Remakes are one of the biggest hit-or-misses with games. A lot of games I remember loving in my youth are drenched in nostalgia, looking better and playing smoother than I recall. In recent memory I remember booting up Dark Chronicle, and after the first few hours I was confused how I ever got anywhere in the game, the controls were fine, but the story was thin and expected you to guess the gaps in a way I’m impressed 10 year old me could.
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap is a strange choice of remake. Released at the end of the lifespan of the Sega Master System the game had a small following in Europe. Being a very early Metroidvania game, it has a simple charm and fun gameplay with a few annoyances which may or may not have been in the original.
Being as stated before of Metroidvania ilk Wonder Boy has you wonder around a free-roaming map that you can explore incrementally more as you obtain better abilities and equipment. You travel around defeating dragons and obtaining their powers, beginning with the basic lizardman who has ranged projectiles, a mouseman who can scale walls and a lionman with a powerful sword attack. The forms don’t change the gameplay largely, but act much like the masks in Majora’s Mask, giving you option to take on a situation.
The world of Wonder Boy is small compared to many of the more open worlds we have gotten used to but keep in mind this game was first released on the Master System. The game has no save points, dying or continuing places you in the hub town, harking back to old-school save roots using passwords which you can even use if you really want. It can be an annoyance dying right at the end of a dungeon, but it lays emphasis on being properly equipped before heading out into the world.
Naturally that equipment follows the standard for fantasy games. You can upgrade your weapons and armour, stock up on magic spells which are a limited supply and make sure you have enough health potions to take a beating. Not only can you find these in the hub town but hunting around dungeons can net you health boosts, secret shops with much more powerful gear, or the typical dungeon loot staple. And for those of you who have played the original there have been new extra secrets added to this version to give you something new and interesting.
It’s important to keep in mind that this game is not big. While the world map is small the areas all manage to be unique enough form each other and interesting enough to hold your attention. Backgrounds are drawn to a high standard and hold a sweet charm to them. Characters and movements are especially well animated, really pushing hard to make remake this game into something of modern standards rather than a simple retexturing. If you don’t believe me, you can even change back to the original visuals and sound on-the-fly to compare. The change really is stark visually and the core of the game isn’t different when you change but it is nice to see how good the change has been.
If you have played The Dragon’s Trap before back on the Master System then this is a hell of a nostalgia trip. If you never did like me then this is still a wonderful experience in itself, if a little bit small. As remakes go this is a top-tier strikeout, and earns a 10 because I just cannot find fault with it.