping that Lizardcube extends the same treatment to my favourite game in the series, the Mega Drive entry, Wonder Boy in Monster World.

N-Europe Final Verdict

A faithful recreation and a brilliant title in itself. The modern graphics and sound are fantastic and the ability to switch to the 8-bit versions are a nice bonus. Hopefully this marks the start of more 8-bit classics being remade for modern consoles.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability5
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan3
Final Score



Gorgeous graphics
Smooth gameplay and controls
Good balance between platforming, combat and exploration


Obscure at times

© Copyright 2024 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top