Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is weird about gender

One of the new additions to the Wonder Boy 3 remake, Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is a gender option. In Wonder Boy 3, the game stayed true to its title: you were a boy throughout the whole game. Sure, you were transformed into an animal for most of the game, but your gender was still male.

However, with The Dragon’s Trap, you’re able to choose whether or not you want to play as a boy or girl. That’s great, more choices. The slight change even feels very natural as once you select your character, the game’s title pops up as “Wonder Boy” or “Wonder Girl” depending on your choice.

I chose Wonder Girl because she looked cooler. The game starts out with a brief backstory on some dragon who’s terrorizing the kingdom. You know, typical hero-type stuff. After the backstory, you’re dropped into a castle. Once you find and defeat the castle’s boss, you’re changed into a dragon. This is a common theme for Wonder Boy. After each boss fight, you’re suddenly cursed to walk the world as a different creature.

I didn’t think much of this until I started paying attention to the text that pops up under equipment in a shop. “Perfect for Mouse-Man (or whatever animal you currently are).” It took me a second to realize, but when I did, I scratched my head, “Shouldn’t that say Mouse-Girl or Mouse-Woman?” It should, but it doesn’t. Out of curiosity, I started a new game as Wonder Boy, beat the first boss, and went to a shopkeeper. The exact same text appeared. Also, I had the same character model for my animal.

So, the game doesn’t acknowledge your changed gender in animal form. Having the same character models for both Wonder Boy and Girl would be perfectly fine if every NPC didn’t refer to you as a male, once you assumed an animal form. Just saying “Perfect for Mouse or Dragon” would have solved this entirely. Yet, tacking on “Man” makes the whole inclusion of Wonder Girl feel like it’s pandering to people who wanted a female option, but then not really going all in with the concept.

After this revelation, I checked in with developer Lizardcube to ask about my findings. Here’s their response. Mild spoilers below:

“This is a very good question. We kept the classic animal form names (which were originally only named as such in the credits).
The original game was about Wonder Boy being unwillingly transformed into half-animal monsters. Rather than overly gendering those monsters we thought it would make more sense to embrace that act of transformation/curse, which the main characters is trying to undo. It can be read in different way but eventually the reality of those retro games is that they didn’t think twice when creating odd situations. When you first finish the game you can keep playing as your human character and there is a cheat code in the transform room to change from boy to girl. Ultimately both boy and girl are the minor characters in this episode.”