Title: Dragon’s Lair Trilogy
Developer: Digital Leisure Inc.
Publisher: Digital Leisure Inc.
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Wii
Audience: T for Teen
Release Date: Switch: 17/1/2019
Price: £17.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
What the Developers say
In Dragon’s Lair, you play the heroic Dirk the Daring, a valiant knight on a quest to rescue the fair princess from the clutches of an evil dragon!
Space Ace will have you take control of Ace – Defender of justice, truth, and the planet Earth! Ace is being attacked by the evil Commander Borf. Struggle with Dexter to regain his manhood. Destroy the Infanto-Ray. Defeat the evil Borf! Be valiant space warrior, the fate of Earth is in your hands!
Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp once again has you leading Dirk on a perilous quest! Spirited away to a wrinkle in time by the evil wizard Mordroc, Princess Daphne will be forced to marry the wicked Mordroc unless Dirk can save her. Once the casket of doom has opened, Mordroc will place the death ring upon Daphne’s finger in marriage, and she will be lost forever in the Time Warp.
Don Bluth is one of my all-time favourite animators, and I remember back in the day when he created one of the first QTE video games with Dragon’s Lair. I was not able to play this game at the time due to not having a single arcade feature the cabinet, but it always amazed me. Dragon’s Lair was bright and colourful, and with Don Bluth at the helm, I wanted more than ever to play this vibrant title. Now, you can experience his foray in the video game medium with the Dragon’s Lair Trilogy; featuring the original, Dragon’s Lair 2, and Space Ace. But, do these games hold up or are they more of a nostalgic relic from the past?
Gameplay and Replayability
If you’ve never played this series before it’s straightforward, you press a direction shown on the screen, and if you need to use your sword, you press the A button. As easy as that might sound, these games are ridiculously hard as you will have to use quick reflexes to advance through the castle. There is barely any leeway on pressing the wrong button, and you will see your character die hundreds of different ways by the end. Dragon’s Lair started a brand new genre of gameplay that was all about memorisation. At the time it was released, most of the copycat games were terrible and came out on the Sega CD including Night Trap and Sewer Shark.
I will mainly be talking about Dragon’s Lair, as it is the most recognisable game in the trilogy and each game plays identically. The story in the first game is about Dirk the Daring, who’s on a quest to rescue the promiscuous Princess Daphne. Let’s say I could see why Dirk would want to rescue her, even while going through this dangerous castle. A dragon kidnapped her for reasons I don’t know, but Dirk must slay this beast and save Princess Daphne from his vile clutches.
One of the best parts about Dragon’s Lair was the rooms that you had to go into and even when they felt completely insane and implausible, and they were still appropriate for where he was. It felt like you were going along with Dirk on his adventure to save Daphne. You do have the option to play the Arcade version or the Home version, with the Home version including scenes that the Arcade version did not have. The other option I liked in the Arcade version in comparison to the Home version was that when you died, it took you to a new room in the castle, instead of making you remain in the same room until you lost all of your lives.
These titles leaned heavily into the memorisation side of gameplay, and if you were good enough, you could beat Dragon’s Lair in one try, depending on if you remembered everything. To combat that almost every room has an opposite version of it, and this was a smart way to increase the number of rooms in the castle while keeping it somewhat challenging. One of the great things about these games was that the rooms were relatively small, so that meant you wouldn’t have to wait too long to get to another room.
Unlike Dragon’s Lair 2 and Space Ace, the difficulty level wasn’t as high because of the frequent checkpoints. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Dragon’s Lair 2, and the difficulty spike from 1 to 2 was too much for me to overcome. I desperately wanted to like this game, but the pacing is so off the reservation in regards to maintaining your sanity that it makes Dragon’s Lair 2 not fun to play. The story is about Dirk finding out Princess Daphne has been kidnapped again, told humorously by his “lovely” mother-in-law. She chases him down into the dragon’s castle, and there she is being held by an evil wizard who can warp through different dimensions and Dirk must follow him to save Daphne.
The third title in the trilogy, Space Ace, had nothing to do with the previous Dragon’s Lair series, other than it’s made from the same engine, made from the same company, and Don Bluth handled the animation. The checkpoints were a little more lenient in Space Ace, but it still was too difficult to enjoy truly. I felt the space setting worked very well for this type of game and justified why the hero would go to crazy locations, unlike Dragon’s Lair 2 which jumped around to different locations for no reasons. You play as Ace and you are tasked with stopping the evil Commander Boar from turning the world into kids with his Infantile Ray. Corny premise aside, this title seemed to have a more effective narrative.
Looks and Sounds
It’s safe to say, the animation for all three of the titles were breathtaking, especially for the time but they still look gorgeous. Don Bluth left his mark all over the animation, and it stood the test of time. One thing that didn’t translate though was the awful voice acting cast. While Dragon’s Lair and Dragon’s Lair 2 did not feature as many voice lines as Space Ace, I can’t think of one voice performance that was good. They used their fellow developers to voice the characters to save money, so it is somewhat understandable.
All the titles can be played with a set number of lives and many mother options, such as flashing prompt lights for button presses, can be enabled or disabled. Also, they give you the opportunity to watch all three adventures from beginning to end without pressing a single button. This is great in case you are more interested in just seeing how the story plays out.
Overall, Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is an excellent port of the arcade and console versions with beautiful animations and helped establish a new genre for gaming. Unfortunately, all the problems associated with the titles also come up with the easiest difficulty still being too challenging and each game only lasting roughly an hour to complete. The replayability might be low, but this is still a great way to experience these classics and should be played at least once in your life.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Dragon’s Lair Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch eShop at the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Dragon-s-Lair-Trilogy-1497141.html