If there?s one thing that Wii owners always have available to them, it is a steady stream of arcade anthology discs. Some of them, like the Namco Museum titles, sell themselves with the popularity and enduring likability of the included games, while others, such as releases from SNK and Data East are tweaked for a more dedicated fan base. Dragon’s Lair Trilogy falls under both categories as this well known property has stood the test of time thanks to its hardcore fans and one of a kind animation.
For people who have never played the three games included in this collection, which are Dragon?s Lair, Dragon?s Lair II: Time Warp, and Space Ace, the gameplay will probably seem greatly limited by today?s standards. Space Ace is a bit more colorful and manic than the Dragon?s Lair games, but the basic game is the same every time. As a cartoon plays onscreen, the player is required to press either a directional or action button the second that the corresponding icon appears on screen. (For arcade purists, the icons can be removed, which drastically increases the difficulty, but makes the game close to identical to its arcade counterpart.) The easiest comparison between these and current games would be to say that they?re like rhythm games, but since music isn?t a factor and the button presses are relatively infrequent, even that?s a stretch.
The most noticeable thing about the games in Dragon?s Lair Trilogy, at least for newcomers, will probably be that all of these games are thumb numbingly difficult. Finishing any of these games on the higher levels of difficulty with the standard number of lives will require flawless timing, hours upon hours of level memorization, and the patience of a preschool teacher with frequently over-caffeinated students. The presence of an easy mode and an infinite lives setting makes the games more accessible, but even then, you?ll still get plenty of opportunity to enjoy the numerous death animations.
To be completely fair to these games, I think that everything in Dragon?s Lair Trilogy works exactly as it is supposed to. The button presses are responsive, and if you get killed, it?s always fairly evident that the death was your fault. Still, the shallow and difficult gameplay will likely not impress newcomers to the series.
What will make an impression on gamers who have never seen the Dragon?s Lair games before is the game?s appearance. It?s fairly rare for a game made in 1983 to stand up against games released now, but the detailed and hand-drawn animation found in each of these titles certainly pulls that off. As minimal as the gameplay is, I found it really cool, even now, to sit down and actually play a cartoon. The traditional cel animation may limit interactivity, but even the newest sprite based and cel shaded games can?t match the look of it.
Though the graphics in these games remains impressive 27 years after their debut, the sound doesn?t hold up at all. The music isn?t great in any of the included games, but it?s at least inoffensive and doesn?t at all detract from the gameplay. The voice acting, on the other hand, is horrible, especially in the original Dragon?s Lair. All of the female characters have awful, breathy voices, the acting is awkward sounding, and the repetitive screeching found in Space Ace is infuriating. I don?t know if this bothered gamers when these were originally released, but it drove me insane.
If you?re a gamer on the market for any of the Dragon?s Lair games, then Dragon?s Lair Trilogy will probably be well worth purchasing for you. The Wii?s television display is better for mindless admiration of the graphics than the smaller scale DSi and iPhone ports are, and getting all three games for $30 dollars is doubtlessly a better deal than buying each of them individually on $40 Blu-Ray discs. For players unfamiliar with these games, however, a rental might be the better option, as the piles of difficulty options only add replay value for people who actually decide that they want to play the games multiple times.