Retro gaming can be a tricky hobby to get in to. If you’re used to the powerful machines of today’s generation of games, it might seem futile to go back to the NES and play with just 8-bits of power. Despite this lack of graphical prowess, the original Nintendo and other older consoles still had amazing games to play, some of which hold up to this day.
With that being said… I like the enhancements the PlayStations and Xboxes of today allow. Sure, retro graphics are great and all, but it’s also awesome to see smooth animation, hand drawn artwork, and beautiful backgrounds in a game I’m enjoying. The Nintendos and Genesis’ of the past did the most they could with their systems, so the consoles of today should do the same.
But what if you’re someone that wants both of these things? The best of both worlds: The retro look of a classic, vintage platformer, combined with the amazing animation and visuals possible with newer consoles? Well, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap on the PlayStation 4 is the right game for you.
A full on remake of the third game in the Wonder Boy series, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap on PlayStation 4 is an enhanced remake, with brand new visuals, new dialogue, and super sharp gameplay. I was never able to play the original game on the Sega Master System, largely because I never had a Sega Master System, so this remake was my first time with the game. Since I can’t speak directly on the comparison of gameplay, I can only say the game handles well, with a bit of a slippery feel to platforming and combat. If you’ve played the game, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Just like the original game, Wonder Boy on PS4 is a platformer with action and exploration built in. The main objective of the game has you fighting off various dragons en route to regaining your human form. At the start of the game you are cursed and transformed into a fire breathing lizard man! Not bad, all things considered. But after each subsequent dragon you defeat, you are cursed further into a different animal, each with their own attack and exploration quirks. The mouse, for example, has a very weak attack, but can walk on the walls and ceilings of certain tiles.The hawk man, naturally, can fly, so on and so forth. As the game progresses, you’ll encounter areas that are only traverse-able by a specific monster form, meaning you’ll have to do some backtracking. It’s manageable, but there are some instances where I did get lost and had to retrace a lot of footsteps.
The biggest draw the game had to me was the stunning visuals. The game has big, bright animations for everything, from characters, enemies, backgrounds, and all the details in between. There are multiple background layers, which add a lot of depth, figuratively and literally, to the game. The Desert world in particular, with it’s multiple pyramids and landscapes, stands out. Everything moves so smoothly too: your character jumps and attacks in a fluid motion, and enemies move in a similar fashion. The cartoony style is a real treat to look out, and simply talking about it doesn’t do the game justice: you have to see it in motion to really appreciate it to the fullest.
“But Jason,” you’re saying, “You said this game was the best of both worlds. What if I want to play the game like it was originally presented back in 1989?” To you say, I’d say go out and buy a Master System. But if you don’t want to do that, you can literally press a button and swap the aforementioned awesome visuals to the retro 8-bit visuals of the original game! Impressive in its own way, the retro visuals are a treat to look at: bright, colorful, and basic, just like the best games of decades past should be. Another neat addition, you can also swap the music and sounds to the original ones too with another button press. It’s a fun little addition that I found myself switching between just to see what the original sprites looked like. Personally I played largely in the enhanced visual style, but the game handles well in both.
There are a lot of retro remakes coming out these days. With the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, the upcoming MediEvil remake, and so many more (those are just the PlayStation remakes, too!), you’ll be challenged to find a new release wall that doesn’t include a retro game among the titles. If all of the remakes are as polished and fun as Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, I’d be happy to dive back in to the games I missed growing up. I feel like many will pass by these games though, seeing them as inferior to their more impressive looking brethren. For those that do give Wonder Boy and others a chance, they’ll discover just why gaming was great so many years ago.