Dragons Lair Trilogy
Switch version tested
Review code provided
Come with us on a journey. A trip back to a time when kids saved up all of their pocket money each week just so they could hit the arcades and feed their addictions. In the 1980s, those small, poorly lit rooms with sticky, gum coated carpets, were a haven of escape for the youth of the world. A place where high scores made you a king, and you were only ever one coin away from immortality.
Most arcades were littered with the likes of Ms. Pacman and Donkey Kong, but then in 1983, the game changed forever. You see, in 1983 master animator Don Bluth teamed up with Cinematronics to create the worlds first LaserDisc video game. Gone were the beeps and boops of old, replaced by an actual musical score and incredible looking visuals that were more like watching television than playing a game. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before and was a sure sign that the wacky world of gaming would be changed forever. Sadly, it wasn’t, but for those few months after Dragon’s Lair landed in the arcades nothing came close.
The decision to resurrect Dragon’s Lair, and its two sequels, and port it to the Nintendo Switch was met with a ton of excitement. Those of us who had had the pleasure of experiencing it in the arcades were instantly awash with the same emotions we’d experienced over 3 decades before – and for those who weren’t around back then, well they had a shiny new game to add to their library. It didn’t matter which of these two groups you fell into, neither side was prepared for exactly how God damn hard this was going to be.
You see, back in the 1980s, most of us were just miniature gamers, and with the passage of time, the sheer difficulty of the Dragon’s Lair games has faded into a distant memory. Yet here we are, 36 years later and it’s just as hard – if not harder – because we’re slower and our tolerance for frustrating video games has decreased times infinity. Fortunately, though, the games are as addictive as ever and it doesn’t take long for you to swallow your pride and reenter the fray for another go.
The storyline for all three games offered here is very similar. Players take on the role of the hero (Dirk in Dragon’s Lair and Ace in Space Ace) who is tasked with rescuing the buxom beauty Princess Daphne from whichever dastardly dickhead has his mind set on causing her harm. It’s nothing unusual, but it works.
The biggest selling point for anyone who has ever played the game is the animation, which comes straight from the guy who brought us An American Tail, All Dogs Go To Heaven and The Land Before Time. Even today his hand-drawn cells are a thing of beauty and haven’t aged a day. Let’s be honest, if a new game came out that looked half as good as Dragon’s Lair then we’d be very happy. It just goes to show that CGI etc isn’t always the be all and end all if you want to make something beautiful.
The mechanics of the games are exactly as they were in the arcades. As you progress through the various stages you are presented with various scenarios that demand you choose a direction or attack, or else you’re brown bread. It’s really really simple, but to avoid ever being easy you have to carry out the commands in mere nanoseconds. If you’re too slow you die. If you’ve got fat fingers you die. You see how this works, right? With that in mind, it’s really the perfect retro fit for a console like the Switch because dexterity is the key to so many modern handheld video games.
If you’re finding Dragon’s Lair Trilogy a little too difficult, then fear not. Each of the games has a built-in option to give yourself more lives and more time to react to the on-screen commands. This is a vital option for those of us on the wrong side of the youth movement and a real lifeline if you actually want to complete the game – which is doable in less than 20 minutes (per game) if you can master it and complete it without taking a single loss. Most of us couldn’t do it in 1983 so why would we ever be able to do it now? It’s fun to try though.
We were fortunate to receive a review code for Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, but we’d gladly have paid full price. It’s not an easy game, but for every moment of frustration, there’s an infinite appeal that will keep you coming back time and time again because surely you’ll do better next time. It’s incredible that a game this old can still be this good without having any real tweaks to its design. You owe it to yourselves to take up the mantle of Dirk and enter the castle one more time dear readers because let’s face it, Daphne isn’t going to save herself!
It’s been 36 years since the first Dragon’s Lair landed in arcades but it’s as fresh today as it ever was. This is one of the finest retro ports you’re every likely to find on the Switch or any other console for that matter. Relive the drama, except this time there’s no need to spend all of your pocket money to do it. We call that a win-win.
Beard Score: 8/10
Nintendo Switch Essentials:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 17/01/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, Arcade
Publisher: Digital Leisure
Download link: eShop