Game Review #125: Dragon's Lair Trilogy (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Mar 23
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Digital Leisure Inc.
Publisher: Digital Leisure Inc.
Category: Arcade, Adventure, Action
Release Date: 01.17.2019 Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy Dragon’s Lair Trilogy from the Nintendo eShop here.
Can Classics Be Reborn?
In the early 90s I used to visit my grandmother on my dad’s side quite regularly. One of the things I loved was the fact that she rented a back room to a couple, and the man also rented her garage, where he stored arcade machines. I would go visit and hang out in the garage, and of all the arcade machines he had, the one I put the most amount of hours into was Dragon’s Lair. So, when I think of this game, I get that pure nostalgia high like no other; also, it reminds me of times I spent with her, since now she’s gone. So, to say the least, the first game really hits home for me.
The Switch needs a virtual console and more classics that we all crave, but every once in a while, a classic has such a following that it comes back to us. The Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is highly loved by critics and fans alike, so it’s no surprise that it’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch eShop 26 years later. The eShop has games that come out weekly that try to feed off our love of classic games by placing things within the games to feed our nostalgia, but nothing beats the tried-and-true classics that we grew up on that are etched into our memories. After all these years, can the classics hold up, or should they be left in the past? Let’s jump in and find out how they held up over the years.
Tell Me About The Good Ole Days
Growing up in the 80s, I didn’t know who Don Bluth was, but I sure loved his films. As a little guy, I couldn’t get enough of An American Tail, Land Before Time, and All Dogs Go to Heaven, with the latter being my personal favorite of his works over the years. I even remember seeing Titan AE, one of his last big films in theaters, back in 2000. Back before all those classics, Don Bluth worked at Disney Studios and left during the production of Black Cauldron, taking 13 colleagues with him to Don Bluth Productions, where he started off his first feature length film, The Secret of NIMH, in 1982.
In 1983, Don Bluth, Rick Dyer, Goldman and Pomeroy started the Bluth Group, and created the groundbreaking arcade game Dragon’s Lair, which let the player control an animated-cartoon character on screen (whose adventures were played off a LaserDisc). This was followed in 1984 by Space Ace, a science-fiction game based on the same technology, but which gave the player a choice of different routes to take through the story. Bluth not only created the animation for Space Ace, but he also supplied the voice of the villain, Borf. Work on a Dragon's Lair sequel was underway when the video arcade business crashed. Bluth's studio was left without a source of income, and the Bluth Group filed for bankruptcy on March 1, 1985. A sequel, called Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, was made in 1991, but it was rarely seen in arcades.
We Need A Hero To Save Us
We have three games that are short animated stories turned into games. The first of the three games we have is Dragon’s Lair. In the game, the protagonist, Dirk the Daring, is a knight attempting to rescue Princess Daphne from the evil dragon, Singe, who has locked the princess in the foul wizard Mordroc's castle. You’ll go room to room fighting monsters and dodging death at every turn.
The second game in the set is Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, the sequel to the original. It takes place years after the original Dragon's Lair. Dirk has married Daphne, and the marriage has produced many children. When Daphne is kidnapped by the evil wizard Mordroc in order to be forced into marriage, Dirk's children and his mother-in-law are clearly upset by the abduction of Daphne, and Dirk must once again save her.
The third installment is the sci-fi adventure Space Ace. Space Ace follows the adventures of the dashing hero Dexter, who prefers to be called "Ace." Ace is on a mission to stop the villainous Commander Borf, who is seeking to attack Earth with his "Infanto Ray" to render Earthlings helpless by reverting them into infants. At the start of the game, Ace is partially hit by the Infanto Ray, which reverts him into an adolescent, and Borf kidnaps his female sidekick Kimberly, who thus becomes the game's "Damsel in Distress". It is up to the player to guide Dexter, Ace's younger incarnation, through a series of obstacles in pursuit of Borf, in order to rescue Kimberly and prevent Borf fromusing the Infanto Ray to conquer Earth. However, Dexter has a wristwatch-gadget which can optionally allow him to "ENERGIZE" and temporarily reverse the effects of the Infanto-Ray, turning him back into his adult self "Ace" for a short time so that he can overcome more difficult obstacles in a heroic manner.
Gameplay & Fun Factor
The gameplay is rather simple as it was originally on the arcade, but to be blunt, all three games play like long QuickTime events like during God of War boss fights. The controls allow you to go in all four directions, and there is a button to swing the sword. There are two ways to play, with an easy mode that gives a little more time to react to the scene and takes out some of the more difficult moves, and then the original mode that was on the arcade. You can choose to play the scenes in order like an actual short animated movie, which is my personal favorite. Each game has different options you can pick and choose, from different amounts of lives, to playing the game on an arcade machine, though I jumped right in and started playing just like the old days.
The main thing I was looking for was whether it feel genuine to the original overall, and the answer is a resounding yes! Not only did I enjoy the experience, but both of my kids played it on the easier mode and loved it. It was even funny to hear my daughter talk about how this was from her childhood, because she used to play it on the iPad. I had to explain how I used to dump quarters into a machine to play this as a kid myself.
Everything is the same as I remember, and that is a huge compliment. There isn’t a lot of voiceover work, but all the sound effects and music are brilliantly done, and you can see just how much ahead of the curve Don Bluth and company were.
Then there are the visuals. As Don Bluth is one of my favorite animators, I can say that this takes his work and places it in a time capsule in the form of these three amazing games. The art is something to be marveled at, and was right before Don Bluth began working with the great Steven Spielberg to make many classic we love to this day.
Don Bluth has been working on the feature-length film Dragon’s Lair Returns since 2015, so fingers are crossed that we one day see that come to light. Until then, we have this gem that, in my opinion, is a must-own that packs three great classics in one purchase—and once it comes to physical, I’ll definitely purchase that as well. So, if you never played the original arcade games in any form, then jump on this, as you’ll be pleasantly surprised; and if you have kids, they’ll love it as well! It’ll be nice to show them how it was before everything was CGI. As for the fans of the original, I know this has been converted to many systems and directly ported to others over the years, but you will want it for the Nintendo Switch, as it will scratch that nostalgic itch.
Buy Dragon’s Lair Trilogy from the Nintendo eShop here.
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