Review: Dragon’s Lair Trilogy (Nintendo Wii)

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy
Publisher: Destineer
Developer: Digital Leisure
Genre: Arcade
Release Date: 10/08/2010

Dragon’s Lair: The fantasy adventure where you become a valiant knight, on a quest to rescue the fair princess from the clutches of an evil dragon. You control the actions of a daring adventurer, finding his way through the castle of a dark wizard, who has enchanted it with treacherous monsters and obstacles. In the mysterious caverns below the castle, your odyssey continues against the awesome forces that oppose your efforts to reach the Dragon’s Lair. Lead on, adventurer. Your quest awaits!

The hottest arcade game of the summer (of 1983) has finally hit the Wii. For many of us, Dragon’s Lair was the first time a game felt like an interactive movie, the first time video game characters were recognizable as something other than a series of rectangles, and the first time we had to pay FIFTY CENTS to play a game.


With the power of LASER DISC and famed animator Don Bluth in its corner, Dragon’s Lair stood out in the arcade world of Galaga, Centipede, and Frogger.

So, has the test of time proven Dragon’s Lair to be an influential pioneer, or a gimmicky flash in the pan?

Let’s Review

1. Story
As the name suggests, Dragon’s Lair Trilogy consists of three games. These include Dragon’s Lair, Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, and Space Ace.

Dragon’s Lair is, of course, a fantasy adventure where you become a valiant night, on a quest to rescue. . .

Wait a tick, that sounds familiar.

Anywho, all three games have the same basic premise of rescuing your girlfriend from a bad guy. It was a common theme of the era. In Dragon’s Lair, the bad guy is a dragon who is also a fairly offensive Chinese stereotype. The girlfriend, Princess Daphne, manages to be even more offensive. She is the most sexist, misogynist thing I’ve encountered outside of a sociopath’s deviant art page. She has poofy blonde hair, tarantula eyelashes, ree-cockulous red fingernails, pointy boobs, and the voice of a Minnesotan woman who was abused as a child. She’s also mostly naked.

If memory serves, the animators referenced a lot of Playboys in order to draw Princess Daphne.

Pervy video games didn’t start with BMX: XXX, kids!

In Dragon’s Lair II, there aren’t any dragons. You have to rescue the same princess, now your wife and mother to your kids, from an evil sorcerer. The sorcerer wants to marry her so that he can turn her into a giant horrible monster, I guess, and you have to chase the two of them through time, space and fantasy.

The game is an acid trip, wherein you are beaten by your wicked mother-in-law, accosted by a snake in a Tam o’shanter, fly a steam punk time machine that also seems to be the evil wizard’s brother, fight dinosaurs, explore the pyramids, wear working bird wings, get molested by a morbidly obese Eve, meet the cast of characters from Wonderland, and get shrunk to two inches tall only to be chased by Beethoven’s cat.

All in the span of about ten minutes.

Now, Space Ace is completely different. In Space Ace you have to rescue your girlfriend IN SPACE. Also you have to save the world from a giant blue alien who has evil ray gun that makes people . . . wait for it. . . young. Space young. The main character is Dexter, who jumps back and forth between adult and kid forms due to encounters with the Infanto Ray.

No seriously, that is what it is called.

While the plots aren’t all that great, and most of the characters are one-note, the strength of the animation and its story-telling make up for it. Whereas Dexter is a fairly boring character, Dirk is an incredibly interesting and charismatic hero for the Dragon’s Lair games. Plus, the story of DL2 is downright Silver-Age DC Comics in its bug-nuttiness.

2. Graphics
I’m not going to lie; this game looks great. The animation is smooth, beautiful, and well designed. It looks better than most of the cartoons on TV at the time. The animation has been remastered, and it looks clean and crisp.

These games features quality traditional 2d animation, with some roto-scoping thrown in for good measure. It must have been a shock to look at Dragon”Ëœs Lair in the arcade next to Mappy which was released around the same time.

I have very few complaints about the visuals, and all of them nitpicky. Well, that is aside from the racism and sexism of the first game.

Things like, while paddling, Dirk’s paddle sometimes jumps from one side to another.

And, I guess, sometimes the graphics are a little too Heavy Metal, or “hey, dude, I just animated a sphere!”

3. Sound
To keeps costs down, the animation team did all the voices for the game. Don Bluth himself voices the villain in Space Ace. The only actor used was the narrator for the Attract mode; he reads that block quote I opened with, and similar stuff for the other two games.

Most of the non-actors do a pretty decent job. By video game standards, their acting is freakin’ Oscar worthy. I find Princess Daphne’s voice to be offensive, but it matches the character. Well mostly. . . there is a weird little accent working its way in there. It sounds like she is saying “Slee the Draegon” and I half-expect her to talk about working in the Sargento Cheese factory.

The main negative, aurally, is that I find the kid-voice for de-aged Dexter to be awful, absolutely grating.

Otherwise, the game is strong here. The music is all fitting and I am particularly fond of the score for Space Ace.

4. Control and Gameplay
These games are similar to Dance Dance Revolution, except that the moves are simpler and if you mess up once you get eaten by a snake.

You hold the Wii-mote sideways. Every few moments, you will have to press the 2 button or a direction on the D-pad. If you press the right button at the right time, the next sequence or scene will play. If you mistime the push or if you hit the wrong button, you watch an animation of your character dying. After that, generally, you have to re-start from the beginning of the scene.

Even by FMV standards the game doesn’t much in terms of interactivity.

While this may not be the most interactive way to make a game, at least it works. The controls are simple to learn, respond well, and have the feeling of an intense battle of Simon.

5. Replayability
Each game lasts about ten minutes, if played perfectly. There isn’t really a whole lot of reason to come back to any of these games once you see the ending.

The rooms in Dragon’s Lair can be randomized, but it is going to be the same button pushes every time.

Space Ace has a few branching pathways, but nothing that really changes the story. Mostly, the game doesn’t kill you if you miss the opportunity to turn back into adult Dexter.

Dragon’s Lair II is completely linear, but does have optional treasures that can be acquired.

There are two difficulty levels for Dragon’s Lair and a choice between Home and Arcade mode, but the experience isn’t altered too much.

Dragon’s Lair II only has the one difficulty level, but offers an original and a director’s cut.

Space Ace has three difficulties. The harder the game gets, the more scenes you watch.

The only real reason for extensive replaying would be to get high scores, but they can’t be shared online. Plus, if you use the option of infinite lives, your score doesn’t count if you don’t beat the game.

6. Balance
Have you played a video game made before 1985? If the answer is no, let me tell you that they are FREAKIN’ HARD!

These games were designed to eat two quarters at a time. Oh my, did they.

Even with the difficulty selections, each game requires a bit of practice. Some button pushes have to anticipated as the reaction time they require challenges the physical speed of neurons.

For each game you are given the option of three, five or infinite lives. No one is going to beat Dragon’s Lair on the first try without infinite lives. Even with infinite lives, by the time you get to the last sequence, you will be so sick of getting torched by that dragon and having to hear Daphne’s misogynistic banter that you will chose death over victory.

By default, the game gives screen prompts of what button to hit when it is time to hit them. You can turn these off, though.

If you are the sort of person who can beat Dragon’s Lair with three lives and no screen prompts, I don’t think we can be friends. I’m pretty sure you would have to be one of those King of Kong style weirdoes, or at the very least, the Rain Man.

7. Originality
This is a collection of three games, the newest of which is about twenty years old. These are games that were new when laser discs were cutting edge technology.

Does anybody else even remember laser discs? I remember having to flip these things over in the middle of White Line Fever just to keep watching. Totally takes me out of the experience.

Still, Dragon’s Lair was a pioneer of a new style of game, even if the advent of more advanced graphics processor did limit the shelf-life of these things. As it turns out, most people would rather play a game with characters that look pretty good than push buttons that sort of correlate to the movements of a really good looking cartoon.

8. Addictiveness
These games are addictive for about an hour at a time. They’re addictive in a sort of “I must prove that I am better than this game!” sort of way.

But after an hour, the game is either beaten or frustration has built to the level that the Wii must be powered down or thrown out the window.

I would keep picking up the game until I mastered each of the included games were it not for watch mode. The game offers you the option of option of setting the control down and just watching the cartoon.

I appreciate the thought, but it diminishes the necessity of actually playing the things.

9. Appeal Factor
If you are already a lover of this game, then it is a no-brainer. All three games, remastered, multiple modes, and all for under thirty bucks.

Then again, I can’t imagine that normal person under the age of twenty-five will give a good goddamn about this game collection.

So there’s that.

10. Miscellaneous
When the game first arrived, I was half-expecting it to include a port of the NES version of Dragon’s Lair.

Thankfully it did not.

The Scores
Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Decent
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Great

Short Attention Span Summary
This is one of those things where the people that know these game, should already know whether or not they want it. If you are one of those, I’m just here to tell you that the game works fine, looks great. Didn’t notice any glitches.

If you don’t know what Dragon’s Lair is, it might be worth owning as an oddity, a novelty, a curiosity or a historical artifact.

It’s not going to be something any normal person plays for more than a week or two, though.



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7 responses to “Review: Dragon’s Lair Trilogy (Nintendo Wii)”

  1. Limodriver Avatar

    Does it have a mode where you can just watch the story without having to play the game?

  2. ML Kennedy Avatar
    ML Kennedy

    I mentioned it briefly in the Addictiveness part of the review – “I would keep picking up the game until I mastered each of the included games were it not for watch mode. The game offers you the option of option of setting the control down and just watching the cartoon.

    I appreciate the thought, but it diminishes the necessity of actually playing the things. ”

    A warning though, watching Dragon’s Lair II is like taking bad drugs.

  3. Sebastian Howard Avatar
    Sebastian Howard

    This game sounds pretty fun, thanks for the review, espically since a lot of people don’t review Wii games, it’s mostly “the other two!”

  4. nintendo wii remote Avatar
    nintendo wii remote

    It seems nice

    Nothing better than upgrading things, isn’t it?

    have a PS3, but I tend to only buy PS3 exclusives for it.

  5. jeff Avatar

    You are offended by Daphne’s voice?? Come on! You must be a moron.

  6. ML Kennedy Avatar
    ML Kennedy

    Please match your pejorative to your insult. I believe you mean to call me a “queer” and not a moron.

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