Review - Dragon's Lair

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Trev
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Review - Dragon's Lair

Post by Trev » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:22 pm

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One of the most popular arcade games in history, which was years ahead of its time graphically, finally got a faithful translation to a console that was also years ahead of its time. Dragon’s Lair previous cartridge implementations, although sharing the same name, looked absolutely nothing at all like the original version. And while the Sega cd build was much closer thanks to the cd medium, it suffered from its very limited color palette. 3DO would do Dragon’s Lair justice however. At the same time though, the faithfulness of this port also meant that the titles rather limited game play remained intact. So a question to consider is this … were the graphics enough to compensate for other shortcomings? If yes, does the same hold true today :?:
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Many would answer that question yes. The colorful Disney style animation, done no less, by former Disney employee Don Bluth (Pete’s Dragon, American Tail, Titan A.E.) still looks good today, but try to imagine just how amazing this looked nearly 30 years ago ...

I was a very young kid when Dragon’s Lair was heating up the arcades, and I honestly don’t remember it. Just starting to form some of my first arcade memories at that time, I had some fun trying to remember what I was playing during DL heyday ... Probably my main highlight was playing Elevator Action at the local laundromat (launderette my non U.S. friends) Long before my folks owned the fancy cherry red stackable units from L.G. (of Goldstar note) I would, with quarters in hand, try to help my agent escape the rooftop to my waiting vehicle far below. I liked the game, and later bought it for my Nintendo. This isn’t a review for Elevator Action however (although it would have been sweet to get a 3DO update) It serves to illustrate though, how huge a contrast in visuals. With DL sitting next to this game (or even older popular coin-ops) it is very easy to see why it attracted people in droves (any old enough to remember can surely verify this) It was like playing a cartoon. :shock: The laser disc driven game was eye candy at its finest, insuring not only a sequel (the 3DO version of which was axed sadly) but also the sci-fi alternative Space Ace (which thankfully did land on 3DO)

The intro to DL explains your quest and does a fine job at building up excitement to play. As daring knight Dirk, only you can rescue the beautiful princess Daphne from the evil dragon Singe. Holding her captive in his large castle, you must make your way the princess while avoiding multiple traps and enemies along the way. Can you save her? This paraphrased version is much better enjoyed with the narrator speaking over climatic music, while game scenes play in the background. Not exactly dripping with originality (I admit I prefer the story/settings of Space Ace better) but who would complain much as they were being hypnotized by the incredible visuals (and great music and sound effects too!) :D
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Well, perhaps the complaints would start to arrive once gamers discovered how the game controlled, or namely the lack of control. Think of an entire game built around Quick Time Events (QTE) seen in limited form in gems like Shenmue and Resident Evil 4. While entertaining if dished out in occasional random places, too many can wear out their welcome. This is the case with DL. Each scene consists of a small number of button taps that must be done with near perfect timing. If done correctly an action will play out, but with no direct control on the part of the player. The fact is that after several repeated plays, it does get boring (thank goodness we no longer have to pay quarters for the privilege!) Amusing animations when defeated helps to add some longevity initially, as does the 3DO versions unlimited continues, but eventually I just wanted to watch the game rather than play it, and I’m sure many others felt the same way. I can imagine hordes of gamers surrounding the arcade version in the early 80’s, not waiting for their chance to play it, but simply to watch someone else attempt it.

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If you are a fan of the arcade original, nostalgia demands that you own this game. If you are a newbie that can’t remember much of anything before the playstation, than you can probably take a pass on this one. Still, even for the latter I think it’s worth playing at least a couple of times, if only to see what all the fuss was about decades ago. And though newer versions exist (pc, dvd, blu ray) I feel a classic console is where this game belongs. Just make sure you check it out on a console that does the game proper (CD-I, Jag cd, and of course my favorite, 3DO) 8)

-Trev

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Trev
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Post by Trev » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:14 pm

Bumping this review w/new pics added.
Most wanted - Eye of Typhoon, 3DO Magazines issues #14 & #15, Pro Stadium, Defcon 5

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