Review – Dragon’s Lair Trilogy

I am way too young to feel nostalgic about Dragon’s Lair. Quite an anti-climatic intro, don’t you think? Well, it’s true: the original arcade title was released a whopping ten years before my debut on this planet. Therefore I didn’t grow up idolizing the title, nor was I actually able to play it, although I was pretty aware of its importance in gaming history. The first time I actually managed to play it was on my 3DO, and you can already imagine I really didn’t like it, given the fact it was a very poor port for a console with a notoriously bad controller. Suffice it to say, that version didn’t help me fully understand the hype behind this title. I do now, though, all thanks to Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, a remastered re-release of a collection previously released on PS3 and Wii by Digital Leisure.

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Skyrim who?

For those who don’t know, Dragon’s Lair is an arcade title based around quickly pressing button prompts onscreen (basically the precursor to quick time events) in order to proceed to the next scene. Dragon’s Lair is entirely comprised of animated cutscenes, with those QTEs serving as “keys” in order to access the next one. Try to picture yourself back in 1983, with games like the original Donkey Kong considered actual graphical achievements for the time. One day, you’re playing a simple sprite-based game, and on the next day, there’s a brand new arcade featuring actual animated cutscenes produced by legendary animator Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Land Before Time, Anastasia). Needless to say, Dragon’s Lair wasn’t like anything else from the day.

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy features not only the original game, but also its 1991 sequel and Space Ace, yet another animated game produced by Don Bluth, this time around set in a sci-fi world. Those three games were notorious for their difficulty, giving less than a second for players to read the onscreen prompts and press the appropriate button. Thankfully, this trilogy features various difficulty settings. You can set the games to feature longer response times, an actual icon telling you which direction of the analog stick you should point to, and even a shortened version which omits the most difficult parts of the games. There’s even an option to just watch the three games without actually playing them, therefore turning them into actual short-length cartoons you can watch at any time. Of course, you can also play the games with their original arcade settings, complete without any aids and CRT effects.

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Space Ace is as good, if not better!

Technically, all three titles have received nice revamps. All animations are now rendered in much higher resolutions, and all grainy effects have been drastically reduced. It doesn’t mean that they have been completely removed, though, and I can’t tell if that’s actually impossible to perform, given the fact those animations are more than thirty years old, or if they were left there in order to boost nostalgia. The sound department is still pretty good, but you have to understand that those games were extremely revolutionary for the time, and that cartoon voice acting in the 80’s wasn’t exactly as well-performed as it was in the 90’s onwards. Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace feature cheesy voice acting, and while it’s completely fine by me, I can understand if some people don’t like it. Dragon’s Lair II, on the other hand, features much better voice acting and sound mixing.

None of those three games are actually long, being no more than twenty minutes in length. You may be wondering if there’s anything else besides those short (but actually replayable) titles in this collection. Thankfully enough, Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is filled with some interesting extras for fans of the franchise. There are interviews, original trailers and commercials from 1983, and even drawing tutorials.

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Roll Over Beethoven.

This new Dragon’s Lair collection is easily the best version you’ll ever be able to play that doesn’t involve actually owning the original laser disc cabinets. Not only does it feature great remastered visuals and more forgiving difficulties for beginners, but it also includes a lot of extra content that’s interesting not only for fans of those games, but also anyone interested in gaming history in general. I mean, we are talking about one of the most important franchises of the early years of gaming.

Graphics: 9.0

Thanks to those remastered visuals in full high definition, this is the best looking version of Dragon’s Lair you’ll ever see.

Gameplay: 6.0

It’s the same gameplay style you’ve grown to hate, with the addition of slightly more forgiving response times in lower difficulty settings.

Sound: 8.0

Great soundtracks straight from the 80’s, as well as the voice acting you’d expect from a cartoon from the time, for better or worse…

Fun Factor: 8.0

All three Don Bluth games in one package, complete with new difficulty settings and a ton of extra content, such as interviews and commercials.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Reviewed on PS4.
Also available on: PS3, Wii.

Copy of Dragon’s Lair Trilogy provided by publisher.