Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, is one of the most iconic and sort after games on Sega’s Master System. As such, a great deal of care needed to be taken in order to make sure that the new version of the game lived up to fans expectations. We are happy to report that right from the off it is clear that pretty much everything is right from a retro fans point of view and very little of the core magic has changed from the original.
For those who are unfamiliar ‘The Dragon’s Trap’ starts at the end of Wonder Boy in Monster Land where, as you deal the final blow to that games end boss, you are cursed to take the form of a lizard. You then spend the game exploring the world trying to return yourself to human form. As you explore you pick up other forms which grant abilities that allow you to explore previously unreachable places in a kind of Metroidvania lite way.
As you progress you can also pick up new armour, shields and swords that enhance your attack and defence stats. This along with extra hearts and perishable special weapons such as fireballs, arrows and whirlwinds form the basis of your offense against the many beasties you encounter along the way. As a concession to modern audiences equipment can now be purchased at any time rather than requiring magical stones to be found first. This certainly streamlines the experience for the better.
The game has been reversed engineered using the code from the original Master System game and so remains pretty much identical in terms of how it plays. This means Wonder Boy handles much the same in terms of leaping around platforms and the difficulty remains challenging. This may take some getting used to for those unaccustomed with 8-bit games but it’s certainly fair and beatable by most people. The one thing that is a very welcome removal is the flickering and slow down that haunted the original in places. The lack of other changes is a relief as the game holds up remarkably well in terms of core platform/adventure gameplay.
The one thing it really is crying out for is some kind of quick save function as newcomers may soon tire of having to repeat sections over and over when they die. While you can save in the main village you will need to go on your adventure to a part of the world, defeat the enemy, and return in one piece in order to make sure you don’t lose and progress. The individual areas of the world aren’t huge so after practice it should be fairly straightforward but having to battle back to end of area bosses is something we’ve never been particularly fond of. As an added bonus the game accepts original passwords from the Master System version of the game. (As a side note – the developer didn’t have the rights to use assets from the Turbo Grafx version)
With the core experience the same the major new addition is the gorgeous graphical face lift the game has been given. Environments now look highly detailed and full of character and help to enhance the strengths of the game. There are options present to switch between the new and old graphics and music so you can play with any combination you like at the touch of a button. It also allows for a quick comparison between the old and new look of the game and the difference is unsurprisingly staggering.
Overall, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a considered and excellent remake of a classic game. A few slight changes to stream line the experience and a graphical overhaul were all that was really needed and the developer has taken great care to make sure the game is as faithful to the original as possible. The structure of the game is undeniably 8-bit but then that is no bad thing when the original is one of the most iconic games of the era. This does everything it sets out to do excellently and both fans and newcomers should have great fun exploring the world and taking on a game of rare quality.