So, as part of the MythTV project, I decided it’d be fun to install a rather large collection of video games from the old days so that I could play them on a proper TV with a decent joystick. The result, I’ve played more video games in the last couple weeks than I’ve played in the last six months.

In particular, I rediscovered an old Sega Master System classic that I had, in fact, completely forgotten about: Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. Actually, more accurately, I’d mis-remembered this game, attributing it’s various qualities to a bunch of other games, not realizing that this was, in fact, the title I was thinking about the whole time!

Now the first two installments in the Wonder Boy series are fairly straight forward platformers. You progress through levels, defeating boss characters while building up armor, weapons, items, and so forth, until you defeat the final big baddie in the game. Pretty standard stuff. The Dragon’s Trap starts off similarly. In fact, it begins precisely where Wonderboy in Monsterland ends off, and has the player actually defeat the last boss from the WBML as his first task (though, obviously, it’s much easier this time), after which Wonder Boy is cursed and transformed into Lizard-Man. Wonder Boy must then find the Salamander Cross in order to break the curse.

Similar to WBML, the levels are of a 2D platform-style, but unlike it’s predecessor, the player is given freedom to roam about the game world. As the player progresses, boss characters are defeated and Wonder Boy is tranformed into other characters, each with his own unique power:

  • Lizard-Man - Can breathe fire for extended attack range.
  • Mouse-Man - Can climb walls made of mouse blocks.
  • Pirhanna-Man - Can swim freely in water.
  • Lion-Man - Swings his sword in an arc, allowing him to destroy higher or lower blocks.
  • Hawk-Man - Has the ability to fly.

And, of course, Hu-Man (believe it or not, it’s actually spelled that way in the manual). Each of these special powers then makes it possible to access new areas of the game that were previously unavailable. For example, Mouse-Man may make it possible to climb a wall previously unscalable. The result is something similar to Super Mario 64, where regions of the game may be visited and revisited to discover new secrets previously unavailable.

In addition, Wonder Boy has the opportunity to collect new weapons and armour as the game progresses, each of which provide varying levels of attack or defensive capability, as well as various special powers. Occasionally, these items are found, however most are acquired by spending gold, which is collected by killing enemies.

The result is a game which combines the elements of a 2D platformer with something akin to an RPG, providing great replay value. This is particularly true because the difficulty level of the game ramps up very smoothly. While consistently challenging, the game doesn’t become too easy or too frustratingly difficult.

To top all this off, for a game published in 1989, the game looks quite good. The sprites are big and colourful, and the big boss characters are gigantic! The soundtrack is also rather catchy, although it could probably grate on some people’s ears after a while. :)

So if you’re feeling the need to take a stroll down memory lane, I highly recommend this game. Though, be warned, it’s pretty addictive. Just ask Lenore.