Dragon's Curse is an action adventure game originally released in 1990 for the TurboGrafx-16. Despite a confusing name change, Dragon's Curse is actually part of the Wonder Boy series of games, which appeared in arcades and on the Sega Master System. Almost two decades later, the series is now available on the Wii Virtual Console. Dragon's Curse is a standard side-scrolling action game with a few role-playing elements and a unique twist, which is that the hero must transform into different creatures with unique abilities to progress through the game. Beyond that, there's nothing to get excited about in Dragon's Curse. This game has aged much better than many of Hudson's other Virtual Console releases, so it's not a bad way to spend 600 points ($6).
Dragon's Curse plays very similarly to such side-scrolling adventure games as Zelda II or Metroid. You play as a solitary hero who must smite evil and save the world from imminent doom. The world is yours to explore right from the start, but certain areas are blocked by obstacles that you can't overcome until you've collected the right items and power-ups. Most of the power-ups come in the form of different animal creatures that you can transform into once you've collected them. There are six forms, and each one has special abilities. The lizard-man form can spit fireballs, the mouse form can crawl in cramped spaces or up walls, the piranha form can swim, and the hawk form can fly. Using each of these abilities, you eventually gain access to new areas, dungeons, and bosses. You can't transform on the fly, but there are special platforms located throughout the world that allow you to change forms.
Your character doesn't gain experience or level up, so most of your power comes from armor, shields, and swords that you find or purchase during the course of your adventure. You can also collect hearts to increase your maximum health and magic spells that can be used against your enemies. But the spells are useless, and you can easily finish the game without using magic at all.
The graphics and sound in Dragon's Curse hold up well. The colorful characters and enemies look good, plus there's a decent amount of variety to be found in the backgrounds. The large bosses look goofy rather than menacing, but the same can be said for the rest of the game. The music is upbeat and catchy, while the sound effects are at least inoffensive.
Dragon's Curse is a rudimentary but surprisingly enjoyable action adventure game. It won't take but a few hours to finish if you know what you're doing, but the game does put up a respectable challenge at times. This is one of the better TurboGrafx-16 games available for the Virtual Console, so if you're in need of a retro gaming fix, Dragon's Curse will do the trick.