15 September 2007
This game was originally developed by Sega and Westone in 1989 for the Sga Master System, but it was called Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap. Dragon's Curse is a graphically enhanced version of Wonder Boy III and it is a direct sequel to Wonder Boy in Monster Land. Here's how the story begins:
"You are entering the dragon castle. Your mission is to defeat the 5 ghostly goons and save your country...Be aware of the dragon's power as they can turn you into a totally disgusting creature..."
The only way for you to get back to human form is to fight these dragons and find the salamander cross. It has the power to cure the curse of these ugly and disgusting demons. Your battle is about to being."
You start off in classic 2D platformer style, as a Knight rushing up to lizard-like enemies and vanquishing them with your sword. The reptiles are ridiculously easy, and you have tons of life. My first time playing this game, after a few screens I shut it off, totally disappointed by the lack of depth and difficulty. Little did I know what was coming...
The castle is a maze. If you don't select the right passage, you end up back at the beginning. When you finally get to the end you encounter a robotic fire-breathing dragon. Several sword chops to the head disassembles the Dragon.
As you celebrate in victory, collecting coins, suddenly you transform into—drum roll, please—one of those "ugly and disgusting demons" you were warned about. Now the real game begins. This dragon can spew fire, giving it greater range than the sword you formerly wielded, but you have precious few life points, so now enemies are real threats.
You emerge in a town, where you can buy equipment and save your progress with passwords. The fighting also becomes more interesting, because you have special weapons that you can select and use when you crouch and attack. For example, you can collect crossbow bolts from vanquished enemies, which will come in handy when you need to shoot upwards at flying threats. Similarly, you can collect tornados, which skim the ground ahead of you and are great for dropping down on hard to reach foes.
The graphics are deliberately cartoony, but that's part of the charm and fun of the game, and they mesh well with the silliness of being turned into a "disgusting demon." Nevertheless, the TG-16 is capable of so much more. Too often this looks more like an 8-bit NES game and less the product of a 16-bit graphics chip.
The music to the game is cheery and optimistic, catchy without being annoying. The sound effects are sparse, but solid, from the puff of a gout of flame to the oops sounds when you get hit by enemies.
While attacking and jumping feel safe and intuitive, every time you're moving there are a few additional steps once you stop. It's as though you're Mario on the on those Ice level boards. While the game world is quite large, the design for various stages can get a bit boring. A big plus, though, is that in later levels you change into different creatures, adding lots of depth to the gameplay.
This is a fantastic action/adventure platformer, covering a genre that is woefully underexplored on the TG-16. The storyline is as kooky as it is endearing, and there is an unusal amount of complexity in terms of combat and improving your character's capabilities, thanks to the role-playing-game elements.