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Page 1:
Introduction
Wonder Boy

Page 2:
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

Page 3:
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap
Wonder Boy in Monster World

Page 4:
Monster World IV
Wonder Boy and Monica
Soundtracks/Compilations/ Comics

Page 5:
Interview with Ryuichi Nishizawa

Game Club 199X Podcast
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap

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Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap / Dragon's Curse / Adventure Island (アドベンチャーアイランド) / Monster World II: Dragon no Wana (モンスターワールドII ドラゴンの罠) - Master System, TurboGrafx 16, Game Gear, PlayStation 2 (1989)

American Master System Cover

American Turbografx-16 Cover

Japanese PC Engine Cover

Japanese Game Gear Cover

Monster World II Artwork

The first Wonder Boy game created strictly for consoles, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap focuses on solid actionadventuring, and the result stands right next to Phantasy Star as one of the best games on the Sega Master System.

In a move that perhaps inspired the intro to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Wonder Boy III actually begins at the end of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, as you traipse through the castle (thankfully simplified from the original maze) and fight the final boss, the Meka Dragon.

Unfortunately, as you deal the killing blow, the monster curses you, turning you into a dragon humanoid. Once you escape the collapsing castle you must venture through the land to find the Salamander Cross, the only item that can rid you of this curse. While you begin the game as Lizard Man, you will change forms every time you kill a boss. At the beginning you're stuck in your current form, but as you progress you can find special rooms that let you transform at will. Each form has different skills and attributes.


Lizard Man is the initial form, and is actually quite powerful. Rather than wielding a sword, you shoot out fireballs (though you still equip swords for attack power boosts). Though this form lacks a shield, you can use said fireballs to block projectiles. You can also swim harmlessly through lava without the use of the Dragon Armor. He is also the only form that can duck.

Mouse Man is difficult to use because his sword is so tiny. However, he can fit through small openings and climb on checkerboard bricks. Meanwhile, Piranha Man lets you swim - being underwater in most other forms just slows you down.

Lion/Tiger Man (the form depends on the version of the game) is the most physically powerful. He swings his sword at an arc, allowing you to attack above and below. He can also break bricks without equipping the Thunder Saber sword. Finally, as expected, Hawk Man can fly. However, he is the most physically fragile, and is actually damaged by water.

Several different dragons must be killed throughout your adventure, each with some sort of theme: the Egyptian stage has a mummy dragon, the jungle stage has a zombie dragon, the underwater pirate ship level has a pirate dragon, the Japanese level has a samurai dragon and so forth.

Wonder Boy III ditches the level-by-level structure in favor of a more open world you can freely explore. The hub is a single central town, which splinters off in multiple directions. Much like Metroid, good chunks are off limits until you gain the proper animal form to reach them. While the route through the game is pretty explicit - you won't get lost for too long - you can explore at your leisure, revisiting areas with new skills to find hidden heart containers and extra equipment.

The world structure though is largely nonsensical. If you fall down the well, you'll somehow end up on a tropical beach, while if you fly into the sky, you'll find the game's equivalent to Egypt. It's one of those "video gamey" aspects that lends it a surreal nature. Magic works in much the same way as in Monster Land, with fallen monsters randomly dropping limited use items, though now you can select them from the pause screen, and they're cast by holding down and jump.

Most of the annoying bits from Monster Land have been dealt with: the timer is gone, as is the score, and you can now save your progress with passwords. However, some of the new RPG mechanics don't quite work. The biggest issue has to do with your Charm Points, or CP. This is basically the equivalent of the Charisma stat in tabletop RPGs, and determines what items the shopkeepers will sell you. However, you're never told what the requirements are - if your CP is too low, potential items are simply shown as inaccessible question marks.

Your CP is determined by your equipment, your current form, and by rare items called charm stones. The logic behind this is probably that a shopkeeper wouldn't want to sell anything to a grotesque fish/man thing with ugly armor, but would be more willing to part with their goods to something more adorable with fancier goods.

You can sort of cheat the game to find these, but it's still needless grinding. The game doesn't keep track of opened treasure chests, so you can find a hidden cache, get a password, reset and hunt down the same chest, repeating this until you're powered up.

The only other major issue is with the rather straightforward level design. Many stages are just long, linear paths and repeated environments, albeit with enemy variations. Dying on a boss battle and having to repeat the same endless corridors quickly grows tedious. And later levels are hectic, as the game tosses tons of bad guys on the screen.

Projectiles inflict a huge amount of damage regardless of your defensive stats, so learning to block them is essential for survival, but there are many times where dealing with it all at once is practically impossible without taking some damage. The postdamage invincibility period is implemented like in the arcade version of Monster Land, thankfully, so you can absorb multiple attacks while only taking a single hit's worth of damage.

Still, outside of these issues, Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap is an utterly brilliant game. The graphics are substantially improved over even the arcade version of Monster Land, taking a cue from the cutesy goofiness found in Monster Lair. The characters are large, distinctive, and strangely adorable, the monsters actually seem to have personality, while the locales are colorful and lively. The music is also completely fantastic, even if some themes (particularly the main dungeon song) get repeated too often. It's one of the crowning jewels of the Sega Master System for a reason.

The Master System version of the game was not released in Japan, remaining a North American and European exclusive. Instead, the first version to reach Japan was Hudson's PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 release, known (confusingly) as Adventure Island in Japan and Dragon's Curse in North America. In any case, it's largely identical to the Master System release.

What little text there is differs quite a bit from the SMS version (the opening warns you of bad guys that can turn you into a "totally disgusting creature") and some of the character sprites have been changed. The human form has blond hair, like the previous games, instead of green hair like the Sega version's hero. The Lizard Man form looks different, and the lion has been changed into a tiger. The frame rate is also smoother. Otherwise, the improvements are minor. If you have a Turbo Booster or CD-ROM system, you can also save your game, although the password system is still available.

In Japan, Sega released the game in 1992 for the Game Gear under the name Monster World II: Dragon no Wana. It's mostly the same as the Master System version, through since the view is zoomed in to make up for the smaller resolution, many of the areas have been slightly redesigned, and some of the larger rooms have simply been removed. You can also transport back to the hub town by using charm stones. In general the game is slightly easier too. There's also a new, much cooler, title screen and a new song to go with it.

Forgotten Legends of Gaming: The Smoking Pig

Wonder Boy in Monster Land was filled with weird looking shopkeepers, but the wackiest one is the password guy from The Dragon's Trap. It's not clear why he is also in charge of the church, but obviously the religious folk in Monster Land have no problem with a purple chain smoking pirate pig running their establishments. Also note how the cigarette and the crosses of the church shows Sega's apathetic nature towards censorship, compared to Nintendo's fervent policies of protecting American youths during the olden days. Unfortunately, he was taken out of the Game Gear version, replaced by more normal looking humans.

The Master System version also has an item called the Hades Armor, which revives you to full health when you die. It's supposed to be a consumable item, but due to some glitches, it's possible to keep it after regeneration, thereby basically making you immortal. This glitch was removed from the other versions.

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Wonder Boy III (Master System)

Dragon's Curse (TurboGrafx 16)


Comparison Screenshots


Game Gear Screenshots


Wonder Boy in Monster World / Wonder Boy V: Monster World III (ワンダーボーイV モンスターワールドIII) / The Dynastic Hero (超英雄伝説ダイナスティックヒーロー) - Genesis, Master System, TurboGrafx-16 Super CD, PlayStation 2, Wii, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (1991)

European Mega Drive Cover

Japanese Mega Drive Cover

PC Engine Cover

The fifth Wonder Boy title (and third Monster World game) leaves behind the tale of Book, and instead concentrates on a new hero, a blue-haired boy named Shion. It's another action-RPG, similar in structure to The Dragon's Trap, but keeping some elements closer to the first Monster Land.

Most disappointingly, there are no longer multiple forms to change into, as Shion is a human throughout. He can wield two types of weapons: swords, which are short-ranged but can be used in conjunction with shields, and spears, which are longer but lack proper protection. However, many items let you obtain skills similar to the ones in the previous game, like the Poseidon Spear, which lets you swim, and the pygmy transformation, which lets you squeeze into small places.

Instead of multiple forms, in different parts of the game you are accompanied by a tiny familiar, a reference to the fairies from the original Wonder Boy. Priscilla is a fairy who can heal; Hotta is a dwarf child who can dig for gold; Shabo is a tiny Grim Reaper who can attack with his scythe; and Rotto is a young dragon child. They're adorable, but their use is limited to specific dungeons.

The magic system has been improved, as you now learn spells rather than gathering individually used items. These spells have limited stocks, but are expanded as you discover more, and regenerate when you visit an inn. You can assign two spells at once, activated by pressing the A button and hitting either left or right.

The dungeons also feel like dungeons now, instead of just long, linear paths, and the world design is slightly more cohesive. There are many more hidden items compared to The Dragon's Trap, where most of the heart containers were fairly easy to find. The Charm Points system has been abolished, and there are multiple towns rather than just a single central hub city. The password system is gone, replaced by a battery save.

Unfortunately, the action itself isn't nearly as exciting as The Dragon's Trap. Like Monster Land, your speed is based on the type of boots you have, but even at the fastest speed, you move relatively slowly. Combined with the short range of both weapon types, it's a much more leisurely paced game, and one that doesn't feel as fun to play.

The visuals are nice, but not drastically improved over its Master System predecessor. Once again, the status bar is a little too large, though the life bars for all enemies are rather handy. The close-ups of the shopkeepers are gone, and instead the exterior of the house becomes transparent when Shion enters. The music, while decent, is also a little too low key in many areas.

There are also plenty of references to the older Wonder Boy games. The second screen is practically identical to the opening of Monster Land. Right at the beginning, Shion rescues Princess Purapril, the descendant of the second player character in Monster Lair, who in turn gives her name to the town. Some of the enemies, like the colorful fish in Poseidon's Realm, are taken from Monster Lair as well.

There's another encounter with the Sphinx. She actually looks like the statue found in The Dragon's Trap, and her quiz questions are now about specific things from earlier in the game. Even the finale, where the fantasy trappings give way to futuristic technology, is largely the same.

There are a few difficulty tweaks between the regional versions. In the Japanese release, dying sends you back to an inn with some reduced cash, while the English versions will send you to a Game Over screen, requiring the reloading of a save game. The final boss is also more difficult in the English release, with buzz saws having been added to the floor.

Initially released on the Genesis, Wonder Boy in Monster World was also ported to the Master System and released in Europe. While graphically it looks gorgeous, some technical problems keep it back. Your sword has an even shorter range, you can't buy spears anymore, and the hit detection is awfully shady. The save feature is also gone, replaced with some very long passwords.

The TurboGrafx-16 CD version, published once again by Hudson, is known as The Dynastic Hero. As with the previous games, the plotline and characters have been changed completely, as the hero, now named Dyna, wears an extremely dorky blue suit of armor and a beetle shaped helmet. The rest of the characters follow the insect theme too, with completely new familiars and bosses, though the standard enemies are unchanged. The dragon village (and its accompanying familiar) has also been changed into a bee village. The CD audio soundtrack is entirely different to the music in the Genesis version. The background graphics are pretty much the same, although there's a nifty animated intro complete with an incredibly cheesy vocal song. The translation is also slightly different, with a bit more character. The difficulty was not changed for the localized version, so it's easier than the English release of Monster World.

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)

Dynastic Hero (TurboGrafx 16)


Comparison Screenshots



Dynastic Hero Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Introduction
Wonder Boy

Page 2:
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair

Page 3:
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap
Wonder Boy in Monster World

Page 4:
Monster World IV
Wonder Boy and Monica
Soundtracks/Compilations/ Comics

Page 5:
Interview with Ryuichi Nishizawa

Game Club 199X Podcast
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap

Back to the Index