Review: “Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap” (Switch)
- TITLE: “Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap”
- DEVELOPER: Lizardcube
- PUBLISHER: DotEmu
- GENRE: 2D Action-RPG
- PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch
- ALSO ON: PlayStation 4, XBox One, & PC (June 2017)
- RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
- PRICE: $19.99 (eShop)
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and I have an interesting history together. I first encountered the game at a kid’s club at a hotel while on vacation. At the time, I had no idea what the game was called and I didn’t even have a clue what the Sega Master System was. After that single play session, the game fell off my radar for over a decade, but as luck would have it I picked up a copy of the game in a lot of games that came with a Sega Master System I purchased on eBay while in college. Having no idea what the game was called, imagine my surprise to see a familiar title when I plugged the cartridge in and gave it a whirl!
It was my experience with the 1989 version of The Dragon’s Trap that drove me to track down other titles in the series, resulting in the discovery of a wonderful, if often-overlooked, franchise of whimsical action-RPGs.
I remember being really surprised when I first learned that The Dragon’s Trap was receiving a full-on modern remake because it almost seemed too good to be true. Thankfully, it was most certainly a thing that was really happening and it was a project that I made sure to check in on every now and then to see how it was progressing. Once I saw that the game was set to hit consoles on April 18, I made plans to pick the title up on the new Nintendo Switch, thinking it would be a perfect title to include in my initial roster of Switch games.
One of the things that I really love about this remake is that while the game is super nostalgic and very familiar, it’s also different and fresh with lots of fine details and added enhancements. The developers took the 8-bit aesthetics of the original game and used them as an inspiration for this modern hand-drawn version, adding in all sorts of extras that make the environments and characters crisp and vivid. Where once there were dark corridors and bleak hallways, now you’ll find intricate carvings, statues, and various odds and ends. The environments are much more fleshed out and places that were once empty now feel like they have their own story to tell (such as the field to the left of the village which in this version has a cemetery in it).
For those that don’t know the story of the original, The Dragon’s Trap picks up at the end of 1987’s Wonder Boy in Monster Land (an arcade title). The hero, fully decked out in legendary gear, makes their way through the final castle and confronts the evil Meka Dragon. Upon its defeat, however, the warrior gets cursed and turned into a dragon-like lizard and must escape the burning, crumbling castle. It’s here that the real journey begins with the hero set on a quest to lift their curse and become human again.
When the main game begins the player is dumped in the village – the game’s main hub area. From there, several themed areas branch off that can be explored to find hidden items, shops that sell various goodies, and lots of treasure. Ultimately, they are seeking out various dragons that hold the power to transform them into something else (for example, the Mummy Dragon turns them into “Mouse Man” once defeated). Each of the different forms starting with Mouse Man that the player can assume has their own special ability (the mouse can walk up special walls and ceilings, Piranha Man can swim in the water, etc.) and making use of these powers in new and creative ways will help advance the game as well as let you uncover quite a few hidden treasures during your adventure.
One neat feature of the game is the ability to play as either the original Wonder Boy character or a new female protagonist referred to as Wonder Girl. They both play exactly the same, but it is a fun, forward-thinking feature that they included.
I really love the game’s original, hand-drawn art style and the soundtrack is simply fantastic. Of course, as great as this version’s music is and as talented as its musical team is, they had some wonderful source material to work with. As fun as the gameplay of the original was, it was one of those games where all of the songs are very memorable and I’d often find myself humming them or playing them through in my head. Here, they’ve all been lovingly updated yet they still remain as catchy as ever.
For those wanting to take a trip down memory lane (or to just see what the title first looked like), Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap allows the player to swap between both modern and retro visuals and sound at any time they wish and in any combination they wish. It may be a small touch that doesn’t really affect gameplay at all, but it’s a really cool feature that pays loving homage to the classic adventure.
Those that are familiar with the original adventure know that as fun as the game is, it doesn’t last forever. It’s one of those games that you have so much fun playing that you’re very sad when it comes to an end, even though you can see it coming. Those who have never played the classic game will most certainly take a good bit of time to make their way through this game but veteran players should be able to clear it within a relatively short amount of time.
One thing that does help with the game’s replay value is the fact that there are various collectibles that you can unlock and the game does feature three different difficulty settings (Easy for beginners, Normal being the original difficulty level, and Hard offering more difficult enemies and a time limit).
Seeing The Dragon’s Trap remade like this makes me hope that someone (if not this team here) will revisit Wonder Boy in Monster World and Monster World IV, both of which were amazing follow-ups to this Master System gem.