Dragon’s Lair Trilogy

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8.0 Overall Score
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 8/10
Controls: 7/10

Classic arcade fun, great animation

Not much replay ability, sometimes frustrating

 
Game Info

Game Name: Dragon’s Lair Trilogy

Developer(s): Digital Leisure

Publisher(s): Destineer

Platform(s): Wii

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Compilation

Release Date(s): October 8, 2010

ESRB Rating: T

This collection is a collection of three games…each reviewed below with a summary of the collection after the individual game reviews.

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DRAGON’S LAIR

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Get use to seeing this

Dirk the Daring is on a mission to rescue Princess Daphne from the clutches of an evil dragon Singe.  He will have to battle serpents, slime, bats, knights, ghosts…and marbles?!?  Will Dirk save the fair Daphne or become another victim of the Dragon’s Lair?

Dragon’s Lair was released on June 19, 1983 and became an immediate sensation.  While games like Donkey Kong, Frogger, and Pac-Man were still ruling the arcades, a game like Dragon’s Lair was a revolutionary game-changer.  With fantastic Don Bluth art, the game was critically acclaimed (also one of the first fifty cents game titles) and is even in the Smithsonian with other classic arcade games.

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My favorite screen

The problem with Dragon’s Lair is that it rarely worked.  I can remember going to the arcade (be it in the mall or Showbiz Pizza) and finding Dragon’s Lair with a big “Not Working” sign on it.  Still kids would be gathered around the game watching the intro cinematics that told the story of Dirk’s adventure…it was like a mini-cartoon right there.

The second problem with Dragon’s Lair is that even if you could play it, it was a waste of money because it was often hard to make it past the first scene if you were a novice (and there was no good way of becoming “good” at Dragon’s Lair without pumping in the quarters).  Dragon’s Lair is less forgiving than Space Ace or its sequel Dragon’s Lair II which came out in 1991.  If you didn’t time it right, you were screwed.

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Oh crap…cue the skeleton

Besides that, the game is beautiful.  The puzzles are all simple when compared to today’s games and Dragon’s Lair could easily be seen as one of the first rhythm or timed games.  It isn’t that far off from a game where you have to press X when or left-left A, etc.  Games like Parappa the Rappa and even games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band could see Dragon’s Lair as their beginning.  To make the game longer, many of the original rooms get reversed during gameplay and the controls reverse as well.

Dragon’s Lair has been ported to all sorts of systems and computers because it is a good game and provides memories for a lot of people.  There has been talk of movies, and there are constantly attempts to make “new” Dragon’s Lairs, but they just don’t seem to work as well as the original.  If you never made it past the drawbridge or you just want to show off your skills to friends, pick up Dragon’s Lair and save Princess Daphne all over again.

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DRAGON’S LAIR 2:  TIME WARP

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Back to the Dragon’s Lair…and your mother-in-law is demanding you get her daughter back!

Daphne has been kidnapped by Mordroc now it is up to Dirk and a time machine possessed by Mordoc’s brother to journey through time, history, and fantasy to rescue her.  Dirk will journey through Singe’s castle and make stops in the creation of Earth, Alice in Wonderland, the Garden of Eden, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s study, and ancient Egypt to find Daphne and Mordroc…Will he save her?

Dragon Lair II:  Time Warp was released years after the original Dragon’s Lair.  It had been in production by Don Bluth’s company but finally was released June 16, 1991 and carried on the tradition of the Dragon’s Lair and the follow-up game Space Ace with fantastic art and animation.

Like the first Dragon’s Lair, it would be almost impossible to finish the game in the arcade.  The game was less glitchy than the original Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace and didn’t break down as much.  The problem with Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, and Dragon’s Lair II is the difficulty level of the game.  This game has much longer cinematics than the first Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace so multiple playthroughs are needed on each level.

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Dirk the Daring…and Beethoven…makes sense

The game looks fantastic and it is great that the writers found a way to get Dirk out of the dungeon and into some fun new environments like Wonderland and my favorite Beethoven’s study (how random is that?)  The extra wrinkle that the creators threw in that makes this game even more difficult to finish is that they put hidden treasures throughout the story.  Be it a key in Singe’s castle or an hourglass in ancient Egypt, the hidden items are really, really hard to get and then you still have to contend with finishing the level.  If you finish the game without all the hidden treasures, you are sent back to where you missed them to do the levels again…it is very groan-worthy.

Dragon’s Lair 2:  Time Warp does improve on the classic Dragon’s Lair format but still lacks the charm of the original which was so ahead of its time.  This title seems like more of the same with lusher environments.  Check out Dragon’s Lair II:  Time Warp but don’t expect to completely finish it anytime soon.  It is an undertaking that could take ages.

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SPACE ACE

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Kimberly…Call me Ace!

Ace is reduced to nerdy teenage Dexter by the Infanto Ray…now Dexter can only be Ace when he charges up.  Kimberly is kidnapped by evil Borf (voiced by Don Bluth himself), Dexter must rescue her and save the Earth from Borf’s plans to unleash the Infanto Ray on Earth.

Released April 15, 1984, Space Ace was produced by Don Bluth Studios, Cinematronics, and Advance Microcomputer Systems.  The same group that helped design Dragon’s Lair designed this game as well.  The game was a stand-alone at the arcade and could convert old Dragon’s Lair games to Space Ace.  Space Ace also had a limited television run on the Saturday morning cartoon show Saturday Supercade.

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It’s a chopper baby

Like Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace never seemed to be working when you went to the arcade.  It also was about impossible for anyone to finish.  The gameplay was like Dragon’s Lair, by using the joystick you guide Space Ace through the maze of obstacles keeping him from Borf and Kimberly.  Be it piloting a ship or just running through a garbage masher, nice Don Bluth animation would tell the story.

Space Ace’s story is a bit more linear than Dragon’s Lair which just involved Dirk the Daring rescuing a princess.  Ace has a goal and the decision to energize Dexter into Ace sometimes came into play.  A few of the puzzles allowed for a different “out” for Dexter by sliding into a hole or avoiding enemies by not becoming Ace.  That did add a little wrinkle to the playing field and gave the game a bit more dimension.  Also like Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace often reversed the animation to make “new” levels and screens simply with reversed controls.

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Oh yeah…I’ll save you…

Space Ace as a game itself seems a bit easier than Dragon’s Lair.  The controls are a bit more forgiving and except for the ship battles and final battle, it doesn’t seem like there is as much “fast” movement.  This allows the voice actors to develop the characters more and give Ace and Kimberly a bit more attitude.

Space Ace might have improved a bit on Dragon’s Lair’s format, but it doesn’t seem to have as much charm.  I can remember sitting and watching Dragon’s Lair’s opening cinematics (if the game happened to be working) over and over again because the visuals were so compelling.  Space Ace’s visuals seem less interesting and not as unique.  The game still is innovative (like Dragon’s Lair), and should be checked out in a format where you have unlimited lives…you’ll need them.
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Dirk’s counting on you!

The Wii collection Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is a nice one and for the general price of $15.00, breaks down to $5.00 a game, far cheaper than you would have ever paid at the arcade to play through these games.  The prints of the art are clean and bright and a definite must for fans of Don Bluth art.  In addition, an uncut playthrough plus the original teaser cartoon are available…this really helps on Dragon’s Lair II with the stupid “must collect all trophies” portion.

It is unfortunate however, that there wasn’t some way to customize the gameplay for Wii’s controls.  Have the traditional play, but also provide the gamer with a way to use the wireless Wii technology to point and slash their way through the game.  It would possibly be a fun way to change up the game for a new generation (though the static art would be a sticky problem).

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy…yes I know it isn’t a real trilogy since Space Ace isn’t a Dragon’s Lair game, but Dragon’s Lair I & II Plus Space Ace is a bit of a long title for a game…is a good add to a collection, especially fans of classic gaming.  The memories alone evoked by the title are good and Dragon’s Lair is one of those games that was so influential, that you can see it any time you go for timed button attacks in God of War or Parappa the Rappa or even Guitar Hero where characters must play with the rhythm of the game.  Dragon’s Lair was the first that really did this and did it with class…enter the Dragon’s Lair again…it’s worth it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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