Monday, 21 August 2017

Greenalink reviews Sonic Mania




Developers: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon and PagodaWest Games
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 15/08/2017 Consoles,  29/08/2017 PC Steam
Average Price: $20 or roughly £14.99
Filesize: under 300mb for Xbox One and under 200mb for PS4 and Switch



After playing this game, all I can say is this, dreams do eventually come true, even after over 20 years!
Considered to be a love letter to many fans and one of the three games released to celebrate 25 years of Sonic (other two being Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice from last year and the upcoming Sonic Forces later this year), Sonic Mania goes back to its roots from his golden days literally and it turns out to be one of the best 2D revivals in recent years!


Features:
26 Stages,
3 Playable Characters,
7 Special Chao Emerald Stages,
Time Trial mode,
Classic competitive mode,
Lots of boss fights


It looks and plays like the classic games, so why was this game not called Sonic 4?

Well Sonic 4 was released back in 2010 as Episode 1 and 2012 as Episode 2, these 2 games were done by Dimps who did produce very good Sonic games in the early 2000s including Sonic Advance trilogy (next best set of games since golden era) and the introduction of Boost button Sonic gameplay with Sonic Rush, Sonic Rush Adventure and Sonic Colours for Nintendo DS. Sonic 4 was very different to the original trilogy as it ditched the classic 16-bit sprite design, used Modern Sonic who can perform a homing attack and used a different physics engine that wasn't anywhere near as close to 16-bit games as it used Sonic Rush engine which caused floatiness and severe oddities.

After the release of Sonic 4 Episode 1 and Episode 2, chances of a *new* great traditional 2D sprite-based platformer slowly faded after 2011 as the upcoming Sonic games were 3D based (Generations, Lost World, Boom) and all of them were released to consoles and/or PC along with handheld ports to the 3DS.



Hidden heroes rise.

During those years, the Taxman was getting some recognition after creating a fan game: "Retro Sonic" which was made by using his own game engine with the same capabilities as the engine built into Sonic 3 & Knuckles. A year after that fan game, he asked Stealth to aid in creating a pitch demo of Sonic CD running on an iPod Touch powered by Taxman's own engine known as the Retro Engine.

The Retro Engine aims to be very faithful to the 16-bit trilogy in terms of physics but with a lot of visual enhancements such as Mode 7 (smoother rotation effect), sprite scaling (changing the size of sprites easily) and Widescreen support.

He contacted Sega about his release plans and it eventually became a reality in late 2011, not only that release was to celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary but was also billed it as a 'prequel' to Sonic 4 as the events of Episode II would rely heavily on what occurred in CD.

This enhanced 2011 release of Sonic CD is notable for supporting both US and Japanese soundtracks along with Tails being a playable character for the first time

After that release, both Taxman and Stealth (now registered to Headcannon) would eventually release enhanced versions of Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 with similar treatment, both of those games were released in 2013 but this time only on iOS/Android devices. 
Then the duo teamed up with PagodaWest Games (responsible for the unofficial HD Fan game of Sonic 2 in ~2010) to create Sonic Mania.

Praise helix lifts

Graphics:

Sonic's iconic art style has aged very well and the Retro Engine enhances it even further with smoother rotation effects when running through a loop-de-loop, more variety of colour tones thanks to a bigger RGB palette, more animated frames for smoother animation and new visual effects including simple 3D polygons for backgrounds used in certain stages with the quality of a Sega CD game and transparency effects.

Performance for 2D segments runs at a rock-solid 60fps throughout.
Blue sphere runs at a higher framerate and runs more smoothly than Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
Special Stages used simple 3D polygons in a style similar to Model 1 arcade games, it captures the 90s feel very well.

The most interesting part for Sonic and Tails is that they used Sonic 1/2/CD sprite set as a template instead of 3, probably because Sonic's attire from Sonic 3 & Knuckles never had a Strike Dash pose and his design was only used in that game. They did a good job creating new sprites that fit the same attire used in the earlier games.


Knock, knock. It's Knuckles

Sound:

The Sonic franchise has a very good track record when it comes to background music.
Tee Lopes: arranger and composer for the entire game could have done this through 2 different ways, the 16-bit Yamaha YM2612 style used for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive or Redbook audio used for Sonic CD. He went for the latter option and nailed the execution extremely well, The classic stages from Sonic 1 and 2 are notable for having Act 2 remixes that sounds very different to their Act 1 counterparts, the new stage Studiopolis is one of the new zones that stands out to be one of the very best of Sonic video game music.
The quality of the tracks is a huge step up to other 2D revivals including New Super Mario Bros series & Yoshi's New Island plus it's almost impossible to feel negative during the first few hours of playing the game, it's that good.

Sound effects are mostly the same with a few new ones added into the mix such as the phantom ruby space-time warp sound, windows/ice blocks getting smashed and a few directly taken from other games including Revenge of Shinobi and 8-Bit Sonic.

One unexpected addition is voice samples from Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, best known for writing the music and singing all vocals in Daytona USA. He gets to shouts out various words in both Time Trial and Competition modes (none in the main game mode: Mania), admittedly this does seem out of place at first but it fits in with the Sega 90s theme very well, if it was someone else then it wouldn't work as well.

 Hard Boiled Heavies are very memorable villains and feel like Sega's answer to Mario's Koopalings


Gameplay:

Now, this is a Sonic game done right, the controls are simple to play and execution is spot-on.
The new engine has added a few new mechanics to the game including the ability to perform Co-op flying on a single controller by holding Up and then pressing a spin jump button to command Tails to use his flying technique. Sonic's technique is now a drop dash which is simply an air spin dash, it allows Sonic to get a boost as soon as he lands on the ground by pressing and holding the jump button whilst in mid-air, it fits Sonic style pretty well and finally has a movement based advantage over his 2 friends.

Knuckles does have a few alternative routes but isn't as significant as his previous adventure in Sonic 3 as there isn't an increase in difficulty when it comes to boss fights and only has 1 stage & 2 boss fights that are exclusive to him due to plot reasons.

Stage structure mimics the Sonic 3 & Knuckles approach by having a boss at the end of each act and all of the zones have two acts.
Classic stages use two different formulas. One act mainly highlights memorable moments from the original games and the other act is essentially a brand new stage using assets that did not exist in the original game. Some are classics such as platform-raising wheels from Sonic 3 & Knuckles, others are brand new such as bouncy gel pools and helix lifts.

Not everything is perfect but it does not mean it was terrible, just, it hasn't aged as well as the rest of the game including an auto-scrolling segment partway through the playthrough which only lasts for 90 seconds. The difficulty for the special stages isn't balanced as I had a hard time completing Stage 5 but had a much easier time completing Stage 7.

I also find it weird that bonus stages from the signpost only affect unlockable content from the main menu and not the main gameplay as it has zero use after obtaining all 32 gold medals. All it does is select a random course from the completed 32 to get the same medal again, no bonus points that can be counted towards an extra one up, it's that pointless.

Boss fights have a lot more variety, not as extreme as gimmick heavy Earthworm Jim 2 but some are mainly fan service nods to the previous games with a little twist part-way through. Others are completely unexpected and original to a Sonic game, Chemical Plant Act 2 boss steals the show as the biggest surprise.

One of the more original elements in Mania, it has a small nod to Sonic CD's bonus game.


Value:

For a 2D Sonic game, it has nearly the same number of stages as Sonic 3 & Knuckles meaning it already has a lot more content than recent games without a doubt and has a competitive time trial mode that will get players replaying a lot to get good times. There are some unlockable options including the ability to add Knuckles as your NPC/2P partner or changing Sonic's move to enable Strike Dash (CD) or Insta-shield (3 & Knuckles) by obtaining a certain number of medals from the blue sphere mini-game, a hidden mini-game that can be played with 2 players max and sound test are unlockable too.

Classic stages will highlight memorable moments from the original games.

Versions:

Nintendo Switch:
Supports 1080p docked and 720p in portable/tabletop mode. Special Stage 1 does drop a few frames at a certain point but it is a very good version of the game. You do have to go to the Switch Home Menu and manually set the Joy-con to sideway mode to enable 2 player games with just a single Joy-con each.

PS4 regular/slim and Xbox One:
More powerful machines than the Switch as there are no frame drops in Special Stage 1 and the pixels are a tad sharper, it's an extremely small difference (like 1%) that it's only noticeable when you zoom in the image and compare it to the Switch.

PS4 Pro and probably Xbox One X:
PS4 Pro supports Native 2160p/4K making it the best console version to play on 4K TVs, Xbox One X should support this easily but it depends if the developer will add a 4K patch after release.

All versions are playable, the Switch gets a bonus for having the ability to play anywhere despite the small performance drop when playing through Special Stage 1.

Currently, as of August 21st, the PC version has not been tested yet as it will be released later on August 29th.



 Another new stage, another decent track to listen to.

Overall:

So the message here is that unlike Nintendo's approach to DoctorM64's famous Metroid 2 fan game: AM2R from last year by sending a DMCA message, Sega hired these talented developers and the gamble has paid off big-time. If there is one Sonic game you have to play from this decade, this is the one to pick without hesitation.

Now Sega, go and send Bomberlink an apology for taking down Streets of Rage Remake 6 years ago and hire him for a potential new Streets of Rage project. 

+ Highest number of stages since Sonic 3 & Knuckles.      
+ No handicap options to help newer gamers, this is a very 90s game.
+ Top notch soundtrack.
+ Sega does what Nintendon't by hiring talented fans from the Sonic community.
+ Very cool new zones, most of them have a unique theme.
+ Classic stages are awesome too.

-  The classic stages do however take up 2/3rds of the entire game. I was hoping an even 50/50
-  Some special stages/blue sphere stages can be very hard to beat.
-  Online leaderboards do not always work according to some users.
-  Sometimes a bit too nostalgic by including the Tornado autoscroller segment, a few deja vu bosses and an awkward screen ratio for competitive VS mode.

Recommended: A


Version played: Nintendo Switch

Review copy was provided by Sega

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

European Speedrunner Assembly 2017, 3 Sega Speedruns

European Speedrunner Assembly is an annual summer event taking place in Sweden.
This year was my third time attending the event and as always, it was a great experience.
It's was my 5th speedrunning related event overall as I've been to AGDQ twice and ESA three times.

I did 3 runs for the event this year and it's notable for being all SEGA games this time and all were done on a Thursday too. I haven't retired from Mario such as New Super Mario Bros 2 but it's a good idea to have a little break every now and then because I do not want to get burned out playing the same game over and over.

The first run was the first of its kind: Game Gear 2 player co-op.
There has been a few Game Boy Advance co-op runs in the past, mainly Kirby and the Amazing Mirror but Game Gear speedrunning is obscure for 2 reasons:

1) Sega has never released an official accessory to support video output like a Game Boy Player. So DIY mods were required.
2) Sega Genesis/Mega Drive has fewer colours than a Game Gear so a cartridge converter would not work.

I had at least one comment saying that why did we (Me and Btrim) did not do 2-player co-op on the Genesis/Mega Drive, well everyone at least knows that version and how easy it is to get 2 players to work. This is like once in a lifetime opportunity to see something like this (technically twice overall as we did a playthrough of this last year) and there are some interesting changes to the game mechanics, most notably Supers which are really powerful and can be abused big time in co-op.

I would watch this run for the comedy 2-player chaos at the end of each stage.





A few hours after the Streets of Rage 2 run, I was ordering a steakhouse burger and some fresh orange juice, it was going to be delivered to the venue at 1:20 pm nearly an hour before my next runs. As it approached 1 pm, Krazyrasmus told me that the NES runners were going way underestimate that my next runs were pushed forward by nearly 40 minutes, so 1:20 pm went passed and I had my lunch, then went upstairs and tried my best to not burp too much due to the nerves of the next two games, yep I had to do two games back to back.

Game 2 was The Game Gear Shinobi 2, I am a pretty big Shinobi fan, mainly Revenge of Shinobi as one of my favourite nostalgic games to play today, the Game Gear entries used a similar visual style to the 16-bit game. I did speedruns of the first Game Gear Shinobi a few years ago and ESA 2016 bonus stream, the first game was out for 3DS Virtual Console but the second one wasn't. So this run used Edenal's modified Game Gear which support both RGB output and a wired controller (a Famicom) to play through the game. I was very fortunate to find tricks for this game before submitting it a few months before the event because there's a trick called Grapple Storage where you can store the swing animation and use it much later on in a different location to swing through walls or go off screen for some cool sequence breaks.

This run turned out to be a PB even though the first two stages of this run can be improved by a good amount of time due to "marathon nerves". The grapple storage execution is 2 frames so it is pretty impressive that I got some first try a few times in a row at one point.





After game two, the third game was the last for my runs at ESA 2017.
Although the game is the shortest, it also the hardest and most punishing of the three.

Fantasy Zone released back in 1986 is a shump with very bright colours and light hearted assets, some would call it a cute 'em up. It doesn't use traditional auto-scrolling, Because of this, it is one of the very few notable shmup games that can be a viable game to speedrun.

The main goal is to destroy all of the bases to spawn a boss, defeat the boss to complete the level. You get gold for destroying bases, clearing a set of enemies and destroying a boss. You can go to a shop to buy some upgrades ranging from movement to Weapon 1 and Weapon 2 upgrades. Weapon 1 has infinite ammo for a limited time whilst Weapon 2 has limited uses with Twin Bomb being the exception as that is a permanent upgrade.  When you buy an item for the first time, it is pretty affordable, but when you want to buy more of that same item the actual price increases. This does not apply to engine upgrades which are nice but simply put 7-Way shot gets a lot more expensive near the end of the game because I buy that upgrade a lot throughout the run. Round 1-7 are traditional stages whilst round 8 is a boss rush from the first 7 levels followed by a final boss.

So why is it hard? Well it only takes 1 hit to lose a life and losing a life means your gear goes back to square one, this isn't too bad if you still have to destroy a few more bases to spawn a shop balloon and buy the upgrades again but going back to square one against a boss is really bad, Round 5 boss especially can be a run killer because small wing and regular twin shot against Popozu is really hard to fight against.
The 3DS version is a good arcade port done by the emulating legends of M2. It doesn't have the lag seen in the PS2's Sega AGES 2500 series volume 33 and added some nice extras. The only extra feature I used was Base Markers which allows me to figure out the exact position of each base off-screen. Anything else would have made the game too easy and not faithful to the arcade version such as Gold Rush or Infinite Weapon 1 time.

The actual run was very good overall, roughly 45 seconds behind PB due to safe marathon strats and trying to not die to regular shots from enemies.


Friday, 5 May 2017

Greenalink reviews: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)


Developer & Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 28/04/2017
Average Price: £45


Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an enhanced port to one of the best selling games for Wii U.
Nearly 3 years after the original release back in 2014, Nintendo decided to release the definitive version to the new console, including all of the extra DLC content with 16 courses and 6 characters, plus some new content exclusive to Deluxe.

Features:
48 Racing Tracks
41 Playable Characters (excluding Miis)
8 Battle mode maps
5 Types of Battle modes
Deluxe version is exclusive to Nintendo Switch

Boo hoo to you Diddy Kong.

Nearly every mode in the game has a gameplay tweak to enhance the experience. Two the of the biggest changes from the Wii U Original to Deluxe are double item support and ultra mini-turbo.

Double item support: This is the first game since Mario Kart Double Dash to support double items without holding your primary weapon behind the player. In Mario Kart DS, Wii and 7 you had to hold the first item such as Shells or Bananas in order to pick-up the second item. Initial problems with this system mean that you are more likely to get hit by a Blue Shell and even Lightning. Though after playing through the 200cc Grand Prix and some online races, it wasn't anywhere near as bad as in Mario Kart Wii. The player at 1st place does have an extra chance of getting a useful recovery item, including a Mushroom, Superhorn and even Red Shells to take out any new leaders.

"YEAH, THE FINAL LAP!"
Inkling-Girl is half kid and half squid.












Ultra mini-turbo is a level 3 turbo, and the duration of the boost lasts 1 second longer than a Super mini-turbo. This could be useful for 150cc and lower engine classes, but for 200cc it's situational because of the higher top speeds. Ultra mini-turbo can be a hindrance at certain parts of the tracks and should only be used when the path is a straight road.

Minor additions include 2 more items: Boo and Feather.
Boo (as an item) makes its long return from Mario Kart DS, no major changes since its last appearance but it another way to mess up the opponent's strategy though not as reliable because it tends to steal items from racers nearest to the user.
Feather finally returns as an item in Mario Kart after being absent for over 24 years, restricted to only Battle mode this time round (because it would be too good in VS Races). It can be used to jump over obstacles (SNES Battle Course 1) or if the player is close to another opponent, steal a balloon from them. One thing to note is that it cannot super jump as high as it did back in the first Mario Kart.

Time Trial now supports 200cc which is a neat addition for speedrunners who want to be the very best on a single track. The difficulty varies from track to track, GBA Mario Circuit's 200cc Staff Ghost is pretty challenging while GCN Yoshi's Circuit is a piece of cake.

VS Race now supports 48 track marathon which is the best way to play an All-Cup tour similar to Mario Kart Double Dash. The Wii U original can only play up to 32 tracks at once, even with the DLC tracks installed.

Link's dream during his 100-year sleep.


Local Multiplayer has a lot more options now, the original only supported up to 4 players on a single TV. The Switch Deluxe version now adds up to 8 players in Handheld Wireless mode and an outstanding 12 players by using Docked Mode's Wired Lan feature. The minimum approach to 12 players requires at least 6 Switch systems and 6 TVs. 2 players per Switch & TV, the main reason why it cannot be done with 4 players per Switch is because the gameplay framerate drops from 60 to 30 when there are 3 or more players on a single console.

One of the biggest complaints in the original was the lacklustre Battle mode. Back then, the courses were re-used tracks from the Grand Prix and the main intention was to encourage players to keep on moving because of the Item box will not respawn until that player had moved away by a couple of meters. Those reused courses are now gone and have been replaced with 8 new stages, some of them are from previous games. In fact, this mode is one of the main reasons for Wii U veterans to get the Deluxe Switch version.

The balloon mode went back to Mario Kart Wii's formula where losing all of your balloons now halves the player's score and can carry on playing the game until time is up.

Respect my Koopauthoritah.

Four other modes have been added to the game as well, one of them is brand new to the series: Renegade Roundup, a team battle only mode with a focus on Cops & Robbers. 6 cops have to take out the 6 robbers, any robber who gets captured will be locked inside a cage, the surviving robbers can help out by pressing a switch underneath the cage. Cops can only win by capturing all 6 robbers. The robbers only need at least 1 surviving player to win. I can see this as a great mode with possible voice communication support sometime in the future, right now it's best to chat with your good friends over Discord for clan style matches and most importantly communication.

Bob-omb Battle is a returning game mode from Mario Kart Double Dash, but the main difference is that it uses the same scoring system from balloon battle; instead of a 3-star scoring system where players can fill up the meter by scoring points and losing a fraction of the meter by getting hit. Players can carry up to 10 Bob-ombs at once and the forward throwing distance has been adjusted in this mode. The final minute gets frantic as the game spawns more double item boxes allowing players to fill up their ammo up to 10 much sooner, a bit more skill is involved mainly because there are no homing weapons.

Shine Thief is an old school 'hold the flag' style game. The player who holds the Shine for a certain amount of time wins. The shine carrier has a slightly reduced top speed. This is a mode where karts with good acceleration can get the Shine early but karts with good top speed can chase the player holding the Shine without problems. It definitely gets more frantic when there are a couple of players who need to hold the Shine for at least 5 seconds remaining.

Coin Runners focuses less on hit confirm for points and more on survival when collecting a lot of coins. A single hit against the leader can make a huge difference. 

Outside of revised Battle Mode there are 5 new playable characters and there's 1 extra variant for an old character, which is unlocked after winning 1st place in all 12 cups of 200cc Grand Prix. 1 new kart and 2 new ATVs have been added to the game. New kart body piece is based on the Mario universe and new ATVs are based on the Splatoon universe. 

Inexperienced/first-time players can try out handicap options including Smart Steering which allows players to sharply turn tight corners and Auto Acceleration simply means not having to hold the A/Y button to accelerate. There are also motion controls for steering as well which is compatible with a single joy-con, joy-con grip combo and pro controllers as well.

200cc, Mushrooms Only, Big Blue.

Online play is very simple, two of the quickest options are both Global and Regional, then you can choose either race or battle. The engine class in races is usually 100cc until after obtaining over 4000 VR points, the engine class increases to 150cc.
One issue I had was trying to get friends and join a server against other random players. For example, Player A was in a room with random players, I could join in the fun with Player A but only when the room has some spare player slots left. It would be nice to have an option to jump both you and a few friends from a private room to a random room against other players.

A few features have been removed from the game due to various reasons including Miiverse Stamps, Youtube upload support from Mario Kart TV and Mii characters are less expressive.

Overall:
This is the first game since New Super Mario Bros U + Super Luigi U pack to include a re-release plus DLC content in one, on a different platform. If you've never played the original, what are you waiting for?! This has the biggest amount of racing content since Mario Kart Super Circuit's 40 track count.

+ 48 tracks with a few based on other franchises.       
+ Decent visuals 3 years after release thanks to native 1080p support.
+ Double items makes a huge difference and times frantic, something missing in the original.
+ Better Battle Mode with more modes than ever.
+ Accessible options to inexperienced gamers.
+ Wii U veterans no longer need to grind to unlock the other cups again, just pick-up loads of coins to unlock vehicle parts.

- On the flip side there isn't a lot of stuff to unlock other than vehicle parts and a character skin.
- Extra custom options such as lap count would be great, especially when playing 200cc.
- Online features can be improved.
- Still no mission mode.
- In-game timer only appears in Time Trial mode, not Grand Prix nor VS Race.
- N64 Rainbow Road needs the classic 3 lap system, not a point to point system = 1 lap.

Recommended: A-*

* If you haven't played the original, then give this score an A because there is a lot more value for money.

Version played: Nintendo Switch
No review copy was provided.


Friday, 21 April 2017

Greenalink reviews: Wonder Boy: Dragon's Trap (2017 Lizardcube)



Developer: Lizardcube
Publisher: Dotemu
Price: Roughly £16/$16, different platforms and regions may vary on exact price.

Back in 1989, Sega & Westone released one of the best video games that were not released for a Nintendo platform.
Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon's Trap, also known as Monster World 2 in Japan, is the 3rd entry in the series and a first that was aimed exclusively to a home console. 28 years later, 5 console generations have passed and 2 minor ports were released in the early 90s. In 2017, a new version was released for modern consoles and is by far the most important re-release since the original.


Features:
5 Dungeons
6 Dragons to defeat
NAND save (3 slots per account)
Password save feature which can be used to continue playing through the game by using the original Master System/Game Gear copies and vice versa.
Available for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
PC Steam will be released later sometime around June.
Note: The newest version out in 2017 will be dubbed as Lizardcube.

Story:
If you've played any of the previous releases, this needs no introduction, but if you haven't I will tell you that the game starts off inside The Last Dungeon. Based on the last level from the prequels Wonder Boy: In Monster Land, you defeat a dragon and suddenly a plot twist occurs, it curses the hero by transforming them into a lizard, and then the hero has to find an antidote known as the Salamander Cross to regain his true human form.

A nod to a prequel: Wonder Boy in Monster Land

Graphics:
One of the biggest changes is the art style, Ben Fiquet from Lizardcube used traditional animation and increased the number of animation frames for each action from 2 to roughly 10+. There's new hand drawn animation on frames where the original release used stock animation, in the 8-bit style when jumping and changing direction. The only oddity I've noticed with this new style is that the left side designs are literally a mirrored version of the right side. Now usually this is completely normal to save development time, but in the original 8-bit style, the left side sprites were actually unique and not mirrored versions to the right side sprites, therefore, it is a bit unfortunate that this little touch wasn't used in the new version, however good animation takes a lot longer to produce and there's a good chance this game wouldn't be out until late 2017 if left side drawings were taken into account.

Background scenery art is a big improvement as it gave me a bigger impression of the area the hero was at, the early game is notable for adding sunshine related effects if the hero goes underneath a palm tree- it adds a layer of darkness due to the shadows next to the tree and going above the pyramid, to the point that when the hero is in front of the sun, it shines immensely. The visuals were so good that I didn't want to use retro 8-bit mode at all. It's possible to change visual styles on the fly with a simple button, mash it many times to slow down the slider's speed and freeze it to the point where 50% is modern art and 50% is 8-bit pixels.

Spec wise it is a massive jump from:
256x192 (4:3) to 1920x1080 (16:9) and doubling the visual frame rate from 30 (or 25 for PAL users back in the day) to silky smooth 60 frames.

Retro fans will be happy to know that there are 3 extra options besides the 8-bit style that will recreate the 1989 experience including:
scanlines effect,
retro monitor effect and
gamma correction.

Gamma correction only takes effect when either retro monitor and/or scanlines (at 10% minimum) is turned on, it does nothing when both features are set to off.


Top: 2017 modern style
Bottom: 1989 retro 8-bit style

Sound:
Similar to graphics, the audio had a huge overhaul on almost everything. New sound effects have been added to simple actions that were originally silent such as walking, background environment and enemies grunting when initiating an attack.

Shinichi Sakamoto's original BGM work didn't have a lot of tracks as some were reused in various parts, Michael Geyre who is responsible for re-imagining the original tracks had a smart idea by making variations of the same track to make it sound less stale throughout the entire game. So instead of 1 variant of the dungeon theme, there's now 6 variants of the dungeon theme. The arranged soundtrack incorporates elements from several world music traditions, including classical, tango, Middle-Eastern and Japanese music.

Retro fans do not worry; there is an option to use the original PSG 8-bit sound and the FM sound which originally was exclusive to the Japanese Master System/Sega MARK III, the only problem was that the original Master System wasn't released in Japan and only in the West. It took less than 20 years for players to experience FM sound on a legal console through either Wii's Virtual Console or PS2's Sega AGES 2500 series.

Gameplay:
One thing that hasn't changed is the gameplay. Just like the first ever release, it is a fun game to play even today, the controls are simple and tight at the same time, the level design progression is clear and straightforward, you don't even need to speak to NPCs to know what to do next. Magic spells are easy to use once you know how each one works.

New players who probably played through modern 2D platformer classics such as Shovel Knight and Gunvolt may complain that some of the maps (especially some of the dungeons) are a bit too uninspiring with long corridors and basic platforming- but this is a game from 1989 and the engine itself didn't support vertical scrolling. If the tweak was made to enable vertical scrolling it could lead to more creative level design but at the same time losing a bit of charm as it's no longer faithful to the original game.

When remaking a game, faithfulness plays a very important part.
Sometimes it's ok to make major changes, sometimes it's not.

Omar - technical director & programmer did a lot of research by dumping the original Master System cartridge and then reverse engineering to decipher the code. This lengthy process took many weeks and months until he could understand what causes the what item to drop, attack damage RNG and many other things. I recommend you all check out the development blog after reading this review.

After playing through the game, most of the changes I've witnessed were for the better and nowhere near as controversial such as the tweaks seen in Majora's Mask 3D.
Buying new gear gets equipped automatically, you can use shoulder buttons to quickly select a magic spell, the magic command itself is no longer Down + Jump as it uses its own button. You can grab heart containers in any order, a simple yet important change to new players because it can be a very brutal experience if you don't have the right gear and (unintentionally) skip some of the heart containers before certain points of the playthrough.
Anything that is considered notably new is added after completing the game. I won't say much but the new challenges are pretty cool to try out.

It is also possible to play as Wonder Girl by selecting the Girl option, this simple addition reminds me of Pokémon Crystal which was the first game of a popular franchise to introduce a female playable character. Asha, a protagonist from a later released game: Monster World 4 wasn't used because Mr Nishizawa (the creator of Wonder Boy) was against it as the world of those two games doesn't overlap.



Value:
One issue the original game had back in 1989 was post game content, as there wasn't much to do after completing the game. Lizardcube added some extra content to encourage players to play the game even more after completing it for the first time. There is an unlockable gallery containing concept artwork, including various revisions of the new design for all 6 hero forms/enemies in the game, and backstage recording of recreating the music. Another addition being that instead of 1 difficulty there are now 3 difficulties.

Easy (as mentioned in the game) is aimed towards newer/younger gamers who want to enjoy the game, and this is done by reducing the number of hits to defeat an enemy. It is still pretty punishing if the hero dies because it will take him/her back to The Village and not to the entrance of a dungeon/room before the boss fight.

For experienced gamers who have never played The Dragon's Trap before, I would suggest Normal as you will get to experience the same difficulty as the original 1989 release.

For the hardcore gamers, Hard raises the difficulty even higher by giving enemies more HP. In some of the rooms, blue class enemies were replaced with even tougher gold class enemies and an hourglass that will slowly drain the player's HP for playing through the level too slowly. There are some safe spots that will reset and/or freeze the timer, such as The Village, picking up hearts or staying inside a treasure room. If you want a really good challenge, try out this difficulty.


I wonder what's in here?

Overall:

Despite a few aged elements from a 1989 classic, it is a fantastic remake of the original game and I dare to say that it is one of the best 2D remake treatment since Super Mario All-Stars. This is the definitive edition of a 2D platformer classic.

+ New difficulties for everyone.
+ Beautiful Visuals
+ Post ending content
+ Unlockable gallery.
+ Improved controls and mechanics over the original

- Some of the level layouts are a bit dated due to 1989's design
- Lack of extra checkpoints that would have been ok on Easy.

Recommended: A-

Version played: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by DotEmu.

Ideal links to check out!

Reverse Engineering the original Wonder Boy: Dragon's Trap