Tuesday 15 September 2015

Dragon's Lair (NES review)

Developer: MotiveTime
Publisher: CSG Imagesoft
Released: 1990

Dragon's Lair is a side-scrolling platformer that was originally released in 1983 as a Full-Motion-Video LaserDisc game.

It consists of seven stages and your mission is to rescue Princess Daphne from a fire-breathing dragon called Singe. Your main weapon is a low-powered Dagger but along the way you can pick up Axes and Fireballs that destroy enemies with fewer shots. Right from the start the game is a chore to play due to the incredibly clunky controls. Each stage requires fast reflexes to counteract the respawning enemies and deadly traps that can kill you with one hit; however, the controls are so delayed that it's impossible to quickly move from a crouch to a standing position or vice versa. By the time your character reacts to your inputs you've likely already been killed by an enemy projectile and sent back to the start of the level. Your character sprite is large but this works against the game due to the tight quarters you're constantly battling in; as a result your hit box is huge and you'll die often. You're also frequently expected to be a mind-reader and know where the cracks are in the floor; if you suddenly cross one while in the crouching position you'll fall down with no time to recover. Another annoyance is that if you don't know which floor to exit on the end of stage elevator you'll be forced to replay previous levels which is maddening! Once you reach the final stages precise timing is required to jump on moving platforms and crawl under enemy projectiles. It's utterly impossible due to the broken controls but the worst offender is the final boss who can shoot fireballs quicker than you can react. The sprite animation is nice but the backgrounds are full of generic textures. The music is repetitious but there is an option to turn it off.

Dragon's Lair is an interesting attempt at moving an animated FMV game into a side-scroller but it's miserable to play due to the utterly horrendous controls. As it stands it's completely unplayable and easily one of the worst games on the NES.

Random trivia: Although MotiveTime only developed one NES game they did code both Dragon's Lair (1993) and The Adventures of Dr. Franken (1993) on the SNES.

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