Microsoft

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap (Xbox One)

This remake of Sega’s Wonder Boy III treats the game with more reverence than is likely deserved. In doing so, Wonder Boy turns into an aesthetic spectacle. Dragon’s Trap harnesses the pop-art of the charming, mischievous fantasy lost behind the original Master System’s synthetic neon color palette.

With stellar animation, providing the agency of a late ’80s Don Bluth feature, Wonder Boy III’s art – at times of theatrical quality – enhances the inherently busy feel. Despite being pasted over the same identical gameplay skeleton, it’s a joy to adventure in this interactive daydream. Flutes, bass, and pianos as orchestral backing give Dragon’s Trap an additional calming (but invigorated) spirit.

Stage design lacks the magnificence of a Mario, despite Sega’s competitive insistence in their pre-Sonic era. It’s an awfully flat bit of platform swordplay, unchanged now. Yet, the animation holds tremendous power. Wonder Boy, cursed to embody the form of five distinct creatures, is a stellar hero. Each of his forms steps or runs or jumps with purpose. Their faces render kid-friendly aggression with each strike. Enemies flicker out of existence with the shocked look of Saturday morning villains.

Despite cryptic touches and ample ‘80s era frustrations, Dragon’s Trap redux holds admiration for its source material. Although Wonder Boy’s messy history (stretched between platforms, titles, spin-offs, and developers) amputated the series’ mainstream popularity, the reboot carries a “pull back the curtain” effect; it’s easier to parse the intent and style of original developers Westone when under command of this sightly adaptation.

4/5

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