A knight fighting a dragon is awesome. A knight fighting a dragon in a video game is even more awesome. Now, a knight fighting a dragon in Dragon’s Lair is amazing. Dragon’s Lair was an old 80’s arcade game, where you would control a knight known as Dirk the Daring, who is trying to save a pretty hot princess known as Daphne from an evil dragon. The basic rules of the game were to watch the cartoon, then when a specific scene occurs, you have to press the button or do the right action to keep playing, or else Dirk would die. It was based around trial-and-error kind of game play. It’s definitely a classic arcade game that is well known among retro gamers and modern gamers alike. An interesting thing is that there is one sequel to this game known as Dragon’s Lair: Time Warped, but I don’t think it is as well known as the original. The original Dragon’s Lair would be ported over multiple times to where it would be a super pixilated version of itself or it would be a side-scrolling action game like Castlevania or Ghost and Goblins. It’s interesting that there is even a sequel to the game because typing this opening paragraph, I didn’t even know about it. Either way, Dragon’s Lair could be a franchise, but then that would ruin its uniqueness. There is actually a 3D game in the series known as Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair for the PS2, Gamecube, Xbox, and PC. How good is this game though? I mean how do you convert a cartoon to a 3D rendered video game?
The story of Dragon’s Lair 3D involves our brave hero, Dirk the Daring, running through a dark forest. He then hears the cries for help from his love, Princess Daphne, who is getting attacked by the dragon that you meet in the end of the first game. The dragon still carries the sexy princess through a portal that was conjured up by the evil wizard Mordoc. Sadly, our brave hero Dirk can’t enter the portal and slams right into it and falls backwards. He however gets a crystal from Daphne that he can communicate with her with, even though Dirk never really talks at all. He then goes to the evil castle where the dragon and the wizard are holding the princess, and it is up to Dirk to save her! It’s a timeless story that will not age horribly, IF you know how to create a story around that theme.
Dragon’s Lair 3D; Return to the Lair is an action adventure game where you go through the evil castle as Dirk the Daring, and you go around solving puzzles and fighting those purple goblin things from the game. During the game, you will be doing multiple puzzles that are homages to the original arcade game, like jumping from rope to rope on the platform, the knight that touches the ground and it becomes deadly, and other areas. In a way, this is a somewhat remake/sequel. It’s hard to explain. It plays and feels like a sequel, but it has a lot of the same puzzles and enemies from the first game. Your main form of attack is your sword. There is nothing special or powerful about it. You also gain special attacks that don’t at all copy Link’s attacks from the Zelda series. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, you are kind of like a simplified version of Link from the more popular Legend of Zelda series. You also gain a crossbow though, which Link never gets for some odd reason. I know there is Link’s Crossbow Training, but I’m not counting that one. During the game, you gain magical upgrades, like a fire sword and magic arrows. God, why am I thinking about the Legend of Zelda series? Oh well. While you do kill purple imp monsters, you move on to killing other enemies like dragons and evil knights.
The graphics for the game are “okay” by today’s standards. The entire design of the graphics look like the original game, though by today’s games, you can see how blocky Dirk looks. The music is not that bad. I mean, the songs in the game are short and tend to repeat a lot, but it’s nice to listen to. It’s not like stock music, like in the first Jak and Daxter game. I think the best feature this game has is the ending and opening animations. I say this because they are done by Don Bluth, the same guy who did the arcade versions of Dragon’s Lair 1 and 2, and Space Ace. I love his animation style, and he is world renowned for his stuff in the Rescuers and An American Tale. I think they still have a charm to them, even with all the high tech digital animation and such of today.
However, this game does have A LOT of shortcomings that keep it on that line of being a “below average game”. The first thing I noticed was the control setups. Who ever thought that the jump button needs to be what is usually the attack button? Why is the jump button now the attack button? It’s awkward as heck, and I end up getting hit before I can lash back at the monsters. Speaking of attacks, it always seems like the hit detection is in the hands of the monsters. I usually end up getting hit, even though my sword is bigger than the monster’s attack range. The control issue gets even worse when you find out how stiff you are. You actually move very slowly, and you can only run fast by pressing a button. Why can’t I just run already? The camera controls are also a little awkward when you’re going through the plat forming sections of the game. By far the biggest punch-in-the-face issue is that you can’t climb or grab anything when you have your sword out. I have never heard of anything that stupid! When you play Legend of Zelda games, you have the ability to put your sword away automatically without having to do anything, and to be able to climb and grab onto stuff without having to worry if your sword is out or not! This game is just built all wrong. You lose energy way too fast, it seems like the enemies have the upper hand, and the controls are all wrong! If they had ironed out these horrible aspects of the game, I would say this is an underrated classic with a good challenge, but all of the challenge comes from this game’s lack of polish!
Overall, this game is very bad, and I never want to play it again. I rather play the original arcade versions of Dragon’s Lair on the original arcade cabinet. It might cost me an arm and a leg to find one, but I’d rather do that than play this game again. The only charm it has is that it has animation from Don Bluth. I think this game deserves to be on my blacklisted list of bad games along with the Genesis version of Virtua Fighter 2, Superman Shadow of the Apokolip, and the arcade version of Bionic Commando. I’m not going to give this game a low score like the three I listed above for the sole reason that it has a certain charm to it, even if that charm is overshadowed by crap.
This game gets a 4.8 out of 10