Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a true passion project for its tiny 2-man development studio (Lizardcube). The original game, Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap is so faithfully recreated here that fans of the original will be absolutely nostalgia-swooned by the experience. Though most gamers probably never heard of Wonder Boy, as it was on the SEGA Master System and not the more popular NES, The Dragon’s Trap is nevertheless a true classic – paving the way in 1989 for games we’d eventually call “Metroidvanias”. And if you like that style of game, you’re going to enjoy this one, even nearly 30 years later. This is our Wonder Boy The Dragon’s Trap review.
It sounds damning, but almost nothing has been changed in Wonder Boy except its visuals. Like the 90s version of the movie Psycho, Dragon’s Trap is a 100% faithful recreation of the original – a shot for shot remake if you will. The kicker? You can also swap between the 8-bit graphics of 1989 and the wonderful hand-drawn artistry of 2017 with the press of a button. I get why some folks would use the 8-bit stylings, but truly the updated animations are so damned good I only ever hit that button by mistake or to compare what a different the three decades have made.
Wonder Boy is a side-scrolling action platformer at heart, with the classic exploration, death, upgrade, exploration, death, upgrade cycle that is now commonplace in games like Dark Souls. You’ll start off by discovering and defeating the Mecha Dragon, who then lays a curse on you – turning you into a fire breathing Lizard Man. You’ll then adventure across the country-side, defeating monsters and bosses and unlocking your other transformations (Piranha Man, Hawk Man, Lion Man and Mouse Man). Each of these have their own powers (swimming, flight, and wall scaling), and as you collect coins you’ll also unlock weapons, armor and more to make traveling through the world easier. There are secondary items you collect off of fallen enemies that act as healing potions and arrows and so forth. Exploration and slight puzzle solving will also yield more heart containers, a la Zelda.
When we said that Wonder Boy was a painstaking recreation of the original game, we meant it – even the 1989 game’s password system remains in tact. If by some magic chance you still have your old passwords from the SEGA MS, you’ll be able to use them here. Conversely, there’s a more modern autosave feature as well. If there’s any one big issue to be had with Wonder Boy, it’s that even a new player will be able to finish the game in 5-7 hours – so short is the tale. Even with all the backtracking and exploration, The Dragon’s Trap simply isn’t a very long game. So keep that in mind before you decide to shell out your money for this one. Still at $20, if you’ve never experienced this lost classic, the cost of entry may be well worth the ride.
With gorgeously rendered animated visuals, an instrumental recreation of the 8-bit soundtrack, and some truly compelling Metroidvania mechanics, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is just as good a game today as it was decades ago. While I would have loved to see some sort of “forward” progress made in terms of controls or combat, that wasn’t the goal here – Lizardcube wanted to be faithful to the original. Now that they have, here’s hoping we get new original entries in the series as well.
Note: This review was completed on PS4 with a code provided by the developer and their PR team.