The Game: As valiant but clumsy knight Dirk the Daring, you’re on a hazardous quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a huge, hungry dragon. There are all kinds of dangers on the way, including Giddy Goons, the Black Knight, the Smithee, the Lizard King, and all kinds of other evil critters and contraptions. (Capcom, 2001)
Memories: In the pre-Game Boy Advance days, developers were pushing the envelope of what the 10-year-old handheld system could do. 1999’s Star Wars Racer included a brief, soundless black & white video clip in its intro sequence, and Dragon’s Lair – a holy grail of retrogaming that had only recently been done justice as an interactive DVD game – promised to pack the fully-animated arcade game of the same name into a Game Boy Color cartridge, an astounding technical feat.
Unfortunately, Dragon’s Lair for the GBC delivers too much of the Lair gaming experience and stops a little bit short of duplicating its gorgeous graphics. You’re stuck with the rat-in-a-maze, push-the-right-control-at-the-right-time-or-else game play without getting those Don Bluth animated scenes as a reward. Instead, the scenes are served up as a crude digitized imitation. I have no doubt that they’re based on the actual Dragon’s Lair video, but minimized in size and more or less rotoscoped into low-res animations.
Game play itself is frustrating – that part of the Dragon’s Lair experience is conveyed accurately, at least. There’s a nifty little “learning mode” to help you practice, but basically all you can come away with there is memorization of what to do in certain scenes, and the training mode only takes you through a finite number of them. Truthfully, it’s not much more of a game now than it was way back when.
Dragon’s Lair for the Game Boy Color was a valiant attempt to do something new with that platform before Nintendo changed everything around with the Game Boy Advance (and later the DS). But while it may deliver a certain amount of nostalgia for the original arcade game, it certainly doesn’t make any advances in the annals of game play.