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.
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