The Wonder Boy series has always been a big confusing mess. The first game in the series was also called Adventure Island. And then there were Wonder Boy sequels and Adventure Island sequels that were all totally different things. Then there were weird localizations and spin-offs. There were two different Wonder Boy III games. And then the Wonder Boy games also became Monster World games. It's daunting.
One of the two Wonder Boy III games was The Dragon's Trap, a 1989 Sega Master System game. And that one was remade in 2017 and received a lovely release on the Switch. I can't really undersell the love that was put into this remake. Though it's now in widescreen, it's like a 1:1 conversion. You can literally hit a button at any time and switch between the updated graphics and the original SMS graphics and it's flawless. Although the game utilizes in-game saves, you can still use your 1989 passwords if you so choose. It's nuts.
Though I did click between the retro graphics occasionally for the sake of comparison, it's really hard to get away from this new hand drawn art. My goodness. This is one beautiful game. Like, I get the awe that Cuphead inspired. But I feel like Dragon's Trap was overlooked when it comes to sheer gorgeousness.
I've oft said that the original Phantasy Star on SMS was way ahead of its time as it did things that most JRPG's at the time didn't do. I'd point to Dragon's Trap as sort of similar as it's a pretty big Metroidvania with lots of hidden stuff and a BUNCH of different characters to play as. See, Wonder Boy has been cursed and each new section of the game has you playing as a different animal with different powers.
You start as a dragon who has a powerful projectile attack and no shield. Then you're a mouse who is tiny and weak, but can climb walls and fit in small cracks. The fish dude can swim (duh). The lion has a large swinging sword that can hit above and below him. The bird can - guess what? - fly! Late in the game you'll find areas where you can switch characters on the fly, which is helpful.
I've been playing this one in most of my down time this week. And it's been really solid. I've stuck with this more than any other Wonder Boy game I think. And while the Shantae series is a pretty obvious spiritual successor, it's cool to see a renewed interest in Wonder Boy with a couple recent remakes and the honest to goodness Monster Boy game.
At this point, I've made it to the last castle in the sky, but I'm getting my butt handed to me. I know I'm underpowered, and have some grinding to do for better gear, though I don't know if I'm really in the mood to do that. I've had a lot of fun with this game, but I'm not sure if I'll see it to the end just yet.