Although there were two Wonder Boy III games, The Dragon's Trap is definitely the most memorable. Now, the classic Metroidvania has been remade for modern consoles so let's see how it holds up in high-definition.
As a fan of Wonder Boy, I was delighted when I first heard the news that The Dragon's Trap was being remade. Even though I have only played the TurboGrafx-16 version (known simply as Dragon's Curse), I could tell that the adventure will be a perfect fit for modern audiences. Anyway, this is essentially the exact same game as the 1989 Master System original but with completely redone graphics and sound (and the option to choose a girl protagonist with an impeccable haircut at the beginning). What makes it such a phenomenal game is its use of various transformations in its Metroidvania world. Every time you defeat a boss, you're "cursed" to live as a different animal. You'll transition from a human to a lizard, mouse, piranha, lion, and hawk throughout the adventure. Each animal has its own unique traits such as the mouse being able to cling to certain walls and the hawk can fly. Overall, exploring the somewhat intricate world while searching for treasures is a joy... but it's also quite easy to get lost.
The new visuals and soundtrack are absolutely wonderful. The environments and characters come together to form picturesque scenes with each frame looking like its own painting while the music is composed of live instruments that take the familiar tunes and breathe new life into them. At any point, you can tap buttons to toggle between the original graphics and sound and their modern interpretations (like I do in my gameplay video). Switching between the two at certain points to see how they updated the graphics is great fun. Also, I found using the retro visuals to actually help me play better in more tricky situations. Lizardcube sure did an exemplary job here.
Another addition to this version of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap is the challenge areas that put your skills at controlling each animal to the test. Reaching the end of these areas (which can be very tricky) will award you with a Charm Stone. These allow merchants to sell you additional goods so collecting them all is a rewarding endeavor indeed. By the way, this system replaces the original game's charm points system. Although these areas add some replay value, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is still a very short game. You can complete the entire campaign in little over an hour if you know what you're doing which just isn't long enough for modern gamers. I wish they included more extra content to work through but unfortunately; it's just the same game with a handful of extra challenges.
The original's gameplay remains fully intact here, too. Even though that's great for the most part, it also means that it carries some retro baggage along as well. The most annoying part is that getting hurt knocks you back in an irritating way. Whereas series like Castlevania are notorious for having you fly back when you're hit, The Dragon's Trap takes this a step further by allowing enemies to keep pushing you around the screen. It's very annoying and disorienting. If they added an option to disable this then that would have been awesome. Instead, you'll have to watch poor Wonder Boy being juggled around the screen and just shake your head.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap may essentially be the same game as the original but its brand new graphics and sound make it worth checking out for existing fans and newcomers alike. The extra challenge areas are nothing to sneeze at either.
- + Same classic Wonder Boy III in all its character-swapping Metroidvania glory
- + Fantastic modern visuals and music
- + New challenge areas add some value
- - Even with the additional content, it's still a very short game
- - Comes with a lot of retro baggage including seriously annoying knock-back