LGR – Dragon’s Lair – DOS PC Game Review

LGR – Dragon’s Lair – DOS PC Game Review


[LGR Theme plays] [fizz, sip] Aahhh… [typing] Dragon’s Lair. It’s one of those games that is so legendary, there should be monuments made in its honor. When it was released in 1983, there was absolutely nothing like it. Until that point, arcade games were
made up of sprites and bitmaps to simulate action and objects. But then came Dragon’s Lair with
its fancy new LaserDisc technology, It was a digital video format which
allowed random loading of real video, which ended up being perfect for Dragon’s Lair. The entire game plays like a short interactive movie where you are presented with a scene, and you find the correct way to
interact with it and then move on. And to top it off, the entire thing
was animated by Don Bluth, a world-class animation veteran
of Disney and his own studios. He really brought the thing to life with classic characters like Dirk the Daring, Singe the Dragon, and Princess Daphne. [sexy music plays] Princess Daphne… Yeah, with this monster of a game, there was no shortage of demand to play it, so it’s natural it would be ported to
about every home system imaginable. But wait, how could they port a
freaking high-tech LaserDisc game to 8-bit or even 16-bit systems
with any kind of success? Well, the short answer is they couldn’t. But, oh, they tried, so you got all sorts of awkwardly-made knockoffs for the arcade game on all types of systems. For this video, I’m going to be focusing
on the MS-DOS version from 1989 for EGA graphics cards. It’s worth noting that this is quite
different than the later DOS game, Escape from Singe’s Castle. This one’s the original by Merit Software and Polarware, and judging from the ALWAYS accurate screenshots, it looks pretty impressive. It’s got some rather high system requirements for the time as well with 640K RAM, EGA graphics and at least a 286 processor
and a few megs of hard drive space. Well, actually, the 286 and hard drive are
only recommended, but that’s just stupid. This thing uses high-quality EGA graphics and comes on 13 floppy disks. Holy crap, I can’t even imagine the pain it would be to run this from floppies. Unless you have 13 floppy drives, I guess. Might have to try that. Once you get the game installed to the hard drive, just run the executable and, uh… Well, I suppose there’s some copy protection here. And all I see in the box is this single sheet of paper, which has installation instructions and… oh, here we go. Game Entry Codes. Uh, let’s see… we got the codes here… Wait, what?! It seems this paper only tells
you how to decode the codes. I missed the actual code sheet, and that’s because it’s straight
up camouflaged to the box. Seriously, could they have made this text any fainter? Not only can you not use a copy machine to copy it, but this has to be the most confusing copy
protection scheme I have seen in a while. It tells you a line to check, then a color and a number. That color and number corresponds to
an area on the code sheet on that line. Then decode the color, in this case, blue, and then choose the number of spaces over that corresponds to that line, in this case, code 1. Then you type that code in,
minus the last two characters, and you’re ready to play. I know there were plenty of annoying
copy protection schemes, but come on! Who’s really going to copy 13 floppies to play this? Dragon’s Lair PC starts off with a demo screen, which has to be one of the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s just the first scene over and over. The only keys to the game to press
are the arrow keys and Enter, so you press Enter to start. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then you die. And die. And die. And that’s it, back to the menu. Game over. Now I’ve played Dragon’s Lair in countless variations, but for those of you that haven’t, it’s really simple. All you need to do is find your way out of the scene and to do this, you must press
a certain combination of keys at the right time to continue. Do it enough without dying and you win. In this case, at the very beginning, it’s pressing Enter when the tentacle appears, wait a half second, then press the up arrow. And that’s it. Congratulations,
you know how to play Dragon’s Lair. From here, it just goes on and on
until you reach the end of the game, which I’m rather sure is impossible and it’s filled with utterly unforgettable pain. Ha! And it seems the developers knew this. Look at the instructions sheet. “Many rooms will seem impossible to get past at first.” “Never fear though,” “once you’ve mastered a room, you’ll soon
forget the pain it took to get through it.” Yeah, until you freaking die at the very next room and then have to start all over because of
some of the lame control response issues. Half the time the controls won’t work when it seems that you KNOW
that you’ve pressed it properly. I know this is true of all Dragon’s Lair games, but this is just a little worse than some I’ve played. Eventually you’ll get the hang of it, but then you notice a larger problem. It’s freaking boring. I mean, just look at this exciting scene. There’s a total of six times that this exact same scene plays out until you can go to the next room. It just mirrors the scene. Over… and over. Nothing changes in between mirroring, it’s just pressing the opposite
direction that you pressed last time. And get this: almost every scene
is done the exact same way. One scene mirrored a couple of
times until you get to the next one, and then it keeps mirroring itself. And there are only ten scenes overall. To top it off, each time you play it is exactly the same, so you know precisely what to expect and when, unlike the arcade and other versions where it shuffles the order of rooms. Which would keep things interesting. And it only gets lamer. There’s no sound at all. Just obnoxious PC speaker noise which I think is just there to
cover up your constant swearing at stupid areas that should be
easy but for whatever reason hate your guts. I guess there is a plus side. The graphics themselves are quite nice for EGA, especially the animation. But you know what, that actually kind of sucks, because then you can’t do anything
fun at all with those graphics because the game itself is
annoying, unforgiving and bland. Not to mention buggy. I don’t even
know what the balls is happening here. Geez, Dirk, I know this sucks,
but drugs aren’t the answer. To sum things up, Dragon’s Lair
EGA is pretty much crap. The arcade game is great, many of the later CD-ROM ports are also good, and it’s quite easy to play that original version on all sorts of other systems nowadays. I suppose for what they had to work with, EGA Dragon’s Lair is still somewhat fun if you’re really, really desperate
for some Dirk-on-dragon action. But to me, it’s just not worth it. So unless you’re just a die-hard Dragon’s Lair fan, or have an interest in sideshow attraction DOS titles, save your sanity and avoid this
awkward nutsack of a game.

100 thoughts on “LGR – Dragon’s Lair – DOS PC Game Review

  1. I got a review request or at least a let's play request. You should play Outlaws from Lucasarts, released in 1997. It was one of the first if not the first fps game in a wild west setting. I am sure you are familiar with it. Thank you in advance, i really enjoy your videos.

  2. I know there was a later DOS port of Dragon's Lair that came on a CD and was apparently pretty faithful to the original, since the technology had caught up by 1995 or so. On the other hand, since it was accurate, it's kind of boring from a review perspective, but also by definition better than this.

  3. I got this on Windows 95 when it came out, my cousin actually managed to beat it, it was the full version though with all the right sounds and colors lol. It took her 3 days of constant playing to beat it.

  4. I had this game back in 1989, I swear it looked better than this. It looks like you're playing in CGA mode, not EGA. But I don't think I was able to beat the first scene so I could be wrong.

  5. It's a damn shame that Eric Chahi hadn't gotten behind this port.

    Did you know that his reason for creating Another World in vectors was partially influenced by these terrible ports? He wanted to see if it actually would have been possible for them to recreate the video sequences by tracing and converting them to take up much less memory, and have a similar quality to the arcade version.

    As for DOS sideshows? I love 'em! A few of the stranger ones have even been fun! 😀

  6. I have the DOS CD-ROM version, of which I never could get working right. I don't have the manual for it, but if I remember, it had the LaserDisc video encoded on it, and of course needed VGA. If I can find it, I'd like to donate it if you don't have it.

  7. You want to know who would copy all 13 floppy's, my Dad that's who. Ok so I just got my first five and one quarter inch floppy drive and dug out copies of the dragons lair disks 1,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 and 13 however 2,3,4 and 5 are still missing.(on a side note I found my a copy of PC Worlds Power Base Feb.13,1990)

  8. I remember playing this game at my uncle's house and I remember being excited about the amazing graphics it had. I was thinking to myself that future of gaming is here where character looks like a real character lol. It was amazing for EVGA and I am privilege to experience what it's like to feel excited about it because kids today will never understand it. 

  9. I admit I never liked Dragon's Lair.  As a kid I was blown away by the animation and sound but when you get down to it its not an arcade game as much as a very un-interactive movie.  The trailer that plays on the arcade game promises a fabulous fantasy adventure but it really doesn't deliver as you don't really have any true control over Dirk.

    I had Escape From Singe's Castle on the Amiga which looked miles better than this one but still fell victim to the same lack of playability.

    For me the only really good Dragon's Lair game was Dragon's Lair 3D which finally gave you full control of Dirk and gave some flavour of what the original only hinted at.

  10. Instead of splitting the game over 13 floppy discs, they just could,ve put it on cd , then you had to put in the code to finaly start the game, for what it's worth it, it's an incredible port concidering the limmitations of the pc at the time.

  11. Supposedly the terrible computer ports of Dragon's Lair are what inspired the guy(yes 1 guy) who created Another World (aka Out of this world) as he thought he could make an interactive movie than fit on one disk, rather than 15.

  12. Constant dying on the first screen, lame control response, "pain" to get through – sounds like the NES version, LOL.

  13. Someone should do a vid on weird old protection schemes for games like those ones you held a coloured perspex sheet over and letters show up. Good times.

  14. I believe laserdiscs were analog not digital but can be accessed way more faster than a video cassette which allows the game to run smoothly, the same with American Laser Games titles!

  15. Really interesting version! I've only played the NES and original arcade versions. This one was really interesting. Man, that copy protection though…. holy cow.

  16. All things considered for the time, the hardware they had to work with and the storage medium? At least graphically? It's not that bad. The animation is pretty good, the graphics quality is decent considering EGA and re-using scenes over and over… well… it's on floppies. 😛

    Is there any reason to play it now? Of course not. Was there a reason to play it when it was released? Debatable.

    But all in all, not a HORRIBLE effort given what they had to work with.

  17. I have the Windows version of the game. I don't even understand why I have it since the game is older than me and my first computer was in 2002 but whatever. My Windows version has much better colours and good sound, the gameplay sucks anyway.

  18. actually EGA grapics can look really good, if it uses The 6bit pallet opimization and The full resolution. but hardly and game uses them. i dont know why, but it seams like ega PC port was all lazy.

    A other problem is The really slow frame update, but in a game like dragon layer, its not really a problem because its only part of The screen That updates.

  19. We had a version of Dragon's Lair for Mac. It didn't have the copy protection so that wasnt an issue. Which was "good" I suppose. We lost the manual. XD Imagine trying to figure this game out without the internet, and with no manual. We didn't get very far.

  20. How would it look with a real optimized EGA palet. Well i made a few example. This would be possible to make back in the day, but one would need some specialty hardware (or scans of the original film).

    So this is the original in the EGA resolution (640×350… for some reason the computer converted it to 450×350 when i exported it.. anyway). This what it would look like on a true color monitor. Need a 1MB SVGA card for that.
    https://s29.postimg.org/cuitcuoh3/dragon_true_color.png
    Well it looks like the game. The resolution is a bit lower, but not really that bad.

    So how do it look in EGA.
    https://s29.postimg.org/862thnzaf/dragon_ega_standard_1.png
    Well yea.. horrible. This is worse than most EGA game of the days

    So can this be improved… Well yes. There is a trick. Mix the colors. This can be done when the game is coded and ready to view.
    https://s29.postimg.org/vyc4t71bb/dragon_EGA_standard2.gif
    This is way better. But it still kind of don´t really look like dragon lair, it looks like a pixely mess.

    So can it be improved more.. Well here is a well keepd secreat. What is considered EGA grapics, is really CGA pallet, CGA is 4 collors out of a pallet of 16, EGA is 16 collors out of a pallet of 64. While Diffrent CGA pallets was used quite a lot, this was not true for EGA.. Almost all games used CGA color mode for EGA.
    https://s29.postimg.org/59b73n42v/dragon_ega_high_1.png
    This looks Waay better. Its not as good as the original game, but it does look like it. While its still just 16 colors, its the correct 16 colors. I kind of cheated here and didn´t close match it to the right color of the 64, but it would look fairly similar to this.

    All the images in compressed, that they would need to be have been. Here is a insetting part. The high pallet is just 20kByte on disk, while the low pallet is 27kByte on disk. The low pallet with no mixing is only 12kBytes.

    So… how about both high pallet and mixing… of cause, that can be done.
    https://s29.postimg.org/nq5lugk13/dragon_ega_high_2.png
    Yea…. this is EGA graphics… pushed to the maximum. (kind of), This looks really good. So how big is the pixture…. 34kbyte.

    There is a reason why this was hardly never done on game in the 80-tys… and that is game assets. The devs wanted to use the same for every scene. But there is away around this. That is to have the assets in the same image but out of frame and optimize the pallets for it to. This game is probably the best to do it with. In this seen it would be the man. And there would probably be 10 or 15 copies of him.

    The asset would look something like this… Of cause it could be section of smarter, but the end result would be about the same.
    https://s23.postimg.org/5tssszaij/dragon_EGA_with_assets.png
    So how big is the file now… 41kbyte…. how much fit into a 5,25" one? 140 kbytes…. so just over 3 files of this type. So that is 10 seconds of game play. Reducing the resolution to 320×240 would help (don´t post it, it really just look like the one i posted byt with a bit lower resolution), that would reduce to 27kbyte and would increase performance quite a bit. Would be like a 100 floppy discs. Thow the sceance is much longer in the game, (but contains more assets). A few scenes is almost a minute long, I haven't counted them but i would estimate there is about 100 scenes in the game. So say a 40 kbyte of a average sceen. Making a game made like this about 4MB compressed. THat is 28 disk… while just double that of the actually game.. its way to many.

    A resoble option would be to go for 3.25" flopies.. then it would take 3. While 5.25 was still more common in 1989, the 3.25 was not really rare, and begining to be almost as common. Just about all computers sold in 1989 had both drives, or only a 3.25. I actually never seen a 286 or 386 in real life that didn´t have a 3.25" drive. I bet they existed, but they was not that common. While hardly any 8086 or 8088 had a 3.25" drive, it would be hard for them to run this game anyway.

    So basicly, this game could have been made in a good way

  21. is the castle really purple in this? Im hoping its just my phone having a problem i mean castles aren't purple. Also are there any versions of dragons lair for modern systems that are any good?

  22. I thought even the arcade version was gimmicky due to the very limited choices and movements. They basically added animation cut scenes to what would have been a text adventure.

  23. I remember when a friend of mine got a EGA card & also bought this game to show off its enhanced graphics… the animations, the colors, it was beautiful…. i was sooo jealous. And then we tried to actually play the thing.

  24. I wrote you 7 years ago about this video. I am rewatching it again while working on a funny cartoon. thank you again for making this review!!!!!!

  25. This actually looks amazing if you compare it to the abomination that is the NES release. Only knowing that version, I hated Dragon's Lair until I finally got the chance to play it on an arcade cabinet.

  26. I had what I think is the same version, it was 13ish floppies but didn't have copy protection. The computer I had at the time was below specification (I think 384k ram or something) and I would try to run it anyway. It would start and take about 30 minutes to load the first area but I didn't know how to play (and didn't have the manuals) so I would die every time, and 30 minutes is a long time to wait for loading to try again.

  27. I actually got to play the arcade game recently and I had no idea what was going on the entire time I was playing it I put like 10 quarters in that thing and I still have no idea what happened

  28. This one at least HAS the original gameplay; every other 8/16 bit adaptation is a completely different game with completely different mechanics and gameplay. That being said, I personally don't count the chain of quicktime events that make up the original arcade a "game", and getting my hands on an emulated version of the original was one of the biggest disappointments of my life, but I digress. Bottom line: this conversion at least has got that right to call itself "Dragon's Lair" in contrast to every other home computer version.

  29. I remember this on the Amiga. So frustrating with it's trial and error method (back in the day before internet, to find a walkthrough). I revisited it recently with an emulator on PC, just so I could finish it. Some of the levels are hard to get through, even when you know the key combination.

  30. My college roommate found a glitch on the PC version he had. He build computers, and he found out that the faster the computer ran, the faster the game ran. After a certain speed the game became unplayable. The game never slowed down.

  31. At least it was better than the C64 port, or the abomination on the NES I had as a kid. The best version I have found so far was a DVD playable version.

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