Best Game Ever / Review – Dragon’s Trap / Curse

It’s somewhat bizarre that my normally useless extensive knowledge of the Sega Master System would come in handy because a Turbo Grafix 16 game is released on the Wii. But despite the comical circuitousness, I happen to know a thing or two about Dragon’s Curse. You see, as far as Master System games go, this game is anything but obscure. It’s actually so beloved that a great Master System emulator is named after the game.

In an attempt to completely confuse America as revenge for dropping atomic bombs on them, Japan has seen it fit to rename the game called Dragon’s Trap (Master System) for release on the TG16, where it would be called Dragon’s Curse. That wouldn’t be very good retaliation, though, considering the cancer rates are still abnormally high in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. So to make things harder, this game is also known in the states as Wonder Boy 3 the Dragon’s Trap, or Monster World 2.

OK, Wonder Boy 2 for the Master System is actually Monster Land 1, though it’s called Monster World 1 in Japan. This was done to distinguish the game from it’s predecessor, which some know as Wonder Boy, but most know as Adventure Island. The story goes Westone, creator of Wonder Boy, had an agreement with Hudson to convert their games into other titles on non-Master System systems. So Wonder Boy became Adventure Island, and Wonder Boy 3 became Dragon’s Curse

Yes, a bajillion other sites have already noted how bad the box art is.

Now, the thing is there already was a Wonder Boy 3 in Japan when the game this article is about came out. So technically, Dragon’s Curse is really the fourth game in the Wonder Boy series, the third being a terrible shooter. That game had nothing to do with its predecessor, though, and never came out in America, so it made more sense to just call Dragon’s Trap Wonder Boy 3.

The bad news is you can’t have back the time I just wasted trying to explain that. The good news is that Wonder Boy the Dragon’s Trap is an awesome game no matter what you call it or what system you play it on. In fact, it is so good it is now officially the first Best Game Ever I am simultaneously inducting into the hallowed videolamer halls and reviewing at the same time. Unfortunately, a review is necessary because the version you can now play on your Wii is inferior to the real thing, but first let’s talk about the original.

I got into the Master System because my brother was a graphics whore and I was young and impressionable. Imagine that, a graphics whore in 1988. Seems absurd, doesn’t it? We only remember if games from then were good or bad, who cares about how they looked? Go contemplate that, graphics whores of today, the rest of us have a rambling article to read.

Wonder Boy 3 looks great for an 8 bit game, but more importantly, it’s charming. The character and enemy designs are cute and quirky, and even the pallet swaps of pallet swaps are endearing. The game also has great music — one of the tracks ranks in my top five game songs list, right up there with Bloody Tears and Circus tent Battle (Shining Force). Wonder Boy 3 also plays well. It handles similarly to Popful Mail or maybe Faxanadu, meaning it’s sort of a side scrolling action adventure RPG. I like to think it’s what Zelda 2 should have been.

The main mechanic of the game is the “Dragon’s Trap.” After defeating the first boss (who is actually the last boss of Wonder Boy 2) your character is transformed into a dragon. Throughout the game you cycle through a handful of creatures, each with varying abilities. The level design isn’t brilliant, but it does enough to utilize the differences innate to each creature.

A talented player can probably get through the whole game in around six hours, but if you don’t already know where everything is it’ll take you a bit longer. The difficulty ramps up pretty rapidly and you’ll find yourself collecting gold for better equipment by the fourth dungeon, if not earlier.

All said, Wonder Boy 3 is a damn fine game and one of the peaks on the otherwise rolling plain of Master System games. Good thing Wii owners were offered the port of this great game.

The TG16 version of Wonder Boy 3 improves the graphics slightly, but also lames up the character sprites. You should make the artistic preference choice yourself, but it’s a fact that the original’s Merman did not waddle, he walked. The plot was also edited. I’ve never played the TG16 port of Wonder Boy 2, but either they changed the plot of that too, or they decided to ignore that the original plotline fit together nice and snug. Instead of learning that Wonder Boy is fighting the Meka Dragon and that upon defeating him he is cursed, you are told that this dragon you just totally killed is like totally turning you into this gnarly disgusting creature. As if.

What the sprites should look like. Oh, also spoilers.

Plot and sprite changes aren’t a big deal. The major problem of the port is the music. The TG16 clearly has better sound capabilities than the Master System. Unfortunately, the new versions of the Wonder Boy 3 tracks pale in comparison, despite what others may say.

Because you may only hear the new offensive version of the Side-Crawler’s Dance, I feel obligated to share the original with you, in all its majesty.

\m/ This song goes to 11 \m/

The Dragon’s Curse is far from a bad game. It’s still got the fun gameplay that makes Wonder Boy 3 a classic in my eyes and it’s really cool that it’s been released again – great games should be accessible to everyone. Still, if you are smitten by this game (though you may have to be 8 for that to happen), it’s worth the extra effort to get the original. You can even play it on the emulator that pays homage to its awesomeness.

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17 years ago

Master System had some GREAT tunes. Listen to the Zillion soundtrack if
you don’t believe me. Didn’t VL do an article about that a while back?