With the impending release of Dragon’s Lair Trilogy for the Wii, I thought I would share some of my thoughts concerning this breakthrough game and my memories of it.
Back in 1983, I was at the local mall when I ran across an arcade game in a toy store. It was a game that I had never seen before, and a group of 10 or 12 kids were standing around watching as it was being played. I wormed my way in amongst the onlookers to get a look at the screen, and I was dumbfounded. I was looking at graphics that had never before been seen in an arcade anywhere. The animation was like what you would find in a top-flight cartoon, far different from the low-res sprite characters that were the norm of the time.
With awe I watched as the game’s protagonist, Dirk the Daring, battled monsters and avoided obstacles in his quest to rescue the scantily-clad Princess Daphne. I could not figure out how such a game was possible, given the level of technology available at the time. I pulled out a couple of quarters, aware that 50 cents for a video game was almost unheard of, but thinking it an excellent bargain nonetheless. Unfortunately, the other dozen or so kids waiting ahead of me did not finish playing before I had to leave.
Needless to say, I went back to that store at every opportunity and began to play one of the greatest arcade games ever made. I often had to wait several hours for the legions of gamers who were there ahead of me, but I didn’t mind in the least. I quickly learned that the gameplay was not like other games out at the time, but involved timing of movements that would continue cutscenes. While this would eventually become disparagingly referred to as “cartoon decision-making”, at the time it was brand new and light years ahead of anything anybody had ever seen.
All my video-gaming friends could talk of nothing else other than Dragon’s Lair that year. We talked of the moves required to get through certain screens, our favorite levels, the most interesting (and gory) deathscenes possible, and how hot Daphne was. I was a total Dragon’s Lair junkie, playing whenever I got the chance, reading every magazine I could find on the game, and watching other people play when I was short on quarters.
It took me a lot of practice, but I eventually got good enough at the game (which basically involves memorizing all the correct moves and when to execute them) to where I thought I could beat it. I took a trip to the mall and entered the toy store to find…it was gone. The amazing fad that was Dragon’s Lair was already on the decline, and I had yet to complete the game.
I searched local arcades and was unable to find the game. Eventually Dragon’s Lair II appeared, but it was a much more extensive and difficult game than the original, and I never got very far in it. I lamented the fact that I had never completed what was undoubtedly the greatest game of its time.
Eventually, a pretty faithful rendition of Dragon’s Lair was made available for the PC, and I was able to complete the game years later in the comfort of my home. However, I still have some of the fondest memories of any game for Dragon’s Lair and look forward to giving this latest version a whirl on the Wii when it comes out.