Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
He gets around a bit, this Wonder Boy. Elsewhere, we review his second game on home computers while here we look at his third, in two separate guises: Wonder Boy III — Monster Lair on CD-ROM for the PC Engine and Wonder Boy III — The Dragon's Trap on the 8-bit Sega. Plot isn't too important and there's not much of it, but although in the same basic format, gameplay has enough difference to separate the games.
The Sega Wonder Boy III follows on from Super Wonder Boy and the defeat of the Meka dragon, which forms the first part of the game. Actually, make that semi defeat — the dying beast had enough energy to transform Wonder Boy into a lizard-man!! The only way he can turn back to normal is to find the Salamander Cross of legend, hidden by the powerful Vampire Dragon in the distant Monster Land (see, the two Wonder Boy III's had to be linked somehow!)
As Tom-Tom defeats each end-of-level dragon and gets nearer the Cross he becomes mouse-man, piranha-man, lion-man and finally hawk-man. Some of these forms bestow extra abilities such as wall-clinging, swimming and flying. Pick-ups restore energy, give extra weapons and money. Money can be spent in hospitals, to restore life, or shops, for weaponry. The amount of equipment offered in a shop depends on the Boy's current charm; piranha- and lion-man have the most initial charm and dragon-man the least but more can be gained by collecting charm stones.
In contrast to the two previous Wonder Boy games and, indeed, the Engine Monster Lair, The Dragon's Trap has distinct arcade adventure elements amongst its familiar jumping and sword swiping.
With its multiple forms of Tom-Tom, Dragon's Trap does have some treasures to be revealed, if you have the necessary persistence. But why spoil the previous success of the simple jump and hack formula when the Engine version works so well? That's a mystery too late to resolve but one which leaves Sega owners to decide what they want from Wonder Boy.
Wonder Boy III is a very jolly game with some nicely shaded backgrounds overlaid with colourful cartoon-like sprites, the Boy himself being particularly well-drawn. Animation is weak on some characters but effective on others and the game only scrolls on short, CinemaScope corridors, and then with a judder, albeit a minor one. It's still one of the best looking Sega games around but do you really want to spend 28 quid on it?