Dragon’s Lair HD DVD Review

Infinite free respawns never felt so good? Kevin Tofel, of jkOnTheRun, shares his Dragon’s Lair thoughts and pics.


Ah, 1983. A time when I was waiting for my growth spurt, had no gray hair and could often be found in an arcade or pounding away on my Commodore 64. I enjoyed all different game genres in the arcade: I didn’t discriminate on which machine was worthy of a quarter. However, I was always drawn to Dragon’s Lair which was one of the first laserdisc-based games. Maybe it was the movie-like cartoon graphics that captured my attention. (Actually, it was more likely glimpses of the spunky li’l Princess Daphne, but I digress so let’s get to current day.)

dl2.jpgFast forward to 2007. I’m still waiting for that growth spurt, I bleach the grays and have no time for arcades these days. And what’s with these “tokensâ€? everyone keeps trading real money for: is this Second Life in the real world? No, these days, I stay home and play games in high definition on an Xbox 360 and 60-inch Sony SXRD set. It’s all exactly as I would have predicted back in 1983, of course. ;)

That’s why I was excited to get a copy of Dragon’s Lair in HD-DVD to review. With the remastered disc from Digital Leisure and my Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, I figured I’d be giddy with Daphne sightings, er, I mean, ready to once again quest away as Dirk the Daring.

dl4.jpgUnfortunately for me (and Dirk) I had problems pretty much immediately once I popped the disc in. Instead of smooth transition through the main menus, the menu just got stuck. I couldn’t seem to do anything with my remote until I realized that the game was stuck on a track. I skipped to the next track but all I could do was play the game; I couldn’t take advantage of any of the special features such as the full length creator commentary and interviews.

Problem number two arose pretty quickly as well: no sound. Granted, the game navigation is handled by visual clues, but you’re really missing out. Don’t believe me? Pop in Halo 2 and then mute your television. Not so cool, is it Master Chief? I have no idea why the sound track wasn’t working: I use this HD-DVD drive all the time for DVDs and HD-DVDs and I’ve never had an issue.

Par for the course with technology, I just waited for a bit and temporarily fought my addiction to see Daphne. It was a tough few weeks, but absence makes the heart grow fonder…and also provides time for updates via Xbox Live. Last week, just such an update appeared, and with it, solutions to both of my original issues. The tracks and navigation were just fine and the 5.1 surround sound was rockin’!

dl5.jpgOnce I had the small automatic update installed, I started to relive my experiences from the early Madonna years. Using the IR remote of the Xbox 360, I went left when I should have gone right, pressed Enter to pull my sword just in time to fall off a cliff and generally floundered around the game, screen after screen. Thank goodness for the infinite lives option or my game play would have been shorter than this review title. All in all I’d say the experience was perfectly replicated because I apparently still suck at the game, which brings me to the missing feature: customization. These days, we can customize our characters in just about every game so the experience would have been that much better if I could have changed “Dirk the Daringâ€? to “Kevin the Klumsyâ€?.

dl6.jpgI found the game generally responsive when using the remote, when I hit the wrong buttons, I promptly died, so I’d say it works well. On the rare occasions I did perform the proper move, I was rewarded with a few scant seconds of a new scene before coming back to reality and dying again. All in all: if you know what you’re doing in the game and you have cat-like reflexes, the remote will work fine for you. One word of caution to future adventurers: this navigation method stores your remote button presses in a buffer so be careful. If you press Enter twice, your next two moves will be to use the sword, even if they should have been sword and move. Aside from that, responsiveness is vastly improved from the original, early versions as it could take one to two seconds for the laserdisc to find the next appropriate cut scene.

Is the game worth $49.95? I definitely is for folks that want a little nostalgia and a little bit of ridicule, I mean fun, by playing a historical game on modern equipment. The remastering looks great and the game play is faithful to the original based on my death-rate of 3.2 Dirks per minute. At that rate, I’d make all of my money back in quarters by playing this version for a few hours.

dl7.jpgAdding to the value is the creator commentary as every single scene is shown. Really, I watched it for the commentary, not because they show how to navigate every single scene. Ri-i-i-ght. Actually, if I hadn’t watched that I’d never see the final scene; personally, I think they enhanced Daphne’s voice to just a little bit more sensual. Ah, the beauty of modern technology. If you weren’t sold that your $50 investment wasn’t worth the upgrade, one of the other features is a fantastic demonstration of the final scene in every prior format. From old school Amiga to the original Laserdisc to on-its-way-out DVD, they’re all compared against the final output of the HD-DVD. Hands down, even a Giddy Goon can see the difference.

3 thoughts on “Dragon’s Lair HD DVD Review”

  1. I always found it kind of cheesy that there was only one right sequence in almost every scene. And I sucked at it as well. It was, however one of my favorite games to watch when someone who knew what they were doing was playing.

    My favorite laserdisk game is the nearly forgoten Firefox, based on the Clint Eastwood movie.

  2. I totally sucked as a child and Mom wouldn’t give me enough dollar bills to improve (I don’t blame her). So I also enjoyed watching the bigger kids who had memorized the correct sequences.

  3. I remember those laserdisc games fondly. At least watching other’s play them. Back then, I never considered them as animated movies. These were stunning “graphics” compared with the state of the art at that time. Gameplay…well it was more of an exercise in frustration and given that it costs $.50 per play back when my parents maybe gave me $5 total. Well, Dirk was just not enough fun to cut my arcade time down dramatically.

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