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Dragon's Lair
 

Dragon's Lair

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: Home Theater
Category: Action Games
 
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7.25
 
Author:

Publisher – Digital Leisure

This is undoubtedly one of the strangest reviews I have had to write. Why you ask? Well, many people who did not play the original arcade version of Dragon’s Lair in the arcades will see this current reiteration as an interactive movie. However, given the fact that I first played this game while I was in my early teens at a local Chucky Cheese 20 plus years ago, this really is a game not a movie. Digital Leisure has taken the next step in what I see as HD evolution and they have released Dragon’s Lair on Blu-Ray. We were lucky enough to receive a copy of the game (or interactive movie should you still argue) and I got to put it through its paces on my PS3.

Graphics

This game was originally released in the early 1980’s. It was a game that offered a movie like experience with cartoon like animation that played out on screen. I remember the first time I played the game I was astounded with the fact that I was actually controlling a character in a well drawn and well animated world. Of course those words were not exactly how I described that experience, but given that I am much older now, that is how I can interpret what I was thinking. The current Blu-Ray version takes this game in a whole new realm. The game is presented in a true widescreen experience (1:78:1) which really adds to the visual experience. Of course by utilizing the Blu-Ray format Digital Leisure has upped the resolution of the game to 1080p and took the effort to clean up the transfer, which means they have removed scratches and specks from the original version. After sitting down and playing this on an 80-inch screen I have to say that all this hard work as definitely paid off. Colors seem to leap off the screen and the animation has never looked better. There is some minor artifacting, but hey, the game is over 20 years old, so to hold up and even look better at this stage is a stellar feat indeed. Anyone who played this game in the past should see the differences and appreciate what Digital Leisure has done with this transfer. For those who have not experienced any of Dirk’s adventures before will be fully pleased with their first visual experience with the medieval knight and his exploits on screen.

Sound

Being a game that released in the early 80’s when arcades were filled with loud games and loud people, the sound was not as important as it is with current home consoles. That being said, Digital Leisure made sure to recognize that many HD gamers have HD sound. Dragon’s Lair is remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. Sure, there is not a lot of dialogue in the game, however the audio is bright and clear and there is even some use of the rear channels. The subwoofer even gets a bit of play in the game, however I think there should have been more overall. Regardless that game’s audio is improved over the original and I think they did a great job improving the original source material that they had.

Gameplay

For those who have not been outside in the real world in the past 23 years or so, Dragon’s Lair is your typical story of good versus evil with the hero making a valiant effort to save the princess. In this case, Dirk the Daring is a medieval knight who must traverse his way through a trap filled castle to rescue the beautiful Daphne from a sleeping dragon known as Singe. The main control scheme for the game, or for you people that have to keep arguing the interactive section of the movie, is comprised of visual and audio clues that prompt you to react by hitting an action button or moving the joystick in the correct and proper predetermined action. Once you manage to get the correct button press or movement the game continues on to the next sequence of events.

Digital Leisure has included five different settings in the Blu-Ray version of Dragon’s Lair. They are as follows:

1. Arcade/Home Gameplay – You are able to switch between the original arcade and home version of the game. The main differences seen between the two is that the home version has a moat sequence that was not found in the original arcade game.

2. Difficulty - Easy or Hard. For those wanting to mix things up a bit, the hard version adds some additional moves not found in the easy version and mixes up some of the scenes for a less linear gameplay experience.

3. Lives – Choose between 5 lives or unlimited lives.

4. Visual Move Guide On/Off – This option allows one to bring up a visual clue in the bottom right hand corner that shows whether you entered the right move or not. A red circle means you entered it wrong or that your timing is off while a green circle lets you know that you did it right.

5. Game Statistic – Displays your lives and overall score via a text display at the top.

Something that I have to forewarn PS3 owners about is that fact that the game will not let you choose five lives as it automatically puts you into the unlimited life mode. This is has to do with the BD-Java that is yet to be standardized. This is a technical matter that I will not delve into during this review as I can go on for ever. What I do need to comment on is that by having the game default into the unlimited lives section, this takes away from some of the challenge of the game as you can keep dying without fear of losing your life. I just wish I knew this going into the game but Digital Leisure has no information in the game to warn of this problem.

All that being said, this game is a total drive down memory lane that I really enjoyed. It really reminded me of how cutting edge the game felt when it was released some 20 plus years ago. I enjoyed having to learn the game all over again and when playing it in the hard difficulty it actually felt like the game was ramped up a bit and I did notice that the things were mixed up. There is no doubt that some people may tire of the game after sometime, but man it is fun to play on my 80-inch home theatre screen in full HD glory.

Now given that that some consider this an interactive movie, and it has been remastered to be released a game/movie player (Blu-Ray player including the PS3), I think it is worth commenting on the extra material found on the Disc. A funny thing worth noting too, the extras on the disc are actually longer then the game itself, which clocks in around 19 minutes or so of animation. In terms of the extras, there is a full-fledged video commentary with the three creators of the game in a PIP window while on-screen action is shown. You will learn how the creators felt about such things as the gameplay, the animation, as well as the new transfer to Blu-Ray disc. There is also a regular interview featurette where the three creators talk about how the game came to be from initial concept to final Laserdisc realization (hey, 1t was 1983). You’ll also learn other little tidbits such as deleted scenes and the status of a feature film prequel. Also found on the disc is a neat split screen setup which shows off the HD restoration before and after all the work was done. This was kind of cool as I was able to see how much improved the work was. There are also comparison footage of the new HD release to previous releases for past home consoles such as the Amiga, DVD and Laserdisc. Finally, there are preview trailers for Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp.


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