Dragon’s Lair 3D (2002 game) impressions…

Dragon’s Lair 3D (2002 game) impressions… after the break…

Dragon’s Lair 3D (2002 game) impressions…

Since the flea market was a washout (naturally), I thought that I’d write about my impressions of the game “Dragon’s Lair 3D.”

Dragon’s Lair 3D is a modern re-telling of the original Dragon’s Lair arcade game. Dragon’s Lair was a ground-breaking arcade game, one that merged animation and arcade games to form a visually stunning game for it’s time. People ought to remember that Dragon’s Lair’s contemporaries in the video arcade was such stalwarts as Asteroids, Berzerk, Joust & Battlezone. Against that pixelated backdrop, the animation-quality images from Dragon’s Lair was outright futuristic.

Dragon’s Lair’s 3D, unlike it’s hand-drawn animated predecessor, is a polygon rendition of the Dragon’s Lair franchise. The setting is mixed; The environment is presented with traditional textures while the characters are all “cel-shaded,” which is a fancy term meaning that the characters are textured in a way to make them appear more cartoon-like.

In the game, you are Dirk the Daring, the brave but somewhat dim-witted warrior determined to save the beautiful Princess Daphne from the clutches of the evil wizard (it’s always an evil wizard, isn’t it?) Mordrac. In order to save Daphne, you must wind your way through Mordrac’s massive castle, with each room having it’s own unique set of obstacles and puzzles to overcome. Complicating matters further are Mordrac’s creature minions, who are determined to kill you should the puzzles and obstacles fail to do so.

Dragon’s Lair 3D, released in 2002, isn’t a bad game but it is a typical action-puzzler for it’s time. There is a bit of consolitis in the title; While most of the textures are passable (it is a cartoon-ish game and so some forgiveness is allowed) other textures are simply abysmal, even for the time that it was released. One texture that stood out for me was an outside background texture that tries to convey the sense of depth when Dirk is passing from one tower to another. The result produced the exact opposite effect; Making me feel claustrophobic more then making me feel like I was outside on a perilous rope bridge.

The polygon graphics have a slightly chunky, somewhat blocky feel to them which, surprisingly, doesn’t feel horribly dated. There are a few instances where a bit more modeling precision might’ve been necessary; Some wall torches are, literally, upside-down pyramids and the chunkiness is evident whenever the game tries to produce a more refined object, like bedposts. However, given that the game was released in 2002, the graphics aren’t horrible and if you lived through this era of gaming, there’s almost a whiff of nostalgia that occurs.

Of particular note are the cel-shaded characters themselves. Dirk the Daring looks fantastic and the limits of cel-shading are only prevalent in a few close-up shots (for instance, in his hands while he’s hanging onto to a rope or chain). If they could make him look that good in a 2002 game meant for consoles from that era, imagine what they could do today? Other creatures also fare fairly well although their cel-shading limits look a bit more obvious; The small, hopping, sword-wielding dragons called “whelps” are fairly well-made as are the multi-eyed, multi-tentacled water creatures.

Perhaps where the game performs the poorest is in it’s gameplay. The “each room is a puzzle / obstacle / challenge” wears thin remarkably quickly. It’s been a very long while since I’ve played Dragon’s Lair, the original, so I can’t tell how faithful Dragon’s Lair 3D is to the arcade original. It seems as though they are sticking to that original game somewhat, as the first boss, “The Robot Knight,” also appeared in the original game.

Yet questionable gameplay mechanics abound. For instance, switches can only be thrown whenever Dirk hits them with his sword. You can run and jump, walk and jump, or just jump but not sprint and jump. Why? I don’t know. Finally, treasure of varying kinds abound throughout the castle but they don’t pose any distinct advantage. I’ve read that if you collect everything, that you unlock all sorts of amazing powers. That would be nice but some of these treasures are next-to-impossible to get. For instance, in the “Bells and Ropes” stage, there are treasures on top of wooden beams that seem impossible to get unless some sort of complicated mid-air trick is performed. Really? I can’t even find a single instance of that trick being done on YouTube. What am I missing? Also, is there a difference between acquiring a diamond as opposed to a crown when it comes to the treasure?

Finally, the game doesn’t appear to have any modding capabilities so people who want to make their own Dragon’s Lair 3D levels need not apply. Yes, I know that this game is fundamentally a console-port but it’s still not wise to disallow modding, nonetheless.

Overall, the game is OK. A bit of nostalgia helps the game a bit but only a bit and not enough to recommend it to just any individual person. Obviously, people who grew up and enjoyed the original Dragon’s Lair will (and probably already have) enjoy it to a modest degree. People who like action-puzzlers such as Prince of Persia 3D might also enjoy this game as well. For everyone else, though, the choice is ultimately up to you – It’s a 2002 game that shows it’s console limitations quite a bit.

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3 Responses to “Dragon’s Lair 3D (2002 game) impressions…”

  1. qrackerjackquake Says:

    I agree it was a very special game and just found where Quake got some inspiration 😉

    See you around!!

    • qrackerjackquake Says:

      Also just to say… the prolem with the game is that it was pretty hard… costing me too much money (coins) hehe.

      • Lutonaut Says:

        Hi Qrackerjackquake and thank you for reading my blog.

        To tell the absolute truth, I am very close with deleting Dragon’s Lair 3D off of my hard drive. My enthusiasm for continuing to play the game has diminished greatly. The reasons why I am no longer enthusiastic with playing the game is:

        * Seemingly inaccessible treasure – This is the most accessible deal-breaker for me. I have no idea how to maneuver the character from holding onto a rope/chain to somehow leaping backwards(?) and in place to grab the beam directly above you and climb onto it. Yes, I could continue the game without collecting every single piece of treasure but the game is designed to reward you if you do so. I will never understand gameplay decisions that are designed to force you to play less game and this is one of them.

        * No real progression – Each room is it’s own mini-puzzle which, by itself, is not horrible. However, there is no real story progression so far to motivate the player to keep going. It is literally just “Enter room, figure out the puzzle trick to get to the exit, fight off any monsters to get to the exit, reach the exit, go to the next room.” I know that the game is humorous in nature but you still want a story. It’s not enough to just go to the next room but to have some sort of motivation. To be completely fair, QUAKE 1 also suffers from the “enter room, fight monsters, find (key/guns/ammo), find exit, go to next room or level” decision but that is blunted somewhat by the architecture of the levels (It is nowhere near as compartmental as Dragon’s Lair 3D) and what simply feels like a bit more open-ended gameplay.

        * Modability – Quite honestly, modability makes bad games tolerable and tolerable games good. It gives the player a degree of potential control over the product that they paid for. It gives them a new avenue of interactiveness and increases the value of the product. Dragon’s Lair 3D has no such modability; What you see is what you get and, even for 2002, no modability is unacceptable.

        Again, thank you for reading my blog.

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