I went into “The Dragon’s Trap” with no expectations as to what the game would be or what I would be doing. I personally enjoy doing that. In fact, when I made the decision to get this title I didn’t even know it was a remake of a 1989 title of the same name for the Sega Master System. Even though I will cover this a little more in depth later, it really drove home the idea that if a remake is done well it can completely resurrect a game series that many of us had possibly lost to time, never knowing what we were missing out on.
That said, if I’m going to pay $60 for a game, I want to know everything I can find out about it before I shell out that kind of money. I want to make sure the developers deserve my hard-earned cash. So I will scour the Interwebs and find everything I can about a title. However, when I’m going to be spending less on a game, then I start to wonder why it’s cheaper. It’s like buying a car. I don’t want to pay a lot for a car, but when one is less expensive I wonder what’s wrong with it. We are a fickle species. But the reality is that we have a budget and finding a diamond in the rough is what we all want. Is Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap that diamond?
Wonder Boy is a platform game set in a beautifully animated two dimensional world. I have always been a fan of hand-drawn character styles. I just think it looks cool. It may go back to when I was a kid thinking how awesome it would be to be able to play a video game that looks as good as the animated shows I watched on television. While our games do look immensely better than those cartoons, they are 3D rendered geometric objects. There is something special about the art in this title. They even give you the ability, with your ZL and ZR buttons, to switch the view between 1989 and 2017, sort of like our very own Warp Zone section on Nintendo Times! But this really is an extremely interesting feature that I haven’t seen implemented in a game before. We see these beautiful landscapes with a shipwreck in the background and we may think to ourselves, hey, I wonder what this looked like before. So, with the click of a button you see the blue backdrop with really no detail and certainly no clue that there could be a ship back there. This feature really drove home my appreciation for what a labor of love this must have been for the development team. They went all out and really created something completely new from something old.
As far as the game play, some platform style games give you a linear structure like Super Mario Brothers and others make you figure out where you need to go next and prohibit you from going to levels you aren’t ready for by making your character need a certain ability to reach the next area. The Dragon’s Trap is definitely the latter. If you pay attention you will have a better idea of where you should go next. If you don’t, the time spent playing the game will increase as you revisit areas you’ve already been to looking for spots that can now be reached with your new given ability. I would liken it to a simplified Metroid-type experience, except your character doesn’t gain abilities, it changes into a completely different character with a completely different set of skills.
As you progress, you will find in-game money that you can use to purchase items that will help you on your journey to the end-game. You can purchase swords, shields, and armor. Each character type will have different stats for each armor, so one sword for the mouse won’t have the same attack as for the piranha. What’s also interesting is that the dragon character doesn’t actually wear armor, but still gains the stats from that upgrade. Because you always want to have the best sword, armor, and shield it’s in your best interest to explore and always try to find that little corner or area that you may think doesn’t have anything and go ahead and push up just in case there’s a hidden door, jump in case there’s a hidden room above, or try to break a block you couldn’t before you got a new item. You never know what may happen and that’s part of the charm of this game. All of the hidden secrets and items that just aren’t that obvious. Some may find this to be a negative to the game, but it harkens back to games of old.
The music, as you may be happy to hear, has also received a giant upgrade from the original. It’s beautifully done featuring a spread of instruments for our listening pleasure. If you are interested in listening to the original 8-bit sounds and music, by all means you can set the options to listen to those while you play the game. They literally gave us the original game along with an amazingly redone version that we play simultaneously.
I did have a difficult time with game mechanics in a lot of situations. It felt as though there were times where we are forced to take a hit from either the environment or the enemies. I became extremely annoyed whenever I would get stuck in a stream of dragon breath that just made my character bounce off to the side of the screen and just be uncontrollable until the onslaught was over. If two enemies are coming at you in the same space and you swing your sword at them, you only hit one. This can often times send you into this same “oh no I’ve been hit” spread eagle uncontrollable throwback. This will continue until the enemy that you didn’t strike either mercifully stops or you get pushed into the next screen over. It can get even worse when the enemy drops us into a lava pit or a lake that takes a few scrolling screens to get out of.
Potions are like the fairies in Zelda, when your health reaches zero your hearts refill to full. They are very rare to pick up and it can be even harder to find places to purchase them. You can only carry three of them as well. Speaking of items, we get boomerangs, fireballs, tornadoes, arrows that shoot straight up into the air, and lightning. If you die, you lose all that you have collected. You get to keep your money, though. Perhaps it would be a good idea if you’re going to have these things to keep them in your wallet because apparently this can follow you through the afterlife.
As you progress in the game, heart regeneration gets more expensive seemingly because you have more hearts to fill and the nurse is more eye candy than an actual health care professional. What should we expect from a world where even the flowers spit fire to try to kill us?
Diamonds are precious gems that we hold as having great value due to their beauty. But the true value of a diamond comes from the cutter. This person can take a raw diamond that isn’t much to look at, rather dull and lifeless, and turn it into something that sparkles, separates the colors of the light, and is given to others as a token of love and affection. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap on the Sega Master System was that raw diamond that was a fun game to play based on how much fun I have had playing this version, but the sparkle wasn’t there. Lizardcube has cut this raw diamond into a beautiful work of art that actually sparkles and shines to reveal a solid and fun platform game pleasing to both the eyes and ears.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.