While gamers might turn their noses to remakes, there’s a genuine argument that they can bring cult classics to a more mainstream audience. As the Crash Bandicoot and Abes Odyssey showcased several years back, a great game remains truly exceptional no matter the age. So step up Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – a remake of the much-loved cult classic. How does it stand up today?
The remake of Wonder Boy: Dragon’s Trap offers unique exploration in a 2-D platformer to be experienced by a whole new generation of gamers. For those looking to relive the classic look and feel of the game, it is an easy switch to see the classic 8-bit pixel graphics.
At the start of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, players are offered a new choice, to be Wonder Boy or Wonder Girl. This was added in the remake and does nothing to change the sequence of the game, just the image of the human sprite. Even then I would not get used it no matter what the choice is since it will not be long before the warrior is cursed into a Dragon.
That is the start of the premise of the game, a warrior cursed by the dragons they defeat. With each boss defeated it brings a new beast to take the shape of. This makes the game very unique, even though there are limited pathways from the initial hub area it is the abilities that differ between each creature that opens up the new areas and make exploring and running through old areas required and interesting. There were many moments of seeing something during my first time traveling through an area and noticing areas blocked off or out of reach. Then when changed into a new creature it pops into my head that they could get past that earlier roadblock.
True to the classic nature of games there is little to absolutely no guidance. There is one spot in the hub where the game said to look for hints but they are minor and are not clear. Such as “The count will see you shortly” when as the Bird-man. That tells me literally nothing in terms of direction on where to go or if any items may be required to progress. I had a few moments of running around trying to find an area with no clue and exploring can only maintain interest for so long when it means combing through areas a 3rd time to find what was missed. It can become frustrating, but still not the most frustrating part.
There are secret areas labeled The Unknown. These areas are filled with stronger monsters than most of the other areas and can only be accessed after getting the Thunder Ring that enables players to break blocks. Let it also be clear that stumbling into one of these areas unaware is downright terrifying. The Unknown areas give access to one of the transformations and if it is not the same one you entered with then you can see the problem.
While exploring I found the Dragon’s Unknown area as the Lion. As I entered and then died due to being unprepared all I felt was panic. I knew I had to be the Lion to progress to his boss, but now I was trapped as a Dragon. I ran to the only spot I knew to change back that was located to the right of the desert towards the Volcano. Even that was a futile effort as the Dragon could not jump high enough to reach the door. I had to turn to the internet to learn a block that was in one of the early hub room that after breaking it would open a door to a transformation room. Would I have found that without the guidance of internet? Highly unlikely, the more likely case would have me giving up on the game and abandoning it for years. But even after gaining the comfort of an easy access transformation room that allows the cycling through of all unlocked creatures.
The purpose of entering these areas is to acquire the Stone at the end. Each of the areas has one to collect after getting past all the obstacles. What are these stones? They are Charm Stones. By obtaining these hard to retrieve stones it will open up items in specific shops to buy. Still, these stones are one stepped removed from telling us within the game. The game labels them as ‘Stone’ after collected. All that would be needed for a proper hint of their purpose is to add ‘charm’ to that label.
For enemies, there is a variety that will build up in later levels. On top of the types, it is very easy to determine the strength of enemy by their color. A red snake will have less health and damage compared to a green snake. The different enemies coupled with the different transformations of creature pose for interesting solutions. Some enemies can be easier to defend against as one creature over another. Such as the enemies that throw projectiles are easier to defend against with a Shield. The Dragon doesn’t have a shield, instead, the Dragon can jump or duck to avoid them or destroy them with fire breath.
Where the enemies in Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap are unique, the bosses lack. Not to say the appearances of the Mummy Dragon, Swamp Dragon, Pirate Dragon are all the same. The strategy to defeat them and almost every boss I found was to hang out on the left side of the screen. In that spot, the attacks either would not hit at all or would be easily avoidable with a well-timed jump. It was then a simple waiting game for the enemy to get close enough to jump and hit them in the head. Anytime I strayed from this or thought I should move around I ended up getting hit. Often it was more difficult navigating my way to the boss than the boss itself. Which may be why the bosses are simple to deal with when getting there put my health down to the last heart sometimes.
This remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap contains the punishing nature of the classic style, but still offers a good chunk of game to play. While I will admit to having a lot of frustration with it, I still enjoyed my time revisiting.