(SMS / Master System)

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (SMS / Master System)

Game Review

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Darren Calvert

It's a trap!

Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap marks the end of the Master System trilogy. It’s a direct sequel to the wonderful Wonder Boy in Monster Land with the action starting out in the final lair of the last game. Unlike the original Wonder Boy, though, there are no loincloths in sight. Most Master System fans will consider this game to be the definitive game in the series with good reason: it took all the great platforming action from Monster Land and added Metroid-style exploration and the ability to morph into different animals, allowing access to areas which were previously off-limits of course.

SEGA has been the victim of unfortunate timing on the Virtual Console lately: it was only a few weeks ago that they released the Master System port of R-Type on the Virtual Console which begged the inevitable question – why bother with it when the superior TurboGrafx-16 is already available in the Wii Shop? Unfortunately retro game fans will have the same dilemma with this purchase: as the Virtual Console already has Dragon’s Curse from the TurboGrafx-16 which features better graphics and no sprite flicker, and at a measly 100 Nintendo points more than this outing, why bother with the Master System version?

It would be unfair to brush this version off so easily however; after all, it was one of the better Master System games of its day, really pushing the graphical boundaries of the system and with great gameplay to boot.

As with the previous Wonder Boy game, the game is really an action platformer with a side order of RPG elements. Defeated enemies helpfully leave cash for you to level up your character, and in addition to this you can gain the ability to transform into a lizard, mouse, piranha, lion and finally a hawk. These transformations give the player varied attack and defence points, with the human form being the strongest. You will need to use the animal forms to further explore the game further and progress: Mouse-Man is smaller so can enter places were others cannot fit, even walking upside down when on special blocks, and Hawk-Man is especially useful as he has the ability to fly. Just be sure to keep him away from water!

As you progress through the game you will get the chance to upgrade your sword and armour. From time to time you will also take on fiendish bosses who seek to put a stop to your quest prematurely. To help Wonder Boy out you can take advantage of the game’s password feature which will allow you to resume your game from the beginning of each town.

If you like games such as Metroid and Symphony of the Night where you spend much of your time exploring and backtracking then you will be in your element with this game. The constantly respawning baddies get a little tiresome after a while, but they are good cannon fodder to help you level-up your character so it’s not all bad.

The graphics are particularly good for Master System standards, however as stated previously TG16 Dragon’s Curse is better in this department. The sound is perhaps a little less impressive, as the music tends to get a little repetitive after a while but it’s jolly enough as a backdrop.


Wonder Boy III was one of the ‘must-have’ games for the Master System back in its day, and as such it is worthy of your consideration on the Virtual Console. Unfortunately it is overshadowed by a superior version on the TurboGrafx-16 system which is already available on the Virtual Console. This version would be most recommended to nostalgic Master System fans who want to become reacquainted with the same title they played all those years ago. If that’s you, then this is the one to buy, but everyone else should cough up 100 points extra to enjoy a more refined experience.

From the web

Game Trailer

Subscribe to Nintendo Life on YouTube

User Comments (46)



JamieO said:

This is a super 'Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap' review of a real Master System classic, I reiterate that I have never owned an SMS, but my retro obsessions mean that I still love reading about the entire spectrum (no retro pun intended) of old console games.

I think that it is excellent how the Virtual Console enables me to experience games from the consoles I missed (Master System, PC Engine, Neo Geo AES) and even choose between the best version of a game on different systems.
It is great to read this review, clearly written by a Master System fan from its heyday. Cheers @Dazza



MrPinguy said:

I need to try this one.
It's a shame that i didn't play it at the Master System era.



odd69 said:

Dragon's Curse is still my favorite VC game. Nothing else besides the Mario titles have come close.



Reala said:

Great game, but its only 100 points more for the more polished TG version though, so I would recommend that version over the SMS version.



Reala said:

For $1 more your getting a much smoother version, I have this game on both VC TG version and cart SMS version, TG version is clearly better, both are identical gameplay wise, but for a tiny difference in points the TG version looks much better.



Knux said:

I think the Master System version is a rip-off! I'll just buy the Turbographx version instead. By the way, great review!



CanisWolfred said:

I'd rather get Dragon's Curse, but if I really like that game, I might get this one for its added difficulty....wait, isn't this the game with where the Hospital gets more expensive every time you go to it? If so, then that would be pretty important to mention in the review.



pixelman said:

Does the TG-16 version have a save feature? Also, does this version have ridiculously long passwords?



StarBoy91 said:

Good review, @Dazza. Although I love Super Metroid and Ys III, for some reason I just can't get into Dragon's Curse. :/ Ironic, huh?



7th_lutz said:


Ultima 4, Miracle Warriors and Y's 1 are the Sms games that I know for sure that have a save feature besides the games you mentioned. I think King's Quest has a save feature, but I have to check in my sms collection first.



SwerdMurd said:

Lol I didn't know King's Quest had an SMS port....I think I might pick up the TG16 version...this game looks cool!



Dazza said:

@JamieO you're right there, I am a big time Master System fan. I probably played almost every game on the system at one time or another when I was at school. This was certainly one of my favourites and it still stands up today as being a great fun platformers, with some nice RPG elements bolted on to add a bit more depth. It's just a shame that the TG16 version slightly outclasses it



Betagam7 said:

Worth pointing out that the hospital prices in this game become increasingly expensive to the point whre they are unaffordable. This makes it a lot tougher than Dragon's Curse where, although increasing with use, they always level out at a reasonable level.



CanisWolfred said:


Where does it say that? I've been looking all over for something that mentions that, or a video that shows that, but I can't find anything(as in I can't find anything that talks about the game at all besides this review, and I can't find a video that shows the hospital at all).

I can't even find any ROMs of this game to test it out!

EDIT: Nevermind, I found a video, and he's right the price does increase with every use(as well as how many hearts you have, I think).

I guess I'll just get Dragon's Curse instead.



CanisWolfred said:

They better release Monster World IV, that game is epic - possibly the best in the series, or at least the most polished.



Davva said:

Wonderboy III was one of my favourite Master System games. I still have the original cart. I didn't find it that difficult when i played through it again recently, howvever, i was stuck (just couldn't remember what to do next) for some time near the end, just after unlocking the Hawkman character.

The SMS version of WB3 was definitely password save, which was a decent compromise back in the day, but would be another reason to consider the extra points for the TG16 version nowadays.

I'm pretty sure Penguin Land is another SMS game, which had Battery back-up.



ueI said:

@Adamant and Davva: Thank goodness the other version has a real saving system. I always hated password games.



WolfRamHeart said:

Wonderful review @Dazza! I actually never played a Wonderboy game before but your review convinced me that I should give this series a go. I think that I'll start with Wonderboy in Monster World and if I like it then I'll get Dragon's Curse.



Kelvin said:

See, now I actually prefer the brighter, bolder colours in this version.



jesus_666 said:

Big surprise, as usual anything released on a non Nintendo console gets automatically deducted 1 point, this game getting an 8 is to be frank a complete joke, it represents the pinnacle of 8-bit games from that period, clever, fun, rewarding, and with some of the best graphics of the time.

I'd give it a 10 (on par with Mario 3) but seeing as the TG-16 version is around I guess it'd have to be knocked down a point as it has slightly lower quality sound and sprites, though to be honest where it comes to the TG-16 game I have as much interest in playing a Wonder Boy game...without Wonder Boy as I do of playing a classic Mario game with the Mario sprite replaced by a janitor wearing a baseball cap.

And I don't see you guys deducting points from the NES game Adventure Island, even though it is FAR inferior to the same game on the Master System



CanisWolfred said:


Dragon's Trap and Dragon's Curse do have more differences that just the graphics, you know - the exponentially increasing hospital prices and the use of passwords all deal a couple of strikes to the SMS version, IMO. Which is a shame, since I actually prefer the looks and sounds of Dragon's Trap over those in Dragon's Curse.

Still, I'm glad this review didn't simply dismiss the game off-hand, as it really is one of the best Master System games, as far as I can tell, and possibly even the best in the series.



JDesensitized said:

I actually prefer the TurboGrafx-16 versions of the entire series except, obviously, Monster World IV and the first two games.



ICEknight said:

This review talks much about the TG16 version, but people should also know that the main character and the transformations were altered for that one (resulting in some less charming graphics, in my oppinion).

Also, it doesn't mention that this (European) SMS version runs slower than the TG16 version, including slowed down music during the whole game.

For those asking for Monster World IV, just forget about it. They would only release it completely untranslated, and playing such a game in Japanese is not the most fun experience you can have.



CanisWolfred said:

Finally got a second opinion on that Hospital pricing stuff, and it doesn't sound like much of an issue, so now I'm definitely gonna get this when it comes out in North America!



jesus_666 said:

When I originally completed the game I didn't even take any special note that the hospital prices were increasing, I virtually always had enough money to pay them anyway, and when lacking cash I just killed some easy enemies for a while until I had enough, so it was literally a non issue for me.



CanisWolfred said:

Woohoo! It's finally out in NA! Downloaded this as soon as I could, and so far, it's been a blast. A lot harder than I expected it to be, but that's not a bad thing by any means.



KingMike said:

So, the review doesn't mention it:
reportedly, this is one of the games designed for the Japanese FM music upgrade (even though the Japanese SMS version went unreleased), and the code was intact in the English version (and could be heard if you managed to plug it into a Japanese console).
(I think one of the earlier games let you choose with the - button.)
I wonder if they left that in for the VC release, then?



CanisWolfred said:


It's there, but it doesn't work. I tried it. It all sounds exactly the same no matter which option you choose.

But damn if the music ain't catchy!



WonderboY101 said:

I think there's a glass ceiling when it comes to rating Master System games on Nintendo Life. Eight is the maximum any reviewer will give. This should be a nine in my book. SMS R-Type was underrated too.

It's like what someone said above - knock one point off if the game wasn't originally on a Nintendo console.



DaveOwl said:

Grew up with Wonderboy III too, how I loved this game

I haven't tried Dragon's Curse but being a die hard fan of WB3 I can't see myself liking that game more even if it does supposedly improve the experience having spent (too) many years with this version.

I didn't even realise the hospital prices actually went up - that's how insignificant they must have been so if that for some reason would put you off, don't let it!



phoenix1818 said:

This was one of the first games I ever played, and still one of my favourite 8-bit games. It's the Metroid-style exploration combined with RPG elements which makes this game so great. I think it deserves a 9 as it's easily one of the best Monster World and SMS games.

I also prefer this version to Dragon's Curse becasue it has a much better story, pretty much the same graphics (without the ugly character sprites) and better sound in both the original and FM versions (both in this game).

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes Zelda or the 2D Metroid games, or anyone looking for something to buy from the Virtual Console.



wizzgamer said:

One of the best games of the 8 bit era and only an 8 hmm should easily have got a 9. Like someone else said it probably would get a 9 if it where on a nintendo console people reviewing the games base more on nostalgia I suppose.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...