STAFF REVIEW of Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Xbox One)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017.
by John Elliott

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap Box art I am a lover of the retro remakes that have been released on consoles recently, especially with the huge amount of nostalgia that they evoke. That being said, I hadn't heard of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap before starting to play it for my most recent review. With a little bit of research I quickly learned that this particular incarnation of Wonder Boy was originally for the once hyped Game Gear from SEGA, a system that I never even owned or played.

The game begins by throwing you immediately into a world where you must enter a castle and battle a dragon who, after a small bit of time, completely destroys and curses your character, who of course plays the role of Wonder Boy in this title. There is an option to play as a female, but for the purpose of the review we shall use the name Wonder Boy. The curse that is laid upon you turns you into what I refer to as a draconian, a humanoid dragon. I think that’s much better than Lizard Man, don’t you think? After you are cursed you make your way to a nearby town which starts is where the game starts you on your journey.

Like most games from the ancient days (my sons words, not mine) there isn’t a whole lot of hand holding in Wonder Boy and you have to figure out what to do by using some old fashioned exploration and some trial and error. During your travels you will encounter bosses and puzzles that you must defeat and/or solve in order to gain new equipment, or in the case of defeating dragons you will gain new forms to morph into. These different forms will give you access to new areas in the game so that you can find treasure, more bosses and even more puzzles.

With your accumulated treasure you can buy weapons, shields and armor upgrades at the local shop to make Wonder Boy more formidable as he progresses to new areas. There are also items you can use, like boomerangs and fireballs, that have a finite amount of uses, but you’re in luck as you can collect these simply by defeating enemies. It should be noted that the boomerang, if used properly, can last forever as long as you never lose it. The game hides plenty of hidden goodies throughout so make sure you explore everywhere to discover secret areas which will help you progress even further.

The game starts off pretty standard and it progressively gets harder as a game like this should, but for gamers who aren’t up to the challenge Wonder Boy can be outright depressing to continue playing. If you love a challenge though then Wonder Boy is for you as you will die over and over again as you figure out the best way to solve puzzles and get through areas, which can equate to you feeling like you are practicing more than anything else. The most frustrating part of the game is probably in the combat mechanics, because if you don’t time a maneuver correctly you will miss and more than likely die pretty quickly.

Luckily, if you die you are sent back to the town you started in with all of your equipment and treasure. Thankfully you do not have to travel back to your corpse to get your gold back and this makes it a bit easier to farm areas for more treasure. On top of the plentiful deaths the game is can be beaten in 7-10 hours depending on your skill level. This is a bit of negative for me as I prefer a game that has more substance to it and takes a bit longer to finish. In retrospect though, not too many games from the 80’s provided the hours upon hours of gameplay that we have become accustomed to, and some may see 7-10 hours as long enough for this remake.

In regards to the game's visuals, it is a beautiful game and I fell in love with the cartoon art style that the designers chose as they overhauled the game. Creating a modern look has done this game justice, but you do have the ability to toggle between the modern graphics and the original graphics from the 80’s, which can give younger gamers a glimpse into the past or allow older gamers, like myself, a bit of nostalgia. Personally, I have a harder time looking at some old school 8-bit games as my eyes start to burn and almost scream in pain at the horrendous and dated visuals. I am told gamers older than me find it much easier on their eyes mostly due to the fact that they are probably going blind.

Along with a graphics upgrade the game also received a soundtrack overhaul with some great tunes to backdrop the action. The music helps expand on the atmosphere with the right tone and tempo to create excitement and calm depending on the areas you are travelling. Just like the graphics, you are able to play with some of the settings to mess around with the sound to incorporate some of the 8-bit feel to the modernized title.

All things considered, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a beautiful enhancement to what was obviously a hidden gem back in the 8-bit era of gaming, which unfortunately I missed. Despite the brutal difficulty and the somewhat short gameplay, playing it years late is enjoyable and highly recommended, especially for those gamers who are looking for bit of nostalgia or a modern looking side scrolling platformer to play through to get away from the glut of FPS, driving or sports games out there.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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