As we continue to move forward, it’s important to remember the past. Many great and iconic games have come and gone, with remasters reminding us why we loved them in the first place. Among them is Wonder Boy, a cult classic from a couple decades ago. With a new look, improved gameplay and new secrets, is Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap what a remaster should be or is it a quick attempt at cashing in on the name.
Like a lot of older games, there isn’t much of a story in Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. Taking place after the events of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, it starts with Wonder Boy/Girl taking on the Meka Dragon. Upon defeating the dragon, you’re cursed and become Lizard-Man and need to escape the castle. Following this, you journey around the world fighting the various dragons in an attempt to reverse your curse and bring peace to the land.
The story does a good job setting the scene, but most of the excitement comes from the diverse world. The most interesting thing about Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap isn’t the gameplay, but actually the visuals. Those who played the original or opt to enable the classic visuals, are greeted to a fairly bland world. However, in the updated version, the world is filled with excitement and life.
Backgrounds are given new details, enemies move in a more fluid way and the once simple world becomes a vibrant experience. It makes exploring or rediscovering this game all the more enjoyable, especially when you take a moment to toggle between the two modes and see how far they’ve come.
Beyond visuals, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap offers diverse gameplay and some welcome changes. Each part of your adventure utilizes a different animal, which has its own gameplay style. Lizard-Man shoots fire, Mouse-Man allows you to climb certain stones, Lion-Man can strike in an arc, Hawk-Man flies and Piranha-Man let’s you swim. Each animal also has a downside, like Hawk-Man gets hurt in the water. The nice thing is how these elements work together.
There are ways to get ahead of yourself, but generally each power opens up a new area. Some can only be explored by that animal, like the underwater or flying sections, forcing you to master each character. They also have their own quirks, stats and so forth, making it a deeper game than you might think.
Speaking of stats, some systems were changed in Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. All stats come from the weapon, shield and armor you each. Certain monsters benefit more from one over another, with some even having a different best armor, motivating you to obtain all the items. Charm stones also make an appearance, but they’re now hidden behind fairly difficult and character specific challenges.
These challenges differ from character to character, usually forcing you to make use of what makes the character special. For instance, Lizard-Man can break rocks by jumping under them, so his puzzle forces you to avoid doing that, with Mouse-Man making you climb things and so forth. These sections can be hard and at times frustrating, but they make for an interesting addition. Especially finding them, as some of them are quite well hidden, like a number of other things in Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap.
While this stuff is enjoyable, there are still some downsides. Since this is a reimagining of a classic game, there are some cheap elements. Some of this is due to the controls, which at times, can feel quite rigid. Lion-Man feels like the most modern character, with the others being able to attack what is directly in front of them. This isn’t too bad, but the awkward way certain enemies move and characters attack can impact enjoyment. Not enough to ruin the game, but enough to question why it’s there.
For those who’re looking for a little more, hard mode adds another level of challenge. For starters, hard mode adds a timer that forces you to move faster. After a period of time you’ll take damage, though picking up a heart resets the timer. This can be tricky during bosses and is powerful enough to kill you. The mode also adds additional threats, so formally easy parts are now a little trickier.
Overall, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is what a remaster should be. Enough of the original is there for fans to be happy, with plenty of new things to make it more than a straight port. Combine this with the original look and sounds or the stunning new visuals and you have an experience that is sure to make many people happy. Sure the gameplay can feel dated at times, with it being hard to figure out how to progress, but the general experience more than makes up for that.
[Editor’s Note: Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Review,