MarzGurl Loves Don Bluth: Dragon's Lair
August 12, 2011
(Footage from the making of Dragon's Lair is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): 1983 was a year with a new interesting sort of success for Don Bluth. What amounted to a relatively short amount of animation created an entirely new kind of craze not on TV or in movie theaters, but rather, in arcades.
(The box art for the game is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): Introducing Dragon's Lair, a laserdisc-based arcade game that combined a ton of different ideas to create something new, something no one had ever quite seen before.
(Gameplay for an Atari game is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): When most video games were looking like this, it was revolutionary to think that...
(Footage from Dragon's Lair is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): ..they could possibly look like this. The story is incredibly simple: Princess Daphne has been kidnapped by a dragon, and it's up to you, Dirk the Daring, to rescue her from his evil clutches. Because of the limitations in technology and how much could really be animated, the controls themselves are relatively simple, too. Every so often, you'll see something flash on the screen; you have to choose up, down, left, right, or to attack. If you choose correctly and quickly enough, the full motion video animation continues, and if you're good enough, you can get all the way through to the end and save the princess. But as simple as that concept is, you find upon playing it that it's rather quite difficult. Unlike other FMV games that utilize this gameplay later on down the road, it isn't like you see physical arrows pop up on the screen telling you which direction to push; sometimes, it's difficult to tell whether the flash wants you to choose up or right or whatever, it isn't always obvious whether you should fight or run away. But as you can imagine, if you've played the game enough times, you'll eventually remember the animation well enough to blaze on through, but that could take a while for some people. Sometimes, the action you have to perform only becomes obvious to you a split-second before your opportunity is over, and then...well, it may just be too late. Like any other Don Bluth animation, this game looks gorgeous; if you're lucky enough to find a copy of the game on DVD, you'll have the option to simply sit and watch the whole thing through, though I don't actually recommend doing that until after you've beaten the game, but it'll give you the opportunity to marvel at this work of fantasy. In total, there's only maybe twelve minutes of animation, and even then, sometimes, you can tell it's limited. For example, you see this room Dirk has to cross? Alright, you've crossed it. A few minutes later, you're in the same room, only this time, the animation's reversed. A little bit lazy and maybe even a little bit irritating to the player, but it may just throw some players for a loop, even after they've already passed through it in one direction. Some of my favorite scenes actually are the death sequences; they're so comical you can't help but almost want to die just to see them.
(Some examples of the death sequences are shown)
MarzGurl (vo): With the shoestring budget they were working on, the studio couldn't afford to hire any models; for that reason, they started turning to Playboy magazines. Yep, Playboy magazines, and that's why Princess Daphne always looks...uh, well, cold. Yikes! I mean, wow. I don't know if it would really have made any difference, but none of the character voice actors were actually paid professional actors, they were just staff members. I don't really know if that's the reason why Daphne's voice comes off as being so grating, but I somehow get the idea she would have sounded that way either way.
Princess Daphne: Please save me! The cage is locked with a key; the dragon keeps it around his neck. To slay the dragon, use the magic sword.
(Footage of kids playing the arcade game is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): I'm not sure if you would necessarily say that this game was a revolution to the video game industry; after all, it was intended to save laserdisc-based gaming, and yet, the format died out, anyway. But it did have a shockingly huge response; it was immensely popular, so much so that unfortunately for the type of technology it was, it would break after only so much repetitive heavy use. Yeah, good luck finding an original cabinet of this machine anywhere anymore. You tell me where to find one and I will plan a trip specifically to play that machine, I am dead serious.
(Interviews with kids who played the game are shown)
Girl: It's too hard.
Boy: I think it's about the best game I've ever played.
Boy #2: It took me at least forty times before, you know, I killed the dragon.
(More behind the scenes footage is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): Although what's also fascinating is that Dragon's Lair is one of only three video games to remain as a permanent addition to the Smithsonian; that's pretty friggin' impressive!
(A photo of all the game's re-releases is shown with the caption "From DragonsLairFans.com")
MarzGurl (vo): The game has been re-released numerous times on multiple different platforms. For the longest time, there really hadn't been a better way to play it than at the arcade.
(The cover art for the Nintendo Wii re-release of the game is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): Although recent releases like the so-named Dragon's Lair trilogy on the Nintendo Wii have been pretty darn faithful and played pretty well. If you're going to play it, try finding a copy that's been released on a current gen system in the last couple of years; anything older than that and you do yourself no favors.
(The DVD cover for the game is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): For me, it's nice having the DVD version for its bonus features, but because it's a DVD, when you press a button to go in a direction or make an attack, there's a slight split second afterward where the DVD has to pause and make that choice for you, it kind of takes you out of the experience.
(The cover art for Space Ace is shown)
MarzGurl (vo): Dragon's Lair was followed up the next year with an incredibly similar game called Space Ace, and well...you know what? We'll get to that one next time.
(The credits are shown)