Wonder Boy The Dragon's Trap (3)
Apr 24
By Matt Gander In Retro, Reviews No Comments

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.

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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.

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Apr 24
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

This week’s UK chart is rather uneventful, all told. The big news is Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands has taken the top spot for a second week running, making it four in total.

The rest of the top ten sees a slight shuffle, with a top five comprising of GTA V, FIFA 17, LEGO Worlds and Rocket League.

At #6 it’s the return of Horizon: Zero Dawn, up from #11. Overwatch falls a few places to #7 while Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare drops to #8 ahead of this week’s CoD: WWII reveal.

After departing the top ten last week, Mass Effect Andromeda resurfaces at #9. Then at #10 it’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Switch.

Yooka-Laylee and LEGO City Undercover both depart the top ten meanwhile, falling to #15 and #11 respectively.

Dark Souls III: Fire Fades Edition was the only new entry in the entire top 40. Cities: Skylines did however manage to make an appearance in the Xbox One chart, albeit at a lowly #16.

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Apr 21
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Two new games join the Nintendo Switch party this week – Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (£17.99) and ACA NeoGeo Fatal Fury (£6.39). Released in 1991, Fatal Fury is one of the more renowned NeoGeo games. Word has it we can expect one of the console’s lesser known titles next Thurs, in the form of the 1996 top-down racer Over Top.

Although a SEGA franchise, Wonder Boy has a history on Nintendo formats – the arcade original was adapted for the NES by Hudson Soft and released under the guise of Adventure Island. The Adventure Island series took its own identity thereafter, though. Wonder Boy didn’t appear on a Nintendo format again until the days of Wii VC.

Five different Wonder Boy games have made it to Virtual Console over the years, including Dragon’s Curse – the TurboGrafx-16’s rendition of The Dragon’s Trap, converted by Hudson Soft once again. They really had a soft spot for Wonder Boy.

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Nintendo fans who have never played The Dragon’s Trap before are in for a treat. It’s an unsung classic – it offered ‘Metroidvania’ style adventuring long before ‘Metroidvania’ was even a bona fide genre, as well as featuring RPG elements years before they were commonly found in platformers. Visually it pushed the Master System hard too, resembling an early Mega Drive game for most part.

This new rendition features the ability to switch the visuals back from new to old, as well as swap between soundtracks. You can even have a mix of new visuals and retro music if you fancy. The new visuals are slick and polished, incredibly well-drawn and nicely animated. Wonder Girl also joins the fray, and there’s a new easy mode for novices. Overall, there’s not much to dislike.

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Apr 20
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

The remaster bandwagon shows no sign of slowing, rolling into town once again this week. Three retro remasters, one rather ravishing retro collection, and two more NeoGeo re-releases – ACA NeoGeo Over Top and Fatal Fury 2, which hit Xbox One today.

Tuesday meanwhile saw the arrival of Voodoo Vince: Remastered on Xbox One, along with the multi-format Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and Capcom’s The Disney Afternoon Collection. Then on Wednesday Double Fine’s classic graphic adventure Full Throttle Remastered parked up on PS4 and PS Vita for a rather modest £11.99. It’s a perfect fit for Sony’s handheld, apparently.

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Voodoo Vince: Remastered‘s price seems sensible too – £12.50. This 3D platformer didn’t exactly set the world alight when it launched on the original Xbox back in 2003, so it’s certainly an odd candidate to receive a remaster. While it wasn’t a total commercial failure, scores were mostly around the 5/10 mark.

Fourteen years later, not much has changed – Destructoid found it to be unremarkable. “With lackluster plot, awful comedy, and shallow gameplay, I just don’t see where the following comes from,” they said.

Review scores for The Disney Afternoon Collection and Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap are significantly higher, mostly being a mixture of 7s and 8s, and in the case of The Dragon’s Trap a couple of 9s.

The Disney Afternoon Collection includes the NES classics Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, DuckTales and DuckTales 2, along with time-attack and boss rush modes, for £15.99.

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Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap brings the Master System/Game Gear classic into the HD era, with sparkly new visuals and music. Also: Wonder Girl, a new protagonist. It’s even possible to flick back to the original graphics at a push of a button – a neat little touch. This one will also set you back £15.99, and unlike Capcom’s Disney collection, it’s available on Switch.

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Apr 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

In an attempt to give this Kickstarter-funded RPG its own identity, French indie developer Enigami has shunned convention. This isn’t your everyday RPG; it’s a condensed role-player, with a 25-hour runtime and arena-based beat’em up combat featuring combos and special moves. An intriguing prospect, but much like the protagonist’s backstory – Chado and Poky crash their airship in an inhospitable realm after fleeing a war zone – it’s a bumpy ride.

Although it’s true that most RPGs don’t get going until around 10 hours in, few have a rougher opening than Shiness. Over the course of around 3 hours, the plot is outlined, the two main characters introduced, the battle system explained – and then expanded upon – another character joins the team, and the workings of the magic (Shi) system are detailed. All the while there’s the game’s bizarre lexicon to wrap your head around, otherworldly curse words and all.

On top of all that, the puzzle solving mechanics soon come into play, with each of the five characters that eventually join the team having a unique skill usable outside of combat. Chado, the hot-headed hero burdened by the passing of his mother, can conjure up and throw large boulders. The timid Poky can connect glowing crystals using a magical wrench meanwhile. He’s your typical ‘comic relief’ character, scared of everything and constantly thinking about food. They’re soon joined by Kayenne, a mighty bipedal wolf who has the power of telekinesis. Although the cutesy art direction will always remain an acquired taste, the characters quickly grow likeable.

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There’s lot to take in during the opening, and it certainly doesn’t help that the presentation is rather simplistic due to the Kickstarter-funded budget. The dialogue is, frankly, terrible. Most characters converse using short, truncated, sentences and very few NPCs have anything interesting to say. All signs point to the French-to-English translation being the issue; jokes often fail to hit the mark, suggesting that punchlines were simply lost in translation.

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Apr 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

After debuting at no.1 last week, JRPG Persona 5 is now nowhere to be seen in the UK top 40. All signs point to Deep Silver underestimating demand, and then some.

Stardew

Incidentally, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition has also left the top 40 after just one week. We doubt this is down to stock issues though; we blame the full-price mark-up.

Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands sneaks in to retake the top spot, making it three non-consecutive weeks for the allegedly middling open-world shooter.

LEGO Worlds, GTA V, Overwatch and FIFA 17 all rise a few positions to claim the remaining respective positions in the top five, with Overwatch up from #10 to #4.

Then at #6 it’s a new entry – Team 17’s exceedingly colourful platformer Yooka-Laylee.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is at #7, Rocket League jumps back into the top ten at #8, Zelda: Breath of the Wild falls a few positions to #9 and then at #10 it’s LEGO City Undercover.

Mass Effect Andromeda leaves the top ten meanwhile, falling from #5 to #12.

The retail release of Stardew Valley was the only other new entry in the top 40, sprouting up at #30.

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Apr 13
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Mr. Shifty is easily this week’s biggest eShop release. It’s a top-down shooter similar to Hotline Miami, only with a more modern visual style and the ability to catch enemies off guard by teleporting.

Eurogamer awarded it their ‘Recommended’ badge earlier today. “There’s nothing shifty about it” they concluded while comparing the game’s hero to X-Men’s Nightcrawler.

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The Switch also receives The Jackbox Party Pack 3. It may be a mere conversion, but considering it suits the Switch’s ethos perfectly, you won’t hear us complaining.

The slightly odd £20.03 asking price gets you five party games – Quiplash 2, Trivia Murder Party, Guesspionage, Tee K.O. and Fakin’ It – most of which support up to eight players. Developer Jackbox knows how to make a decent party game. Trust us on that.

If you can’t wait for next month’s Street Fighter II Switch revival then maybe ACA NeoGeo Samuari Shodown IV (£6.29) will make the wait a tad more bearable. Released in 1996, this brawler even went on to grace the SEGA Saturn and PSone.

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Apr 12
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

When Yooka-Laylee’s review embargo lifted last week we were firmly in the ‘Yooka-Laylee is great’ camp, awarding the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie a well-deserved 9/10. We aren’t oblivious to some of the far more critical reviews out there, though: most scores from other sites were 6s and 7s, with a few 8s and other 9s here and there. A vastly mixed reception.

Many critics claimed that the collectable-filled 3D platformer was a product of the past, with archaic design, unbalanced difficulty, and an unhelpful camera. From the sound of things, the pre-release patch has fixed a few camera problems. As for being archaic, it shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Playtonic’s intentions have been clear from the start: to bring back the 3D platformer, warts and all. Those not fond of the N64 platformer template, with its wealth of collectable and whatnot, were never going to enjoy what Playtonic has created here.

StarBlood Arena

Stardew Valley Collector’s Edition and StarBlood Arena are the remaining retail releases for this week. Stardew Valley Collector’s Edition includes a map, guide book and soundtrack CD for somewhere between £15-£20, retailer depending. We awarded this Harvest Moon alike a lofty 9/10 back in January, likening it to “a fresh breath of countryside air.”

Multiplayer shooter StarBlood Arena meanwhile has been described as ‘RIGS meets the oft-forgotten PC classic Descent’. The Metro felt that it would have benefitted from a few more modes to justify the £35 asking price, awarding it 7/10, while PlayStation Lifestyle opted for a 9.0, going as far to call it “The VR’s Overwatch”. Blimey.

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