Video game review number three hundred and eighteen in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Dragon's Lair Trilogy".
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in arcades. Actually, I should rephrase that. I spent a lot of time in places where coin-operated video games were available to play, and when I was lucky, one of those places happened to be an arcade. The rest of my gaming hangouts were convenience stores, movie theaters, amusement parks and the occasional gas station. Anywhere they had video games that took quarters, that's where I wanted to be.
Of all of the places I frequented, very few had a Dragon's Lair machine. I still remember seeing the first one in an arcade located in a strip mall in Albany, California...and being absolutely amazed at what I saw. Not only was this game an actual cartoon, you could control it. Keep in mind that I was a nine or ten year old kid, and this was back in the days of Burger Master, Dig Dug, the Star Wars video game and Joust. Dragon's Lair didn't just graphically surpass everything else on the market at the time, it completely leapfrogged it by about 6 generations.
Unfortunately, it also cost 50 cents to play.
When I was a kid, if I had more than a couple of bucks to spend in an arcade on my visit, I felt rich. Three dollars was an entire afternoon, and if I had five (or even ten) bucks...it meant I was either spending birthday money or some relative had been particularly nice to me for some reason. Keep in mind, these were the pre-teen years, and although I had the ability to earn money doing chores, it was usually immediately spent on whatever goodies I could buy at the local convenience store (which also had Galaga and Dig Dug machines).
Dragon's Lair was amazing, but at 50 cents a play, with INCREDIBLY short playtimes for your two quarters, it wasn't something I could ever play more than two or three times at the most. You could zip through three lives in that game faster than almost any game I've ever played, unless you memorized the patterns. My alternative to throwing my money into that game was to stand around and watch older kids play it. No one gave me a hard time about watching them play, and I got to see many levels I never could have made it to on my own that way.
I rented this one from Gamefly thinking I'd be able to do what I never could in the arcades as a kid. I planned to sit on my couch and pump as many virtual quarters into this game as it took to beat it and finally see the whole story unfold. Unfortunately, this game is just as hard at home as it was in the arcade. Even on the easy setting.
The "levels" consist of story animation with a quick interactive flash onscreen that will tell you which direction to move or when to swing your sword. When you see this flash of light, you have to make your move in that split second, or you'll be instantly killed. It's what is now known as "twitch" gaming, and I'm getting a little old for that. The levels come in a random order, and while you can memorize each one individually, there's no way to know what's coming next. There are no save points, so dying three times starts the whole game over again. Even on easy.
I played this game for about 50 or 60 lives before realizing there was no way I could beat it. Luckily for me, I didn't have to. In the menu, there is an option to "watch game". There, you can watch the entire thing from start to finish....right there on your TV screen.
I watched all three games (Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair 2 and Space Ace) before putting this one back in the envelope and sending it back to Gamefly. It wasn't a bad experience. After over 25 years of wondering, I finally got to see how the story ended. It was cool. As a "Game", it turns out I don't really like Dragon's Lair...but as a movie, it was entertaining. :-)
Overall Score? 3/10. Ok, so there's not really much in the way of gameplay here. You either have to have INCREDIBLY fast twitch reflexes, or you have to play every level in the game over and over again if you want to memorize the levels and have a prayer of beating this thing. Still...it was good nostalgia for an hour or so, and although I'd never buy the game, I don't regret renting it.
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