Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap Review – Disappointing Yet Beautiful

Retro remakes have been a thing for some time now, bringing life to a old properties while keeping the same core values as the original. Now we are seeing retro reskins, where companies bring new life to an old game by totally revamping the visuals while keeping the core game completely intact. In theory it sounds great, but how does it work in practice?

Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap
Publisher: DotEmu
Developer: Lizardcube
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed on Switch)
Release Date: April 18, 2017 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch) June 8, 2017 (PC)
Players: 1
Price: $19.99 (Review Copy Purchased)

The first thing you will notice right off the bat is that the game’s new art style is gorgeous. This becomes more apparent when you use the games graphic swap feature that allows you to quick toggle between the original and the new revamped visuals. The hand drawn animations for the new art pop and bring new life into Wonder Boy, even if you have already played and beaten the original Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap for the Sega Master System.

While it is a cute idea to have the ability to toggle the visuals, it seems like it’s really unnecessary, and maybe even detrimental to the game itself. By locking the game to its original visuals, they removed the ability to make much needed changes and additions to the game that it really needed to stand out. At the end of the day you are just playing a ROM of the old game with some better visuals. And while very pretty, it’s hard to justify the $20 price tag for a game that is almost 30 years old without some legitimate changes to the game outside of the visuals.

The original action platformer elements apply, with options to upgrade at various spots. Many upgrades are kept extremely vague, which was necessary at the time of the game’s release in 1989 because of hardware limitations, but it’s antiquated now and should have been fixed. There are still left over map errors from the original release that could have used some patching up. This doesn’t really take away from the game as a whole, just the smoothness at which it’s played.

The sound and music capture that retro feel, but are extremely minimalist. This is another notable limitation the game has because it chose to mirror the ROM of the original and not go into full on remake territory. There was a lot of potential here, and it seems slightly wasted.

The story also suffers from this reskin treatment. There could have been so much more done with the game, but instead they opt to stick with the bare bones storytelling that is associated with games of the era. You are a boy/girl who kills a robot dragon who was attacking the castle you were in, and you get cursed with becoming a dragon because of it. After each boss you get cursed in a different way, which changes your form. Outside of that, there is not much there.

Wonder Boy is a beautiful game built on the foundation of a classic, but that’s just it, a foundation. Wonder Boy is almost a glorified painting at its core. It’s beautiful and worth looking at, but won’t be worth owning for most gamers. The core of the game is ok, but not amazing, and it never was. It could have been so much more with some work, but when they aimed to mirror the original 1 for 1, it limited all possibility for it to be something more.

Wonder Boy: The Dragons Trap was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 6.5

The Good:

  • A beautiful game.
  • Strong foundation and core.

The Bad:

  • Boring and extremely dated gameplay.
  • Held back by its need to mirror the original.
  • Instead of building on the strong foundation, they painted a mural on it.


  • Mr0303

    I did enjoy the game more than the author, but the criticisms are definitely justified. It’s a faithful remake of the original game, so not all of it would translate well into modern gaming. The lack of story and any guidance where to go may be off putting to some, but I had fun figuring out what to do next.

  • oraoraikuze

    hopefully that other monster boy game will be better

  • Γεώργιος Αρχαιοκαπηλίδης

    I had the same reaction but for Shantae Half Genie Hero: beautiful visuals and presentation, disappointing gameplay (since it stripped down the Metroidvania depth that previous Shantae games had). At least with Wonder Boy it looks like it will be exactly what I want.

  • Chocolate ISISCream

    At the end of the day, it’s just a polished version of a game that was already trash to begin with (like most of Genesis’ library).

  • Captain Vidya

    If the main issue is that it plays like the original, then I guess I’m fine with that.

  • SinkingSage

    Trash Review

    “Boring and extremely dated gameplay.”
    It’s the same game with a new coat of paint, the developers never stated otherwise, and that was exactly what the fans wanted.

    “Held back by its need to mirror the original.”
    That’s the point, it’s the original with remastered graphics…

    “Instead of building on the strong foundation, they painted a mural on it.”
    Again, this is pretty much a re-release with new graphics, that was the objective of this project.

  • SinkingSage

    1. The game is good;
    2. It’s not even a Genesis game;
    3. Most of the Genesis’ library was pretty good.

    You obviously don’t know what you are talking about, you don’t even know what platform it was on, you never played it.

  • SinkingSage

    If it was good then, it’s good now.
    Digital content does not age.

  • Mr0303

    It doesn’t age, but people’s preferences change over time. Same with music, TV and any art form.

  • Chocolate ISISCream

    Master System? Even worse.

  • SinkingSage

    Checked your page, jesus christ, you have objectively the worst opinions on anything about anything period.

  • Chocolate ISISCream
  • Chocolate ISISCream
  • SinkingSage


  • SinkingSage

    Nice comeback, word of advice, everyone makes fun of you around here.
    Especially since you spend your time trying to make people mad online, screams of desperation for attention, we’re not your mother. jesus what a loser.

  • Travis Touchdown

    A below average game on the Switch is a masterpiece on PS4.

  • sAy_YaS

    +Strong foundation and core.
    -Boring and extremely dated gameplay.

    Uh, what?

  • Malcolm_Ecks

    I’m inclined to agree. Will a review of the Shadow of the Colossus remake have the same kind of reasoning?

  • The Clansman

    He’s a NicheGamer mascot, it’s like a character.

  • Travis Touchdown

    I loved this game.

  • Galbador

    “Boring and extremely dated gameplay.
    Held back by its need to mirror the original.
    Instead of building on the strong foundation, they painted a mural on it.”

    Really, this nonsense boggles my mind, because this is such a casual answer, which you could slap on every other game. Guess what, some game developers DON’T WANT to change their games so dramatically, because their fans love those games as they are.


  • Galbador

    People are blind to old classic games and the idea that people don’t want dramatical changes for their games. But for the most cases…millennials don’t understand classic games.

  • Galbador

    Excuse me, but stop speaking for ALL people. Some people don’t want their games butchered. They like the way the old games were and this is acceptable. Just because it has fancy graphics and sound, doesn’t mean it is good.

  • Mr0303

    Where have I spoken for “ALL people”? Please point it out.

    “Just because it has fancy graphics and sound, doesn’t mean it is good.” – and I never claimed that either

  • Galbador

    When have you? Oh, let’s see…

    “…but people’s preferences change over time…” People’s… plural… speaks like all people changes their likes.

    “…would translate well into modern gaming…” Modern gaming, which is not 4k, 3D graphics, guiding players through the game… we all know this nonsense that came since the rise of the PS3-Xbox-Era.

    And now you’re saying “When have I spoken and I never claimed”… Bullshit!

  • Mr0303

    “People’s… plural… speaks like all people changes their likes.” – nowhere in that statement can you see the word “ALL”. That is your personal invention. Pointing out general trends in society is not speaking for all people.

    “And now you’re saying “When have I spoken and I never claimed”… Bullshit!” – and you failed to prove that I said what you claimed I said.

  • Galbador

    Yep, I knew you would come up with the classic “And you fail to prove”.
    Try a new line from time to time if you have to ;)

  • Mr0303

    Classics are used for a reason. In this case because they are applicable, so I don’t have to.

  • Galbador

    Way to show how much you are a tool.

  • Mr0303

    I just showed that you are wrong. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Galbador

    Yeah sure… keep it up.