The Wonder Boy series is a rare case of how a once popular game franchise has become lost to time. Back in the ’80s, the series spawned several well-received games but it somehow became forgotten. I myself was shocked to discover that not only was Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap a remake but the remake of the third game in a series. After realizing this, I went into Wonder Boy with a bit of skepticism but left wondering why this series had become forgotten.
As was common with games from the late ’80s, Wonder Boy’s story is non-existent. You’re immediately thrown into the game with little set-up. Along your adventure, you work to defeat several evil dragons. It’s bare bones, but the game doesn’t suffer from the lack of story. In fact, story and cut scenes may have broken up the game’s flow.
The sound design is where Wonder Boy begins to shine. The developers at Lizardcube did a fantastic job adapting the classic 8-bit era sound effects into more realistic sounds, while still keeping a video game-y quality to it. Each of the game’s various forms and weapons all have unique sounds; this gives everything you do an extra oomph, especially compared to the original 8-bit sounds.
Wonder Boy’s soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. The original game’s soundtrack was catchy but it was run-of-the-mill music for the era. The remake takes these songs and lovingly remasters them. Each song is re-composed beautifully, giving the songs an atmosphere that fits the stage it plays on. Each track stands on its own as a piece of music; the game’s composer clearly loved the original game’s soundtrack, as there’s so much passion put into the game’s music.
Wonder Boy offers a feature where you can swap between the original game’s graphics and the remake’s. The difference is like night an day. The graphics in the original version aren’t horrible, but they’re incredibly generic for the time period; it looks completely uninteresting and looks like a million other 8-bit games. I would have passed on the original game, if I was a kid in 1989 choosing a game to rent at Blockbuster. However, the remake’s graphics are absolutely stunning.
The remake has a very cartoony style to it, a mix between old school and modern day animation styles. This style gives every character and enemy a distinct personality; you really get a feel of these characters just by looking at them. The Birdman & Lionman are determined warriors, the Fishman looks like he has a goofy personality and that annoying cloud looks like jerk he is. The animations are so fluid and full of life, it almost feels like you’re watching an animation instead of playing a game. There’s honestly more story being told through the character’s designs and animations than from the rest of the game.
While Wonder Boy may seem like a simple platformer, it has a surprising amount of depth to it. The developers did not dumb down the difficulty for modern audiences; if you are not a 2D platformer expert, you will get your butt handed to you. But the more you play, the easier things get and you’ll feel accomplished every time you conquer a level.
Throughout the game, you will gain access to new forms. These forms are different animal people you change into that each have unique abilities; Mouseman can climb all over walls, Lionman can break through certain objects, Birdman can fly, etc… Each of these forms has a level designed specifically for them. The levels are all expertly designed too, you really have to master these forms to make your way through the game. This really diversifies the gameplay; none of the levels feel similar, each one brings some different to the table.
The game has even more depth through its various unlockables. To progress through the game, you will need to purchase armor and weapons from the game’s shops; to do even better, you must find several hidden armors/weapons located throughout the game. These hidden armors/weapons make the game much easier, as well as being essential for beating the Hidden rooms. Each room forces you to play as a specific form and the levels are designed for said form; these levels are very challenging, but they are optional and the only reward is achievements (they’re worth a lot of gamerscore though).
There is a decent amount of content within Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap. If you want to get your money’s worth, you can easily spend 10-15 hours trying to complete the game 100%.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a wonderful game. There’s so much love and passion put into every inch of this game. Everything from the graphics to the music is so well done; Lizardcube must really love the original game and wanted to share their love to modern gamers. For me, their efforts worked; Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is one of the best remakes and 2D platformers I’ve played in recent years. If you love this genre, you can’t pass up on this title.