Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a running bet between gaming industry insiders as to how many times they (the gaming industry) can get us (gamers) to re-buy Dragon’s Lair. Granted, early 8-bit versions of the game were far from arcade-perfect translations, but by the late 80s (partially thanks to the wide acceptance of CD-Roms over floppy disks) fairly decent versions of Dragon’s Lair had made their way to DOS machines.
By the late 90s, thanks to DVD, “arcade-perfect” (for all intents and purposes) versions were available for not only home computers, but stand alone DVD players as well. At the time, this seemed like the definitive version of Dragon’s Lair.
Presumably bored of porting and re-porting the game over and over to the IBM-PC platform (there are roughly 10 different unique PC releases), Digital Leisure has begun porting the game to new platforms, including the Sony PSP, the Nintendo DS, the iPhone, and the iPad.
The latest port and collection is Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, for the Nintendo Wii.
Right up front, let’s get this out of the way — “Dragon’s Lair Trilogy” only contains two Dragon’s Lair games, along with Space Ace. That’s not a trilogy. That’s like buying the Star Wars Trilogy on DVD and receiving Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It would be different if there weren’t a third Dragon’s Lair game, but there was. Actually, there were three! In 1992, “Dragon’s Lair III: The Curse of Mordred” was released for the Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS platforms. In 2002, “Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair” was released on the GameCube, Xbox, PS2, and PC. And in 2004, “Dragon’s Lair III” was released for the IBM-PC. But since none of those were released in arcades, and I’m guessing neither “Two Dragon’s Lair Games plus Space Ace” nor “Three Popular Cinemetronics Games!” would pass the marketing board, “Dragon’s Lair Trilogy” it is. Harumph.
I’m also trying to overlook the fact that over the past six months I’ve bought Dragon’s Lair three times: once for the iPhone, once again for the iPad, and once for my son’s Nintendo DS. Even with Dragon Lair Trilogy’s budget title price ($29.99, vs. the standard $49.99 Wii price), buying this game yet again is a tough pill to swallow.
That being said, and I hate to be the one to say it, but this collection is worth owning.
The video in Dragon’s Lair Trilogy has been remastered to 480p (as good as it gets on the Wii), and looks great. Gamers will not be disappointed with the audio or video contained within. Equally good are the controls. Fortunately, no “Wii Waggle” has been added; the games are controlled by holding the Wiimote sideways, like a traditional controller.
That being said, this latest collection doesn’t fix the fundamental problem with Dragon’s Lair, which is that in almost 30 years, the game play is still the same. It still involves pressing your controller in the right direction at the right time. It’s trial and error and memorization, which doesn’t necessarily make for a fun gaming experience — although, as anyone who played any of these games at .50 cents a pop back in the day can tell you, $10/game is a relatively inexpensive laserdisc gaming experience.
The selling point of playing laserdisc games was never the game play — it was the unique experience (especially back in 1983) of “controlling a cartoon”. If playing this style of game were that much fun, they would have kept making them. (Spoiler: they didn’t.)
The pros for buying Dragon’s Lair Trilogy for the Wii are exactly the same as the cons: it’s a near perfect collection of three almost thirty year old arcade games that were nice to look at but not all that much fun to play. If you don’t already own these games and wish to, this is a good package at a good price.