Wonderboy 3 / Dragon’s Curse / Adventure Island

System(s): Sega Master System, PC Engine / TG16

Released 1989, 1991

By Sega / Hudsonsoft

You’re probably looking at the top of the page & thinking “what?” Well allow me to explain. The Wonderboy / Adventure Island series have had a close relationship over the years, with Sega releasing Wonderboy & Hudonsoft releasing the “identical other then the new protagonist” Adventure Island series. The story has been covered in detail in Retrogamer magazine but we’ll try to briefly cover it here as we go along.

Now, why 3 different names? Well, let’s cover them:

Wonderboy 3: The Dragon’s Trap – is the Sega Master System version.
Adventure Island – The PC Engine version of the game
Dragon’s Curse – The Turbografx 16 version of the game. Identical to the PC Engine

For those who were not aware, the PC Engine & Turbografx 16 are the same console. The PC Engine is the Japanese name for it & the Turbografx 16 is the US name for it. The PC Engine / TG16 got the game 2 years after the Master System.

One more bit of confusion. The game is a direct sequel to Wonderboy in Monster Land for the Sega Master System, otherwise known as Bikkuriman World on the PC Engine (changed so it appears to be based on an anime of the same name). I almost forgot to mention the Brazil release which had it’s sprites changed to resemble a comic series called Monica’s Gang, something which was also done to Wonderboy 2 for consistency. Before you get worried, no we will not be covering that version, so you can all take a breath now.

I think that’s all… basically Westone developed the game for Sega & Hudsonsoft obtained the rights to it under the proviso they disassociated it from the Wonderboy series. That’s a VERY simple explanation. Rather than get bogged down in that, let’s have a look at the game.

As mentioned earlier, the game takes place at the end of Wonderboy 2 (we’ll refer to the series as Wonderboy just to make things easy) where you battle the Mecha Dragon, who upon defeat curses you turning you into a dragon yourself. Though the character is called “Lizard Man” he breathes fire. You can call him what you want really. I like Cecil, but that’s just me…

The game is a platformer, that like Ufouria is just one big world for you to explore. You find yourself restricted to where you can go in your lizard/dragon form, but that’s because there are other transformations the game will bestow upon you.

The 6 forms are:

Hu-Man – Nothing special but has the highest attack & defense
Lizard Man – Breathes fire & can walk through lava
Mouse Man – Can crawl up walls & on ceilings, but only on special bricks
Piranha Man – Can swim
Lion Man/Tiger Man – Swings his sword enabling you to hit blocks overhead or under your feet that would otherwise be out of reach
Hawk Man – Can fly

Each of the 6 forms must use their abilities to locate & destroy the dragons. Each dragon you destroy will turn you into something else. Eventually you will get the ability to change into different characters at will. You’ll notice that Lion Man & Tiger man are listed together. Well he becomes Lion Man in the Sega Master System version & Tiger Man in the PC Engine/TG16 version. Why? I dunno…

During your quest to become human again you can find or purchase sword, shield & armour upgrades. These will sometimes behave differently depending on the form you take at the time, so try to learn which item does what with which form.

At this point I need to discuss one thing that bothers me about the Sega Master System version, & that’s the green hair. Who has green hair? Your character didn’t have green hair in Wonderboy 2, & if this is a sequel you would think they would keep this the same right? WRONG. The PC Engine on the other hand has no such problems & your character has blonde hair, as he should have. I have no doubts this is due to the limitations of the Master System colour pallette, but it is annoying none the less.

Gameplay wise everything feels just right in this game. There is a reason this game is a favourite with Master System owners. For some reason PC Engine / TG16 owners don’t rave about it as much… not sure why. This game controls really well though. Nothing feels impossible about the game & while you might find parts tricky, you always know you can get through it the next time. I have to say I did prefer the more precise PC Engine controller, but then again I have a 3rd party controller I can use on the SMS that is identical to a PC Engine controller, so it’s not a big issue.

The game features a password option that lets you save your position at any time. As the game is quite long this is a welcome addition, but as well as that the password system features some little secrets all its own. Both the PCE / TG16 & SMS versions have special codes to allow you to start as Hu-Man, start the game with everything & even disable the door noise.

The music in both games does the job, though obviously the PC Engine / TG16 is far superior. That’s not a criticism of the SMS version & is expected, as the PCE / TG16 was released a few years after the SMS. Each part of the game features different music, & while this music does loop throughout the game, I didn’t find it particularly annoying.

This has been my second favourite game for a very long time. Mario World is number 1 incase anyone was interested. As for Wonderboy 3, the gameplay is fantastic, the controls precise & it’s just a lot of fun. I give this 94%

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