Dragon's Lair Wiki
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This article is about the 1983 game. For other meanings, see Dragon's Lair.

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"Lead on, adventurer. Your quest awaits. "
—Narrator

 Dragon's Lair is an interactive laserdisc video game created by Rick Dyer and Don Bluth in 1983, and the first game in the Dragon's Lair series. The game itself is most famous for its featured animation by the aforementioned Ex-Disney animator Don Bluth and using LaserDisc technology, offering amazing graphics compared to other video games that had been created around its time.

The game tells the story of a knight named Dirk the Daring who journeys off to save the beautiful Princess Daphne from an evil dragon. On his quest inside the Castle, he must overcome many obstacles placed in front of him: evil ghosts, monsters and reptiles that attempt to stop him at all costs.

Dragon's Lair was a major success and saw numerous ports, sequels and related media, being considered a historical game.

Story

Dirk the Daring, a brave but somewhat clumsy knight ventures off to a dark and mysterious castle to rescue the beautiful damsel in distress, Princess Daphne, from an evil dragon known as Singe. As Dirk travels deep inside the Castle, he is met with deadly obstacles, ravenous monsters and chaotic ghosts that are bent on killing him and ending his quest to rescue Daphne. 

Daphne is stored away deep inside the castle's treasure room, held inside a magic bubble that is only penetrable via the small golden key that is wrapped around Singe's neck. 

Gameplay

Dragon's Lair's gameplay is based on what later became known as quick time events, meaning that Dirk is not controlled by the direct actions the player gives him, but rather his reflexes, via full motion video. Progress in the game is determined by which way the player moves Dirk: the chosen direction determines whether Dirk is met with being able to advance, or with a comical or brutal death. The game's controls are a joystick or control pad for navigating Dirk around obstacles and an action button which typically involves him using his sword for slaying enemies or cutting his path through. 

In the original game, level progression is random, and some areas are mirrored and need to be played more than once. However, some home ports give the option to go through a fixed path through the castle with some mirrored levels not being present, providing a quicker play through the game. 

Levels

If set to "Home Mode", the game will follow this order:

  • Drawbridge (Level 1) 

Dirk comes into the castle in this opening scene. Dirk slowly walks towards the castle door crossing the lowered drawbridge until he falls through, but quickly catches himself only to be met with tentacle-eye monsters lurking inside the moat, that lunge at him.

  • Entrance (Level 2)

Dirk makes his way into the castle, again walking slowly and taking in the environment, until the ground beneath him gives way and the ceiling above him begins to fall.

  • Tentacles (Level 3)

Making his way into a seemingly empty weapon room, Dirk is met with tentacles that appear before him in all directions which would try to corner him and trap him in the middle of the room.

  • Snakes (Level 4)

As in Tentacles, Dirk is trapped in a dungeon with snakes that emerge from the ceiling, walls and the eerie fog that covers Dirk's feet.

  • Fire Ropes (Level 5)

Dirk walks through a door welcoming himself to a pit of fire hovered over by three burning ropes. The door closes behind him, and the pillar he had been standing on begins slowly retracting into the wall. Dirk's only option is to swing from the ropes before they burn out above him.

  • Pool Room (Level 6)

Dirk arrives in a room with a body of water in the center of it. The ceiling and floor quickly cave in on Dirk as he avoids the two by leaping to the edge of the room only to be met with the wall revealing  rocketed daggers that Dirk quickly rolls away from. Back in the center of the room, the room continues to disintegrate a leaving the knight's only option to jump into the body of water where snakes emerge from one of the pool's walls. Dirk quickly escapes retreating to what is left of the room where es is greeted by a spider that crawls down to him from above. Dirk makes quick work of the spider jumping to the last bits of the room where two single tiles beneath and above Dirk start to meet in hopes of crushing him. 

  • Wizard's Chamber (Level 7) 

Dirk walks up to a cauldron that quickly spurts out a large amount of hot liquid covering a large amount of the floor that Dirk quickly dodges as he makes his way to a flask that he inspects before being met with a large monster emerging from the bubbly liquid that Dirk smites with ease. Afterwards a large astral being emerges from the cauldron and attacks Dirk in which he also defeats in a quick swipe. Although the first monster had been defeated, the liquid quickly gathers and covers the floor quickly surrounding the knight. 

Arising from a trap door, Dirk begins to make his way up a flight of stairs until from behind, he is under attack by a gang of Giddy Goons. Dirk slays one of them and makes his way upstairs where he is surrounded by four of them.

  • Flattening Stairs (Level 9)

Making his way down a staircase, the stairs underneath him flatten creating a slant that makes Dirk slide down until he catches himself and retreats to the stairs that didn't change. As he arrives near the pit, The tentacle monsters from the drawbridge return and attack Dirk once more but Dirk fends them off and quickly walks up the stairs to the door. The stairs once again become slanted leaving Dirk to choose between the door and a nearby chain.

Inside a ring of fire, Dirk finds himself face to face with a floating dagger as well as floating mace that he knocks back easily until an unsuspecting anvil rises and charges at Dirk to which he swiftly dodges. Dirk fends off a charging spear then climbs upward to set his sword above magical flame in hopes of possibly enhancing it until a nearby statue comes to life swinging his ax at Dirk.

An uneased Dirk approaches a spectral man after crossing a bridge filled underneath with spikes and avoiding to spiraling clubs. Dirk jumps to him while being surrounded by sprouting thorns, and the hero quickly vanquishes the spectre as the thorns grow and circle around him.

  • Wind Room (Level 12)

A mysterious hand pulls Daphne away as she yells out to Dirk to save him. following her voice, Dirk opens a door that quickly pushes him back but changes its current and pulls him inside trapping him in a vortex filled with knick-knacks and furniture until he sets his eyes on a large shiny gem.

  • Bedroom (Level 13)

Dirk walks through a bedroom until bricks magically appear creating a wall in hopes of trapping Dirk in one side of the room.

  • Fire Room (Level 14)

In a seemingly empty red room, a bench falls from the ceiling with lightning bolts striking it down forming trails of fire that Dirk to move around avoiding it until multiple bolts cause an inferno in the room.

  • Flying Barding (Level 15)

Dirk quickly boards a mechanical steed that quickly takes off at full speed with Dirk just barely managing to navigate its direction. As he flies through the room, Dirk is met with walls of fire that he must avoid in order to advance.

Daphne is once again pulled by a mysterious hand as she yells out to her hero. Dirk begins to chase her until a robotic knight appears sending electric shock waves that Dirk avoids approaching the knight before dueling it.

Now in the hands of a Crypt Creep, Daphne once again calls out to Dirk as he is attacked from behind by a group of bouncing skulls. Dirk leaps out of harm's way, then a large skeletal claw emerges from a room attempting to grab Dirk, but is defeated by a mighty swing from the knight, who proceeds to advance forward now having to avoid a swarm of black flesh-eating bugs. Another claw appears behind Dirk but is equally destroyed as he runs in the direction Daphne was taken, quickly getting surrounded by the ghoulish Crypt Creeps.

  • Catwalk (Level 18)

Dirk makes his way through a crumbling bridge that he quickly runs through to avoid falling until he is met by vicious bats in which Dirk battles before advancing forward. Dirk makes a large leap that causes the bridge to cave in. 

  • Bat King (Level 19)

Dirk approaches another stairway that is overrun by bats that briefly blind him before he fights them off as he makes his way down the stairs. Like before, the stair crumble beneath him forcing Dirk to jump over the gap of the staircase before going lower down the stairs. As Dirk approaches the exit, Dirk is met by the Bat King who roars at him loudly.

  • Falling Platforms (Level 20)

Dirk jumps onto a circular platform that quickly drops downward forcing Dirk into trying to find a way off the platform and onto safety.

A strange magnetic pot of gold steals Dirks sword which catches the attention of the dreaded lizard king who swings at him with his scepter. The pot of gold flees away with the sword making Dirk have to catch up to it with the Lizard King hot on his tail. Dirk eventually catches the sword finally engaging in a duel with the King. 

  • Drink Me (Level 22) 

Dirk walks into a room similar to the cauldron room where he is met with a flask that has a sign reading "DRINK ME" hovering above it with a trail of fire spontaneously spawning behind him.

  • Tilting Room (Level 23)

Inside a room where the room seesaws up and down, Dirk climbs up the floor before getting to his feet. The floor quickly plummets down as it knocks a torch down setting fire to the floor as it also begins to magically disappear tile by tile. With tiles thinning, Dirk is left but to jump to one of two doors. 

  • Throne Room (Level 24)

Dirk makes his way to the throne room where a crystal ball centered in the middle of the room takes his helmet and sword in the same vain as the pot of gold. The floor soon electrifies surrounding Dirk as he makes his way to the throne for safety. 

  • Underground River (Level 25)

As he journeys on, Dirk falls through the ground to a body of water until he is caught by a barrel with a paddle inside. He quickly sails on entering a river called "YE BOULDERS" where Dirk sails away from large boulders and stalagmites before making his way to "YE RAPIDS". Dirk finally makes his way to "YE WHIRLPOOLS" where he slowly sails away from large whirlpools before being flung into the air ejected from the barrel. 

Dirk slowly walks through a volcanic area until he is under attack by large mudmen that emerge from large craters. He tries to battle them but no avail, Dirk runs away from the Mudmen while avoiding geysers, firewalls, lava pits and rivers that lead to magma. 

In a mysterious cave, a bolt of lightning strikes Dirk's sword before a knight in black armor riding a large steed attacks and scares as spikes emerge from the ground catching him off guard.

  • Boulder Trench (Level 28) 

Dirk approaches a large rainbow half-pipe that are occupied by colorful rolling spheres. Suddenly a larger black sphere rolls behind Dirk ensuing a chase down the half-pipe crushing every sphere in its way.

  • Three Caves (Level 29)

Dirk makes his way through a cave that holds three tunnels that lead to certain areas until suddenly a cage traps Dirk forcing him to only enter one tunnel with electric shock waves behind him. Dirk makes his way through a slamming door before being met with a lava pit that stops him with the electric floor still chasing after him.

  • The Dragon's Lair (Final level)

Dirk makes his way into a treasure room, instantly feasting his eyes on Princess Daphne who is held prisoner in the Bubble of Helotry. Dirk silently makes his way to the captive princess being careful not to awaken the sleeping Singe. Daphne instructs Dirk to save her by retrieving the key around the dragon's neck, who can only be defeated by the use of the magic sword embedded in a large diamond. Singe wakes up and chases Dirk, who then makes his way to the sword, retrieving it then having his final duel with the evil dragon.

Ports

Due to the game's great popularity, Dragon's Lair received a large number of ports through various systems. However, because of the functions of computers and consoles, some ports are not truly identical to the original game and even switch the entire game's genre to a side-scrolling platformer.

  • Coleco Adam - 1984

  • Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 - 1986

  • Amiga, DOS - 1989

  • Atari ST, Macintosh Plus/SE, Nintendo Entertainment System (Released as a platformer) - 1990

  • Macintosh - 1991

  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Released as a platformer), Sega CD, 3DO - 1993

  • CD-I - 1994

  • Atari Jaguar CD - 1995

  • Windows/Windows 95 - 1997

  • Home DVD, Windows 98 - 1998

  • Game Boy Color (Published by Capcom), Playstation 2 - 2000

  • Xbox, Windows XP - 2001

  • Mobile Phone - 2005

  • Home Blu-Ray players, Home HD DVD players - 2007

  • iPhone, Nintendo DS (DSi Ware) - 2009

  • iPad, Playstation Network - 2010

  • Playstation Portable, Nintendo 3DS (DSi Ware), Android - 2011

  • Xbox Live Arcade - 2012

  • MacOS - 2013

  • Linux - 2017

  • TI-99/4a - 2019

Technical details

The original laserdisc players shipped with the game (Pioneer LD-V1000 or PR-7820) often failed. Although the players were of good quality, the game imposed unusually high strain: Laserdisc players were designed primarily for playing movies, in which the laser assembly would gradually move across the disc as the data was read linearly. However Dragon's Lair required seeking different animation sequences on the disc every few seconds—indeed, less than a second in some cases—as dictated by gameplay. The high amount of seeking, coupled with the length of time the unit was required to operate, could result in failure of the laserdisc player after a relatively short time. This was compounded by the game's popularity. As a result, the laserdisc player often had to be repaired or replaced.

The life of the original player's gas laser was about 650 hours; although later models had solid state lasers with an estimated life of 50,000 hours, the spindle motor typically failed long before that. It is rare to find a Dragon's Lair game intact with the original player, and conversion kits have been developed so the units can use more modern players.

The original USA 1983 game used a single side NTSC laserdisc player manufactured by Pioneer; the other side of the disc was metal backed to prevent bending. The European versions of the game were manufactured by Atari under license and used single side PAL discs manufactured by Philips and not metal backed.

The European arcade version of Dragon's Lair was licensed to Atari Ireland (as was Space Ace later). The cabinet design was therefore different from the Cinematronics version. The main differences were that the LED digital scoring panel was replaced with an on screen scoring display appearing after each level. The Atari branding was present in various places on the machine (marquee, coin slots, control panel and speaker grill area), and the machines featured the cone LED player start button used extensively on Atari machines. Although licensing for this region was exclusive to Atari, a number of Cinematronics machines were also available from suppliers mostly via import.

Reception

Dragon's Lair initially represented high hopes for the then-sagging arcade industry, fronting the new wave of immersive laser disc video games. A quote from Newsweek captures the level of excitement displayed over the game: "Dragon's Lair is this summer's hottest new toy: the first arcade game in the United States with a movie-quality image to go along with the action... The game has been devouring kids' coins at top speed since it appeared early in July. Said Robert Romano, 10, who waited all day in the crush at Castle Park without getting to play, "It's the most awesome game I've ever seen in my life". Arcade operators at its release reported long lines, even though the game was the first video arcade game to cost 50 cents. Operators were concerned however that players would figure out Dragon's Lair's unique predefined game play, leading them to "get the hang of it and stop playing it". By July of 1983, 1000 machines had been distributed, and there were already a backlog of about 7,500. By the end of 1983, Electronic Games and Electronic Fun were rating Dragon's Lair as the number one video arcade game in USA, while the arcade industry gave it recognition for helping turn around its 1983 financial slump. Dragon's Lair received recognition as the most influential game of 1983, to the point that regular computer graphics looked "rather elementary compared to top-quality animation". By February of 1984, it was reported to have grossed over $32 million for Cinematronics. One element of the game that was negatively received was the blackout time in between loading of scenes, which Dyer promised would be eliminated by the forthcoming Space Ace and planned Dragon's Lair sequel. By the middle of 1984 however, after Space Ace and other similar games were released to little success, sentiment on Dragon's Lair's position in the industry had shifted and it was being cited as a failure due to its expensive cost for a game that would "lose popularity". In 2001, GameSpy ranked Dragon's Lair as #7 on the list of "Top 50 Arcade Games of All-Time".

Dirk was well received as a character by reviewers, who felt that "unlike some video game heroes, Dirk's personality has a comic, human side to it". Princess Daphne received mixed reception. Often cited as one of the most attractive characters in video game history, as well as being one of the key damsels in distress in gaming, she also garnered negative reactions for her ditsy voice and scantily-clad appearance. Bluth described her by stating "Daphne's elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor, but she served a purpose", a character flaw decried by critics of the game who perceived it to be violent and sexist. In 2009, Singe was ranked 93rd in IGN's "Top 100 Videogame Villains".

Legacy

Main article: Games

Animated adaptation

Main article: Dragon's Lair (TV series)

Comics adaptation

Main article: Dragon's Lair (comics)

Gallery

Trivia

  • Dragon's Lair is currently one of only three video games (along with Pong and Pac-Man) on permanent display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
  • The narrator of the opening sequence mentions a dark wizard that controls the entire castle, but is not seen or ever mentioned again in the game. This is most likely the same as Mordroc, a sorcerer that would make his debut as the main antagonist in Dragon's Lair II.
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