Saturday, March 31

Review: Wonder Boy - The Dragon's Trap [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Much like in the movie industry the remastering of titles in the games industry has most certainly become a thing. Traditionally when you think of remastered games the tendency is to think on games from the last 3 generations at most, with tentpole release games getting a fresh coat of paint, some optimization, and perhaps a new feature or two. To this point I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like Wonder Boy though, where a developer has gone back as far as the Sega Master System. The talented people at Lizardcube have brought forward a title that was heralded at the time to not only honor its play that still stands up, but to layer on spectacular hand-drawn art to turn it into something quite special.


You’ll start your journey as the somewhat-overpowered Wonder Boy (or, in a modern and terrific twist Wonder Girl, your choice), infiltrating the castle of your enemy only to find that your journey has only begun. You see, at the climax of the fight you’re cursed and will lose your gear while also being transformed into Lizard-Man. This turns out to be only the first of quite a few forms you’ll take over the course of your journey, with each new form giving you new powers and special techniques that wise gamers will be able to use to explore and uncover every secret hidden within the game.

What you’ll quickly find is that aside from the pretty challenging play (that can be adjusted if you find it to be a little too tough or somehow too easy) that there are tricks to the gameplay and secrets pretty well everywhere. Progression is a bit non-traditional, something you’ll notice even as you begin the game when you’ll need to use some trial and error to determine the proper path to follow. This sort of non-linear level design reveals itself throughout, where you’ll find in most cases that falling into a pit somewhere isn’t only not necessarily a big deal but perhaps even essential if you want to seek out every hidden power-up you can find.


Where the game can be a struggle is in the fact that the decision was obviously made to remain absolutely true to the original gameplay and not everything has aged well. Knockback stuns, in particular, are a pet peeve of mine but at least in this case the annoyance factor is dialed down a little by the fact that you remain invulnerable a little longer than usual. In a few cases I actually found spots where the knockback could benefit me so as a whole it isn’t completely bad. Level design in spots can be irksome, especially in tough areas where you’re trying to make a precise move and you have pesky enemies cropping up. For the most part it isn’t too bad but for some elements in the game design there are certainly reasons people stopped going with them.

The decision point in this game should heavily factor in how well you believe you can put up with some dated gameplay concepts against your appreciation for a game that is absolutely incredible to look at. A nifty add-on feature allows you to toggle both the graphics and the music to their original versions and play through the game that way. Even though the original look is obviously much simpler I was surprised at the level of care put into its look even way back when. If you get frustrated remember you can always look up old save codes and start out a bit more juiced up, another nice classic touch thrown in for good measure. All said, Wonder Boy is a nostalgic romp accented by a memorable reskinned look worth checking out.



Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Stunning hand-drawn art
  • Many gameplay elements still hold up and cement the original classic’s reputation
  • The ability to toggle between classic and modern game art and music is fascinating
  • I very much appreciate the ability to choose a boy or a girl for your adventure

Cons:
  • Not all classic gameplay elements have aged well
  • Knockback, in particular, is an old nemesis