Those interested in playing Wonder Boy III should definitely get this version, since the upgraded audio and visuals are worth the price of admission alone, but know that you’re in for some frustrating moments and a lot of backtracking.
The remake of Wonder Boy III seems like a game where the developer ticked a few boxes hoping for the best. New coat of paint? Checked. Female protagonist? Checked. The possibility of switching between retro audio and graphics to new ones? Checked. Password system? Checked. But with the excitement that bringing the classic games to modern systems, the people involved forgot to about the aspects where Wonder Boy III shows its age the most (such as the world design and gameplay) and that’s a shame because the other features, particularly the soundtrack and hand-drawn visuals, are impeccable.
I didn’t own a Sega Master System back in the day, so like a lot of people, I never got to play Wonder Boy III. Unlike its predecessors, this side-scrolling platformer gives you more freedom when it comes to exploring the interconnected world, so instead of always moving from left to right, throwing hammers or riding a skateboard, the game lets you access doors in the order you prefer and you can explore the world freely.
For the most part, Wonder Boy III is a platformer, but there are some role-playing elements here and there. You can purchase armor, shields and weapons from certain vendors that are scattered around the different levels and these items affect your attack and defense, as well as replenish your health in a hospital. As you explore some of the environments, you’ll also run into secrets rooms that contain permanent health boosts.
The first big change in Dragon’s Trap comes in the form of transformations. You start as a human knight, but after fighting Meka Dragon, you turn into a half-human, half-lizard creature that can spit fireballs. You then need to explore a series of levels to unlock new transformations (you turn into a mouse who can climb checkered walls, a lion who can strike downwards with his sword and a piranha-man who can swim, among others.) Each of these animals comes with access to a unique ability, that in true Metroidvania fashion, gives you access to areas that were previously inaccessible.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of going back and forth in the game which can be frustrating if you’re not sure where to go next. The worst part about the structure is when you need to cover a lot of ground in order to transform into a specific animal or when you need to buy health potions. Additionally, certain levels are pretty unforgiving. This, in and of itself, isn’t a serious problem, but when you’re trying to find out where to go next and you keep dying over and over, the process becomes discouraging. Some boss fights also represent a problem and even if their attack patterns aren’t that difficult to memorize, certain attacks make a lot of damage or you can get trapped between two things that harm you which is infuriating.
Up until this point, I’ve been describing the original Wonder Boy III, but this is, after all, a remake that comes with a bunch of new features that weren’t present in the 1989 game. The most apparent ones are the new soundtrack and attractive hand-drawn graphics that sound and look terrific. Just by looking at and listening to the game, you can tell that the developer put a lot of effort into remaking the game. Purists can listen to the original soundtrack and see the classic visual style by pressing a button which is a terrific option if only to see how much work the developer put into this remake.
There’s also a new playable character in the form of the protagonist’s girlfriend as well as a password system that lets you start the game from a specific point and with all your items and progress you’ve made. It’s worth mentioning that the passwords from the original Wonder Boy III still work on this version of the game (and vice versa,) so older players with a manual can do so.
This version of Wonder Boy III features everything you’d want out of a remake released in this day and age. But despite features like the stunning new coat of paint, fantastic soundtrack, new playable character and classic password system, there are certain parts (such as the world structure) where this game still shows its age and that’s a shame. Those interested in playing Wonder Boy III should definitely get this version of the game, since the audio and visuals are worth the price of admission alone, but know that you’re in for some frustrating moments and a lot of backtracking.