The Nintendo Switch eShop is already building a pretty impressive line up of games that are either inspired or re-creations of 8-bit titles. Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is another title that falls into that category. Originally a game for the Sega Master System, this remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap is a love letter to the original title. Developer Lizardcube have spared no expense to make sure that those with fond memories of the original will find lots to love here. Unfortunately for those without a history with the game, some of the more archaic gameplay elements may cause for more frustration than fun.
Lizardcube have made a game that has the series fans in mind. The entire game has been recreated with hand-drawn graphics and new music. From an artistic standpoint the game is absolutely beautiful and is a treat to the senses. As icing on the cake, they have also added the ability to at anytime press a button and have the game revert to it’s original graphics or original soundtrack. If you want to play the game with the new graphics but want the soundtrack your childhood remembers, you can do that.
In the game you play as Wonder Boy, or the additionally added Wonder Girl who in the opening moments of the game is turned into a dragon. As you progress through the game each boss fight turns you into a different form and each form has special moves or abilities that will help you progress through the game. There is a Metroid-lite exploration system, as there are secrets that can only be accessed by specific forms. It’s clearly the system that influenced a similar system in last year’s Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.
The game’s hub is a town where the world branches off and there are a few secrets to find and characters to talk to. You will spend a lot of time traversing this town, because when you die you go back to town regardless of how far you got on your last quest. This is one of the questionable retro game design choices. When the game was first released it was an easy way to lengthen the game, but now it seems like a cheap way to extend the length of the game. Sure without it the game would be pretty short, but I would’ve enjoyed my time with it a lot more.
The game’s combat is also a bit questionable by today’s standards. It’s straightforward as you side-scroll across the levels attacking enemies with your swords or power-ups, but the combat animations can cause a lot of trouble. The way that the player’s character reacts to being struck by an enemy’s attack is odd. You get stunned and briefly thrown in the air above where you were attacked. This often caused me to yo-yo back and forth between being stunned and being attacked by the enemy a second time. After spending some time with the game I was able to find ways to avoid this, but when just starting out it is incredibly frustrating and will send you back to town an annoying amount of times.
It’s easy to see how Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Curse was an influential game back when it was released, and it’s influence is felt in games today from the Shantae series and Guacamelee. Having played these other titles it was fun to play and see the game that clearly played a pivotal in the design choices for those games, and Lizardcube’s love for the original is on full display here.
It’s that love that makes some of the more archaic gameplay moments worth sitting through, but at the end of the day there are better retro throwbacks on the Switch eShop at this time like Blaster Master Zero. If you’re a fan of the original there’s no doubt that you will find this a fun nostalgia trip, but everyone else may want to check out some gameplay or let’s play videos to determine if the old school design choices will be more trouble than their worth.
Final Score: 7.0