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Dragons Lair first hit arcades in 1983, was animated by the great Don Bluth (An American Tale, Titan A.E., the Land before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven to name a few) and was the grand daddy of all quick time events. This fully animated adventure was way ahead of its time in terms of gameplay. When you popped in a quarter back in the day you usually ended up looking at blocky 8 bit characters attacking other blocky 8 bit characters. In the case of Dragons Lair however gamers took over the role of Dirk the Daring (easily the most incredible name we have ever heard of) who is off to rescue Princess Daphne and defeat the horrible dragon. While the gameplay left something to be desired (see: ONE GIANT QTE), the games challenge (or as I like to call it quarter stealing machine of death), charm and ensemble of characters made every quarter that you pumped in along with every curse word dropped right next to it worth it. The game has also aged well considering that since 1983 we have had vast improvements to graphics and the game looks less like a video game and more like an old school cartoon. All of the Xbox Live goodies are present and includes unlockable avatar gear, Leaderboards and achievements.
Sadly Dragons Lair for the quarter arcade was…before my time, Dirk the Daring, Daphne, and Singe have become characters that I love through the Iphone, Sega-Cd, Playstation 2 and Game Boy Color versions long before I got my hands on the 360 rendition and is currently available in 67 different iterations of the game.
The first thing anyone is going to notice about Dragon’s Lair on the Xbox 360 is that Kinect has come to bail us out of our old habits once again. While the Kinect offers an enjoyable alternative it is hard to replace decades of classic gameplay. Dragon’s Lair has always been a simple game to play, though at times maddening, and the Kinect based control behaves very well. Move right, left, backwards and forwards to move Dirk through his various challenges. You can flail your arms to perform the actions you want in as dramatic of a fashion as you want, but all it takes is a simple timed gesture to have your hero dashing to peach’s…er…his princess’s rescue just as quickly. Raising your hand in the air (like you just don’t care) then quickly bringing it down becomes your sword swinging antics, and just to add a couple of extra moves to the Kinect dance list, there’s some running in place involved and the occasional rope swinging gesture simply to keep things interesting. I think those are simply to make sure that you will not play the game when anyone is home though. Thankfully the moves are quick to respond; fairly easy to commit to memory, and bring a level of immersion into a game that has never been more than maddening quick time events at the best of times.
Classic gaming enthusiasts need not fret; it also supports controller play for a slightly more authentic playthrough (ya know…in case you always wondered what it was like to have an aneurysm). The game supports the standard Xbox 360 control and is surprisingly well responsive when compared to most of the arcade games still on a cabinet that I have experienced.
Dragons Lair on the Xbox Live Arcade is one of those rare gaming gems that absolutely must be experienced. While the curse of originally being an arcade game keeps the story short (about half an hour or so depending on your skill), it more than makes up for it with its revolutionary (for its time) gameplay. This game was clearly before its time and inspired hits such as Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain and is more than deserving of a place on your hard drive if nothing more than for a unique gameplay experience.
|Dragons Lair is a classic and is deserving of anyone who wants to relive the Quarter stealing arcade days of old or if you are one of the three fans in the world who are fans of quick time events. While the unforgiving gameplay can sometimes be frustrating, the modest price point and nostalgia levels oozing out of every orifice available make this game a great addition to any arcade collection.|