Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
Release Date: September 1988
In a direct sequel to 1988’s Monster Land, we have Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap. The Wonder Boy has just defeated the evil MEKA Dragon, which we get to relive in the opening scene of the game. But all wasn’t perfect, as a curse was placed on Wonder Boy with the Dragon’s last breath. Now, turned into a Lizard-Man, it’s up to you to find the Salamander Cross in order to turn back into a human and live in peace. The Dragon’s Trap is a Metroidvania style game. Everything is technically available from the hub town, but you need to go to certain areas in order to unlock new forms and powers to move to the next.
The Lizard-Man blows fire at a slight range. He doesn’t do anything special other than looking cool, but defeating his boss gets you access to Mouse-Man. This diminutive fighter can run on walls and ceilings when you see checkered blocks. He also gets into tight spaces and takes forever to kill his boss. Next up is Piranha-Man, who swims under water. To get to his dungeon, you also need to get the Thunder Saber in order to break blocks. The Lion-Man uses his wide swinging arc to destroy blocks above and below, as well as enemies on different levels. The final transformation is Hawk-Man, who is capable of flying. He can’t take touching water, however, so you want to stay away from getting wet.
Everyone after Lizard-Man can block projectiles that hit their shield. This is an important gameplay mechanism that you want to master as soon as you can. You’re never given direction through dialogue, you’re plopped into town and it’s up to you to figure it out. Players will poke around until they find their way to the key, which funnels them toward the locked door. Then it’s off to the races. Dungeons are capped with a boss battle. These will likely take a couple tries as you figure out their pattern. If you have a couple blue potions stocked up, they’ll refill some life if you die. This can give you the time you need to win.
Your life is measured by hearts on the top of the screen. You start with one, but find heart containers in chests, which grant you a greater maximum HP. I ended up finishing without finding them all. Enemies also drop items that can be used in battle, but they were always grayed out on the pause screen, so I assumed I would have to wait for a final Human form to use them. I was wrong. About midway through the game, you find hidden rooms that give you the ability to switch forms at will. I got stuck figuring out what to do at one point and re-traversed all of the areas with Hawk-Man looking for something I missed before realizing getting to an underground portion could also be achieved as Mouse-Man. This led me to the Magical Saber, which allows you to reach the endgame.
Throughout the land are shops. Inside there are swords, shields, and armor to buy. The catch is that you need to have collected a certain number of stones in order to charm the shopkeeper into selling you items. This is an interesting, if flawed, mechanic that locked me out of buying a lot of items through the game. Some of the equipment has special abilities, like the Dragon Mail allowing you talk walk through lava. You can also collect certain equipment from enemies. I lucked into the Legendary Armor, which combined with a glitch made me invincible. Another armor type is the Hades Armor, which will resurrect you if you die. It’s supposed to only work once and disappear, but the resurrection effect remained with the Legendary Armor equipped. This made the final castle a cakewalk, when it otherwise would have been a nightmare.
Everything is big and colorful. There’s no flickering or oddities that I noticed.
Music and sound effects are pretty good. Nothing sticks out as amazing, but nothing was bad.
Flying doesn’t control particularly well. Getting the shield in place to block projectiles can be a struggle. Going into doors requires precise positioning.
Everything was going along pretty well, until the final castle. If I hadn’t stumbled into the Hades Armor glitch, it would have been infuriatingly difficult.
Fun Factor: 3.5
This is a good time and probably one of the better games in the Master System’s library.
Overall Grade: 3.2
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap earns a B+. This is a much better game than its predecessor. I heartily recommend it.