Wonder Boy didn’t have an overly auspicious start on the Master System. The original Wonder Boy title was a port of a fairly forgettable arcade game and it’s more commonly known as Hudson’s Adventure Island for the NES. Sega gave the Wonder Boy franchise another go with the sequel, Wonder Boy in Monster Land, and this was a step in the direction that would ultimately lead Sega to the develop the third game in the series and its masterpiece, Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap.
Wonder Boy 3 is an action adventure platformer that fits into the “Metroidvania” mold of games. This style of game requires a combination of platforming and non-linear play while also rewarding a player for exploring and collecting money, items and weapons. Wonder Boy 3 also requires the player to back track to areas of the game that are not immediately accessible once they gain a certain ability or item which is another common trait of the Metroidvania style games. This is probably my favorite style of video game so automatically, I’m likely going to be into playing Wonder Boy 3 as long as it didn’t suck.
No worries there. Wonder Boy 3 takes place immediately after the events of Wonder Boy 2. You play as Wonder Boy (naturally), fully powered up and nearly indestructible as you take on the Mecha Dragon, your primary antagonist from the second game. Once you defeat Mecha Dragon, it curses Wonder Boy and turns him into a lizard while effectively removing all of his strength. At this point, the game becomes non-linear and you’re attempting to figure out what happened to you, how to remove the curse and where you need to go to accomplish this. The beginning of Wonder Boy 3 may have been an influence on Castlevania Symphony of the Night which also starts you at your strongest only to be stripped of your powers early on in the game. Like many Metroidvania style games, you must gather clues from townfolk and other characters you meet during the course of the game. What sets Wonder Boy 3 apart is a unique plot device that turns your character not only into a lizard but additional creatures as the game progresses. With each dragon you defeat throughout the course of the game, Wonder Boy gets cursed over and over and will take on forms of a mouse, lion, piranha and hawk. I enjoy this aspect of the game as honestly, Wonder Boy always looks like a total dork to me so playing as him in a different form is welcome change.
In all, Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap is a brilliant game for the Master System and you’ll be hard pressed to find many other games on the console that equal some of the best of the action adventure games that the NES has to offer. Since it was exclusively released for the Master System under the Wonder Boy name (it was released as Dragon’s Curse on the Turbografx-16), I was unaware of Wonder Boy 3 during its 1989 release. I only became aware of how great this game was well after I bought my Master System in the early 2000s and added it to my collection. I wanted to try out a game in one of the Master System’s signature franchises, with Alex Kidd being the other one, and this seemed like the most interesting of 3 available. Once you get past the lame box art, which is a Master System curse, as well as the misdirection of the opening scene, Wonder Boy 3 quickly becomes one of those games you can’t stop playing. It’s easily one of the best, if not THE best game on the console.
Currently in my collection: game, manual, case