Thursday, June 8, 2017

[REVIEW] Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Switch)

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap
Played on: Switch
Genre: 2D Metroidvania Platformer
Developer: Lizardcube
Publisher: DotEmu

As a Brazilian, it should come as no surprise I have a keen sense of nostalgia for the Master System. It was my second ever console, after the NES, and it went on to be a staple of my childhood. The Wonder Boy franchise (which was localized in Brazil as Turma da Mônica, after a popular comic book series) has always stood tall among the console's library, and now one of its best titles has received a loving remaster for a new era.

The Dragon's Trap is one of gaming earliest metroidvanias, predating even that particular term. You play as the titular Wonder Boy (or, in the case of this remaster, as Wonder Girl if you want), who is soon placed under a curse and turned into an anthropomorphic, fire-spewing lizard. Subsequently, you're thrown into a big 2D open world and it's your task to explore it in search for new transformations, each with its own abilities, which in turn allow you to explore new areas.

The game's graphics have gotten a much needed coat of paint, making it look absolutely lovely. The hand-drawn animations are crisp and detailed, in stark contrast with the Master System original's rigidness. In fact, the graphical work is so well done that it completely changes how the controls feel in regards to the in-game physics, even though those remain 100% unchanged (as the original graphics mode, accessible by the mere click of a button, can attest). It's amazing how the mere addition of extra frames of animation can turn a control scheme that's overly slippy into something that feels just right.

As a clear labor of love for the original, however, Dragon's Trap misses an excellent opportunity to solve some of the game design quirks that haven't aged well. A few of the game's many secrets, for exemple, are almost impossible to find without a guide, and each new sword or piece of armor hold new powers that are never properly explained. For example: there's a sword which allows the player to transform between characters at any moment, an extremely important ability, but you'd never know it (or how to actually do it) unless you go looking elsewhere for the information.

At around 5 hours to get everything, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's trap is a short but sweet metroidvania platformer. The new graphics are nothing short of stunning, and the extra frames of animation single-handedly manage to fix the otherwise unchanged physics system, which used to feel overly rigid and slippy. Some of the more obtuse conventions from back in the day, such as new powers that are never properly explained, sadly remain, but the game still emerges as a lovely experience that can appeal to gamers old and new.

No comments:

Post a Comment