Dragon's Lair: 20th Anniversary Special Edition

Review by Old Rooster
November 2002

"Dad, Can I Please Have Just One More Quarter?" —Honorable Son #2

Ah, how not-so-fondly I recall the days of Dragon's Lair, the huge video machine, at Cedar Point Amusement Park and Aladdin's Castle. Not only did I "loan" the change, but I was also expected to watch and even, heaven forbid, sometimes participate! The memories bring a smile to this curmudgeonly face, though, as I recall the often hilarious plights of the well-intentioned, but very clumsy, Dirk the Daring.

Just about a year ago, I had the privilege of reviewing Dragon's Lair 3D, an excellent updating of the classic story. Now, Digital Leisure has released a magnificent package for the Lair's twentieth anniversary containing the original Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp, and even Space Ace. For collectors, and anyone interested in a look back, this is an essential purchase. And it even runs flawlessly in Windows XP! You won't have to worry about DOS compatibility and "stuff like that" (to quote a governor).

"Tom, You Sometimes Can Go Back Again"

Coming on four CDs (PC version), and playing directly from your CD-ROM drive (full installation is an option), this Special Edition contains not only the three games, but also a wealth of historic and new information. Just to give you an idea, you will find:

  • Each of the three games, optimized to run with all versions of Windows, and playable in a window or full screen;
  • Biographies of the four responsible for these memorable moments in gaming history: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and Rick Dyer—also included are 1983 video interviews from their personal archives;
  • Conversations with the four creators filmed in 2002 at E3;
  • Press clippings from 1983, along with box art and posters over the years;
  • A special "Twenty Years of Dragon's Lair" behind-the-scenes look at Dragon's Lair 3D;
  • The final 22-minute 1983 episode of Starcade, TV's first arcade game show, featuring Dragon's Lair.

And there's more. Clearly, these designers are justifiably proud of their work over the years. After playing, viewing and listening to all of the games and interviews, one can't help but be enveloped and very much impressed by this series of achievements.

"Lead on, Brave Adventurer, Your Quest Awaits!"

In these days of ultra-3D video, Surround Sound, and super-powerful rigs, it gives one pause to visit a time of "ancient history"—ancient, that is, in video gaming terms. Yet I defy anyone not to laugh, or at least smile, when viewing and playing as the bumbling Dirk. Valiant knight, indeed! Much like many of the cartoon characters of the 1980s (cf. Wile E. Coyote), Dirk is inclined to fall into just about any trap that comes his way. The games give you the option to play (all you need are arrow and space bar keys) or watch. The fun of more passive observation is largely to see Dirk "die," in hilarious ways, but always returning, of course. He is persistent, our Dirk. If you're a bit on the squeamish side, you can watch the game without "deaths." Furthermore, new scenes, multiple difficulty levels, and even a two-player game option are available.

The video quality is surprisingly good, even though the native screen resolution is 352×240 pixels. Yet the colors are so vibrant and the action moves so fast that I soon became accustomed to it on my 19-inch monitor, playing full screen. The voices, music and sound effects are reproduced very well.

Valiant Knight and Fair Princess

Glancing at my desk gaming shelf, I notice Hitman 2, a very nasty, gruesome, richly detailed action thriller. Shooters and platformers have evolved greatly in the past 20 years. As a retired psychologist, I'm not at all sure that some of what that evolution reflects is good for kids specifically or society in general. The Valiant Knight saving the Fair Princess in particular, and often the world in general, is still an enjoyable, and frequently seen, theme for a game. Yet it sometimes seems we destroy the innocence of quests by making them about hit men or gangsters. Maybe it's being old, but I do breathe a sigh of regret for the lost simple pleasures of gaming just twenty years ago. I'm sure that twenty years from now, we won't be doing a remembrance of Hitman 2. Thankfully, there does seem to be a resurgence this fall of more fanciful titles (cf. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time).

Dragon's Lair 20th Anniversary Special Edition honors the gifted creators of a classic series. This almost priceless set of CDs not only allows you to get to know them and their activity through interviews, but also gives you, with modern PC rigs, the opportunity to fully play and enjoy three of the most wonderful games ever made. Thank you, Digital Leisure, for giving us a retrospective done with care, expertise, even love. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Digital Leisure
Publisher: Digital Leisure
Release Date: December 1, 2003

Available for: Windows CD; DVD version available that also plays on Xbox and PlayStation 2

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System Requirements

Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
200 MHz processor
4X CD-ROM drive

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