reviews\ Jan 19, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair - GC - Review

The remake of the classic laserdisc arcade game Dragon’s Lair is now available on the Nintendo GameCube.  The classic receives an overhaul in gameplay, giving you an unprecedented amount of control over the game’s hero, Dirk the Daring.  Plus, the game uses cel-shading in order to achieve the cartoony feeling of the original.  The game features a great deal of challenging puzzles, but the environments are a bit redundant and the combat system is too simplistic.  The game lacks a fair amount of polish, but fans should appreciate its loyalty to the original Dragon’s Lair.


The story is the same as the original: as Dirk the Daring, you must rescue Princess Daphne from the clutches of the evil wizard Mordroc.  You must fight through the wizard’s enchanted castle, solving puzzles and defeating his minions (including Singe the Dragon) in order to get to the damsel in distress.


The gameplay in Dragon’s Lair 3D is fairly simplistic.  As Dirk, you run around fighting enemies and often solving a fairly difficult puzzle.  The puzzles are very nice and oftentimes parallel those in the original Dragon’s Lair.  Puzzles such as the Black Knight’s Electrified Floor are mirrored to a T.  In this regard, the game does a fabulous job of recreating the feel of the original.  The combat system, however, is a bit of a disappointment.   True, the original didn’t even have a combat system (being little more than an interactive cartoon, all you did was hit a button at the right time to proceed).  This time around, while you can fight, you are limited to a small number of attacks, and no combos.  You’re pretty much limited to run at enemies swinging your sword around like a madman.  Plus, since the collision detection isn’t all that great, you oftentimes won’t hit anything on the first pass.


The controls are another problem with this game.  Dirk handles very sluggishly, and the jumping is very floaty.  This tends to be a huge problem, as many of the game’s puzzles require some degree of precise platform jumping.  Translation:  You will die a lot in this game.  Thankfully the game is quick to put you back on your feet after you die, since the post-mortem loading times are minimal.  The developers must have had some love in their hearts for frustrated gamers.


For the most part, the game’s graphics do a nice job of recreating the atmosphere of the original Dragon’s Lair.  As I had stated earlier, Dirk and all the other characters in the game are cel-shaded, meaning that they are made up of very few polygons and outlined in black in order to achieve the look of a cartoon.  The characters look and move very naturally, and have the well-animated appearance of the original.  However, the environments could use a little work.  They look rather drab and lack detail.  This tends to make the characters look out of place, as though they were cut out and pasted onto the background.  The framerates are very nasty and sporadic, dipping well below 30 fps at times.


The sound is at best decent.  The score is nice and adds to the experience, and the voice acting is pretty good.  However, the sound and music will cut out if the onscreen action gets too intense, which can be quite irritating.  And, for some reason or another, the voices on the bonus “Making of” videos are muted to the point of being unintelligible.


Dragon’s Lair 3D is at times a pretty fun, but very flawed experience.  The game lacks a very noticeable amount of polish, like the horrible framerate, the sluggish controls and the laughable combat system.  However, if you are an old school Dragon’s Lair fan, you should give the game a shot if only for the atmosphere.  Rent it for the great puzzles and the nostalgic value.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.0
The puzzles are great fun, but the rest of the game can be describe with a resounding “eh”.  Dirk controls very slowly and the jumps are imprecise enough to cause migraines.   Plus the combat system is nothing more than running straight at a Giddy Goon swinging your sword around.


Graphics: 6.9
Cel-shading is put to good use in this game, as the characters look and move very nicely.  However, the environments are drab and the framerates are unforgivable.


Sound: 6.5
The music is great and adds a lot to the game.  The voices are also really good, though the sound often cuts out at various times.  The weird muted voices in the “making of” videos are also very bothersome.


Difficulty: Hard


Concept: 7.0
The game does a very nice job of retaining the look and feel of the original, and the puzzles are very nicely executed.


Overall: 7.0
Dragon’s Lair is a fun game, but its many major flaws may be enough to turn away all but the most dedicated fans.  If you look beyond the problems, fans of the series will find a great weekend rental. 


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