This weekend at San Diego Comic-Con, several trailers have stirred up a great deal of nostalgia. Ready Player One had an abundant amount to go around, featuring everything from the DeLorean from Back To the Future to the stomping metal beast from The Iron Giant. But that’s not all, as Stranger Things’ latest trailer reminded us just how awesome things used to be in the 80’s.
In the beginning of the trailer, which you can see above, you see the crew arrive at their local arcade (which looks just like the real deal – this place exists, right?) and take part in a game of Dragon’s Lair, only for Dirk the Daring to fail in his quest in rescuing Princess Daphne.
We saw quite a few people ask about Dragon’s Lair, so we thought we’d provide a little history lesson on the game, as well as who was all involved and what games we’ve seen from the series since its release – along with what could be next.
An Ideal Creation
The original Dragon’s Lair was produced in 1983 and was released by Cinematronics using laser-disc technology. That means footage could actually be played along with, like an interactive movie, with the player making choices in each of the game’s various stages to keep the main hero, Dirk the Daring, alive long enough to rescue his beloved Princess Daphne, being kept under lock and key by the villainous Singe the Dragon.
If the animation art style looks familiar, it should. The game was put together by ex-Disney animator Don Bluth, who has since gone on to direct a number of works, including The Land Before Time, An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH and Titan A.E., amongst other works.
By utilizing laser-disc technology, the game was able to go leaps and bounds over other sprite-based efforts in the era, and create a unique experience. Sure, once you were “one and done” and were able to beat the dragon, that was really about it, but the mixture of stages that Dirk comes across – they’re scrambled in no particular order – makes it worth playing through again, just to “master” it in all its completion.
The Legacy, And Space Ace
Dragon’s Lair lived on for several years in arcades, and continues to be a favorite at certain trade shows today. Various home releases followed over the years, including the Philips CD-I, the 3DO, the Sega CD and the Nintendo Wii, as part of the Dragon’s Lair Trilogy release. A digital version also arrived for Xbox 360 (it’s backwards compatible on Xbox One) and PlayStation 3, and a Blu-Ray release came out from Digital Leisure years ago. It’s since gone out of print, and fetches pretty high demand on Blu-Ray.
The release of Dragon’s Lair turned out to be a big hit for Cinematronics, which led to the debut of a more intricate laser-disc adventure in 1984, Space Ace. Featuring longer stages to get through, a beautiful art style (once again put together by Bluth) and dialogue between the characters (namely Space Ace and Commander Borf – “You cannot win!”), the game also featured selectable difficulty settings, with Ace serving as the “supreme” level, where players could go through the entire game.
Space Ace turned out to be a big hit as well, and also saw various home releases, including 3DO, Sega CD and Blu-Ray.
A Return To Glory
Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace eventually faded from popularity around the early 90’s, mainly due to the arcade scene seeing a shift into home releases. But that didn’t stop the Leland Corporation from releasing Dragon’s Lair II: Timewarp into arcades, and finding a neat little surge in nostalgia as a result.
The game features Dirk as he faces off against the evil wizard Mordroc, who has kidnapped Daphne and whisks her across various time eras, including Beethoven’s studio (where Dirk is pint-sized and has to avoid being eaten by his cat), Egyptian times and even Alice In Wonderland – a nice little throwback for fans of Disney’s work.
Though the game wasn’t a financial success, it did drum up the laserdisc market again, and Timewarp would eventually see a home release for CD-I and through the Dragon’s Lair Trilogy on Wii, as well as mobile and Blu-Ray. And it would lead to the release of other games in the Dragon’s Lair series, including Dragon’s Lair III: The Curse of Mordread (which utilized unused footage from Timewarp) and Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair, a 3D adventure produced for Xbox and GameCube.
So What’s Next?
Dirk the Daring and Dragon’s Lair have survived plenty of speed bumps in the arcade game scene to remain relevant – including that awesome mention in the new Stranger Things trailer. But his adventure isn’t over yet, as Bluth, working alongside his partner Gary Goldman, announced an IndieGogo campaign for a new Dragon’s Lair animated film. It was well funded enough for the duo to put their pitch together, and it’s currently in the works.
Bluth and Goldman have noted that the film will provide more back story for the couple, indicating that she’s more than just a damsel in distress, despite what the games have portrayed. They haven’t elaborated how the script will do this yet, but a project update should come soon, providing more detail on this.
It’s great to see Dragon’s Lair is still getting its proper due well over 30 years past its arcade debut, and who knows, Stranger Things Season 2 might just motivate some players to hunt down the game and give saving the princess a try. No matter how many times Dirk dies...