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by Jason Hill
I remember being about 5 years old, standing on my tippy-toes, trying to see the memorable Dirk the Daring slash his way through the castle of the Dark Wizard. More importantly, I remember cringing at the many ways Dirk met his death at my hands. Those memories have since been revived with a Jaguar CD port-over of the original arcade game
LEAD ON ADVENTURER...
For those of you who have spent the last half of the 20th century in a dark cave, Dragon's Lair was an "interactive game" using full animation as the basis of gameplay. The cartoon was done wonderfully by Don Bluth, who has gone on to do several animated films. The concept is simple: guide Dirk through the castle to rescue Princess Daphne. The gameplay, however, is another bowl of beans. Using only five commands (UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, SWORD) you move through different video sequences. If you screw one up, or mistime it, Dirk is toast. When Dirk dies, there is a gruesome video sequence showcasing his demise.
I LOVE BEING A DIRK...
On the Jaguar CD version, you get five lives, and unlimited continues. Continue-points are located in a few of the 30 different scenes; when you lose all of your lives, you go back to the last passed continue point. One note: Timing is EVERYTHING!!! One wrong move done too soon or too late is fatal, and the game is very picky. People with no sense of timing will become extremely frustrated with this game. Fortunately, the rules give hints on how to get through each screen...without the rulebook, there is almost no way to get through the game.
//GRAPHICS SCORE--8 out of 10\\
The game is straight from the original laserdisc (which was done in 1983). While this may be nostalgiac for some, to me it makes the game look old. Also, the Jag CD pixelates the FMV. It's not as bad as a Sega CD would do, but noticeable nonetheless. The animations are wonderfully drawn, but the scene transitions are sometimes jerky, which disrupts the flow of the game. You can always tell when you are about to bite it, because the action pauses briefly.
Again, the original soundtrack is used, and sounds kind of grainy for a CD. The music is very "seventies" and is reminiscent of "The Hobbit" movies. The sound effects are classic cartoon, which does a good job of making the player think he's watching the game instead of just playing it.
It's not that the controls are rough or sluggish, but there's just not enough of them. I can understand that the game was designed almost 15 years ago, but God made the Jaguar with an 18-button controller, and He intended those buttons to be used. There is just no interaction. A typical scene will go: WAIT.............LEFT!..WAIT.....SWORD!.. RIGHT!..RIGHT! Not only that, but sometimes on the screen it looks obvious that you'll have to move one direction, but in fact, you have to push some other direction. Believe me, trial and error guessing sucks, especially if, like my luck, the correct solution is the last one you pick.
This was, to the best of my knowledge (and please correct me if I'm wrong!), the first interactive cartoon, and I can't think of many other companies making games like this. However, instead of making a direct port from arcade to Jaguar, I would have liked to see a more 1990's version of the game, with more options and non-linear gameplay (you start at one end of the game, and go straight through until the end with no choice on where to go). It would have been hard to do that, though, without destroying the original spirit of the game, so I can't knock of too many points here.
//ENTERTAINMENT VALUE 7\\
This is a great game both to play and watch. Watching Dirk get smashed, electrocuted, melted, roasted, pummeled, drowned, and devoured is just too funny in a gruesome sort of way. To the player, the game is a true test of reflexes. To the viewer it's an entertaining adventure cartoon. If the person playing is very good and doesn't make mistakes, the spectator enjoys an excellent show.
That's what I would consider the important mechanics of the game. There are also a few bonus categories...
**REPLAY VALUE 1**
Once you've beaten it, you've beaten it. The gameplay is non-linear, and you will run into the same things in the same order each time. That's not to say someday you'll pull it out of closet, blow the dust off of it and play it again in a year or so, but it's just no fun the second time through.
Yes, that is a zero up there. For a game that's supposed to have a definite ending, I'd have to say it's the worst ending I've ever seen in a game. After playing for 4 straight hours in one sitting and finally beating the game, my jaw dropped open at the lack of an ending. It's a big reason the Replay Value score is so low.
The animation may look cute, but this ain't no Smurf game. It gets downright difficult, especially since some controls aren't what you think they are. If you have no reflexes, you may want to stay away from this one. I would give the Challenge score another point, but after playing part-way through a couple of times, I was able to beat it in 4 hours.
I would have liked to have been able to use my Memory Track to save my progress.....Princess Daphne must have been reading off of the cue cards...(you'll know what I mean)
YOUR QUEST AWAITS...
Dragon's Lair is a solid game, but just a bit out of date to hold much interest. However, with a lack of Jaguar CD titles out there, coupled with the fact you can pick a copy up at some places for $20, this could be a good purchase. People who have a good sense of timing and who are persistent can really get into this game. I thoroughly enjoyed Dragon's Lair, and I think most others would like it as well.
FIND SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY REVIEW? HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION?
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