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Classic Game Spotlight:
Dragon's Lair
If you visited a video arcade in the mid 1980s, chances were you would be able to spot the location of the Dragon’s Lair video game machine based solely on the large crowd of people surrounding the arcade machine and lining up for their turn to play. To this date, Dragon’s Lair evokes strong feelings of nostalgia among many video gamers, and it is the focus of this issue’s classic game spotlight.

Released in 1983 by Cinematronics, Dragon’s Lair was one of the first games to take advantage of the then new laserdisc technology. Similar to today’s DVD players, laserdiscs where organized by chapters and allowed near-instant access to large amounts of data anywhere on the disc. The concept of Dragon’s Lair was very simple: the laserdisc would play a movie segment of our hero, Dirk the Daring, on his quest to rescue Princess Daphne from the evil dragon. When Dirk arrived at a junction that required the player to make a choice (e.g. “move left” or “pick up sword”) the game would query the joystick for the appropriate input. If the player had made the correct choice, the gameplay movie would continue. If a wrong choice was made, the laserdisc would jump to another chapter and show a short movie of the character’s death, before returning the player to the game with one less life.

What, in essence, was a very simply memory test proved surprisingly addictive, due to two reasons. For one, the animations of the movie segments were drawn by ex-Disney animator Don Bluth (“The Secret of NIMH”, “The Land before Time”), giving the game a visual quality that was far beyond any other video game of the time. The second reason was that the death sequences themselves were very funny, as Dirk was repeatedly squashed, mangled, zapped, and eaten. In fact, some players would make a wrong move on purpose, hoping to discover a new comic death animation.

Dragon’s Lair ushered in a boom of laserdisc based games, including two more games with Don Bluth’s animation (“Space Ace” and “Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp”). But the novelty value of the games was short lived, and later releases could never match the success of Dragon’s Lair.

Dragon’s Lair Links

The Dragon’s Lair Project
The Dragon’s Lair Project is the definite website on Laserdisc games, from Dragon’s Lair and its sequels, to the space themed Space Ace and the holographic (!) Time Traveler. Includes short audio and video sections on selected games.

TV Show and Comic Books
The success of the arcade machine spawned a short-lived animated TV series. More recently, the game’s storyline has also been translated into a comic book series.

Home Versions
Digital Leisure has been busy for many years bringing Dragon’s Lair to many home computer and video game formats - a high-definition transfer of the original is the latest release. The Dragon’s Lair name was also used for many conversions that bore little resemblance to the original (including early 8-bit side scrolling platform games, as well as a more recent 3D version).

Other Games
Be sure to check out Dungeon Escape for a fun little flash game - a recreation of the Dragon’s Lair experience using simple stick-figure animations. And don’t forget our Wonderland-style remake of the famous rolling boulder sequence, which owners of Return To Wonderland can download and play in their customlevel directory.

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