Comparing Translations: Dragon's Lair
 
The original game -- As it appeared in the arcades back in 1983, Dragon's Lair essentially was an interactive cartoon film on a video laserdisc that was controlled by a game program inside a computer hooked up to the disc player.  What determines the video sequence that gets played is what actions the player selects at key moments through the use of a joystick or an action button.  Only one action causes the player's character to survive to the next move; any other action (even a non-action) would result in the player-character's death.  Because of this, the game becomes a simple test of memorization where how far you get in the game is determined by how many correct moves you can remember.
 
The story of the game isn't anything particularly new -- a brave knight goes to save a beautiful princess from an evil dragon -- but former Walt Disney animator Don Bluth manages to make the overused story plot entertaining, including the various characters such as Dirk the Daring, who exhibits a bravery that has less to do with having no fear and more to do with dealing with fear.
 
The game, as mentioned in a previous article, was successful enough to enable Don Bluth and his Starcom/Magicom partner Rick Dyer to develop a second similar game called Space Ace, which featured more complex action due to the fact that, at certain points in the game, the player can choose to "power up" from being a teenage weakling to a strong man in order to conquer tougher obstacles for more points.  However, as arcade manufacturers and operators enjoyed a rather brief flirtation with the laserdisc videogame technology, the partnership Bluth and Dyer had would not last.  Dyer would go on to develop a home-based laserdisc-operated computer system called the Halcyon, and one of its primary games, Thayer's Quest, would take Dragon's Lair's concept even further by allowing players to think out moves before committing them through a pad-like keyboard controller.  Bluth, meanwhile, would attempt to sequelize the Dragon's Lair game, only for the project to languish until the late 1980s, where it was completed in time for Leland Corporation to market it as a laserdisc videogame in an era where American Laser Games would bring forth a string of laserdisc-operated target-shooting games for the arcades.
 
Dragon's Lair (Coleco/Adam) -- Coleco, to its credit, attempted to bring forth Dragon's Lair as it originally appeared in the arcades to home audiences through a proposed laserdisc attachment or something for the ColecoVision game system.  Unfortunately, the downslide of the market for arcade-oriented laserdisc videogames in the mid-1980s caused Coleco to reconsider the idea, opting instead to convert the game into a more conventional type of videogame for the Adam Family Computer System that used the system's memory, audio, and graphics capability to supply the sound and visuals.  The result was a game that spanned several levels, with some that featured action similar to that of the arcade version's (push the stick in the right direction or press the button at the right time to proceed) and some with action more like a standard videogame.  The falling disk level of Coleco's Dragon's Lair, for example, had players manually jump onto the falling disk and then, once they're on the disk, try to stay on it as an Air Genie tries to blow Dirk off the edge.  Another example is the burning ropes level, which in this version has been made into a platform-jumping level where Dirk must time his jumps from rope to rope and from platform to platform.  Sadly, this game came out at the same time that Coleco discontinued its support for both the Adam and the ColecoVision. This version was also translated and released for the Commodore 64 by Electronic Arts.
 
Dragon's Lair (Readysoft/Sega CD) -- Prior to the advent of DVD technology, game programmers would attempt to convert video into a digital format that could be run off a computer from a CD-ROM.  The Canadian company Readysoft would use this technology to try converting Dragon's Lair into a game that can be played on a CD-ROM-enabled PC as well as for the Sega CD, the Panasonic/Goldstar 3DO, and the Atari Jaguar CD.  As far as transfers go, the Sega CD version would suffer not only certain levels being cut out from the overall game and some levels edited, but also the video itself would be so grainy with bleached-out colors and some rather jerky animation.  Action-wise, Readysoft's version of Dragon's Lair copied the arcade game's action-controlling style, but is somewhat more demanding as far as activating moves at a precise time, making playing sessions less enjoyable.
 
Dragon's Lair (Digital Leisure/Nintendo DSi) -- While this wasn't the first portable version of the Dragon's Lair arcade game (Data East released a version for the Gameboy Color around 2000), it's the first to be offered for the Nintendo DSi handheld system as solely downloadable software, at least until Destineer released it on a cartridge. It's a pretty good transfer that kept much of the audio-visual quality and the gameplay of the arcade original intact, plus it also offered both an arcade mode with randomized dungeons and a home version mode with the dungeons in a certain order, which included the deleted drawbridge sequence. For folks who need to play the game on the go, this is definitely a required purchase, and it even looks good on the big-screened DSi XL.