The first two Wonder Boy games were intended to be coin guzzlers, ushering arcade players along with haste and a sense of urgency. A simple case of hot-footing it from one level to the next before the time limit was up, with no time to stop and explore.
It wasn’t until the third Wonder Boy that SEGA’s also-ran mascot – bested by Alex Kidd – broke free of its arcade shackles, starring in a console-only adventure that was well ahead of its time. So far ahead, in fact, that its open-ended nature is often mimicked by the indie adventures of today. It’s an ideal candidate for a remake.
Although it wasn’t referred to it at the time, least not that we can recall, The Dragon’s Trap was the Master System’s answer to Metroid. A quaint village acts as a hub, and from there branching paths can be found – both above and below ground – that lead to new areas, each of which requires a certain skill to access. Unlike Metroid however, these skills don’t come in the form of weapon and armour upgrades but rather new creature transformations.
During the game’s opening, a curse (the titular trap, no less) turns Wonder Boy – or newcomer Wonder Girl, if you prefer – into a fire-breathing lizard. The only way to break the curse and become human, sorry Hu-Man, again it is to take down a hierarchy of dragons, gaining a new transformation each time.
it’s clear Lizardcube had the utmost respect for the source material
There’s a slight learning curve as Wonder Person builds up momentum as they run. As such, it’s quite easy to accidentally collide into enemies early on, while sword strikes often miss their mark. Once acquainted with the inability to stop on a dime though, death doesn’t come quite as quickly.
Enemy attack patterns and their static locations also quickly become consigned to memory, and so with each attempt, it’s likely you’ll get that little bit further. Every now and then it’ll throw you an unexpected – and sometimes much needed – lifeline too, be it a full health recharge power-up or a blue potion that grants a second life.
Little in the way of progress is lost upon dying either, as any gold collected is retained. This is used to purchase new swords, shields and armour. The Dragon’s Trap wasn’t just ahead of its time due to being non-linear – it had RPG elements too, with new items boosting stats and such.