Dragon's Lair (NES) Playthrough - NintendoComplete

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  • ℹ️ Published 4 years ago
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A playthrough of CSG (Sony) Imagesoft's 1990 platformer game for the NES, Dragon's Lair.

Dragon's Lair had a version of some kind appearing on most major platforms throughout the late 80s and early 90s. The PC versions represented a valiant attempt at shoehorning as much of the laserdisc version's gameplay as possible onto a few floppy disks, while the more limited home consoles had versions that adapted the story and action to a variety of 2D side-scrolling platformers. The NES version, however, is not among the better ones.

Dragon's Lair on the NES is not a game for impatient people. That needs to be said upfront. It's clear that the designers wanted to remain as faithful to the style and flow of the FMV original in the conversion, and so the great majority of the game relies on careful memorization and split-seconding timing. The attitude and the ambition to this design should be commended. The ways in which they set about doing this should not.

The original game was notorious for its love of coins. It was brutally difficult until you'd spent enough to effectively memorize each of the sequences since the gameplay relies entirely on trial-and-error. Many people in 1983 were willing to forgive the design, though, as the trade-off for such limited gameplay was the ability to "play" a beautifully animated cartoon.

The NES game largely mirrors this design ethos. The scenes are short and fairly straightforward, and they all rely on your having fore-knowledge of the platform and enemy placements. But, while this was a necessary constraint in an interactive movie, the NES game largely ignores the system's strengths.

The graphics are uneven, but are generally good by NES standards. Dirk's sprite is huge and very smoothly animated (it looks almost as if it was rotoscoped), and the larger enemies and the backdrops have a good amount of detail to them - even if they are all recycled entirely too often.

The problem with the graphics, however, is that they were clearly prioritized over the gameplay. Dirk's lengthy, detailed animation cycles look phenomenal, but the control is painfully delayed and sluggish as result. If an enemy is coming at you from the opposite side of the screen, you'd better start hammering the fire button immediately if you hope to kill it before it kills you. If you have to dodge and weave to get past moving obstacles, you'd better have lightning precision in your button presses - Dirk takes *forever* to duck, stand, and jump, and since many attacks will kill him in a single hit, you'll often find yourself getting nailed by projectiles since Dirk struggles to move quickly enough to get out of the way.

The game is excruciatingly hard, though it's not quite as impossible or as broken as it first seems. It really does require absolute mastery, though. Once you've nailed down a sequence, you will be able to repeat the steps consistently and get through without taking much damage. Before then, good luck. It definitely will appeal to people that appreciate the level of dedication and skill Dragon's Lair demands, especially since nothing about it is randomized, and to those that enjoy systematically attacking specific sequences until they've found the patterns. Most people will give up long before they even finish the first level, though, and who can blame them? It takes a very particular type of gamer to embrace this sort of design and to embrace the sheer amount of willpower it requires to finish.

I can't say that I'm one of those people, but I can certainly see the appeal. I spent weeks learning the stages by heart before I could reliably beat it. Now that I've finally managed to do it, I can confidently say that I am not likely ever to go back to it again. I was happy to finish it so that I could finally put it to bed and move on to something a bit less archaic and needlessly taxing. The gameplay and the difficulty level remind me a great deal of the SNES version of Space Ace, though I find that game to overall be far more approachable and entertaining.

Who did they expect would appreciate this on a console? I think that on computers it would've found a far more receptive audience

Overall, Dragon's Lair is an extraordinarily acquired taste. Those that cut their teeth on insanely hard 80s PC action games will likely love it to pieces, but most will balk at the punitive design and the unresponsive controls. I didn't totally hate it, but I'd be perfectly happy to never touch it again.

Approach with caution, Dirk. Only you can decide if Daphne is truly worth the effort.
_
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.


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💬 Comments
Author

Wow, you know, when I was a little girl, use to play this game on dad's old NES system, and I didn't make it much further than James The Angry Video Game Nerd, so actually getting to see the rest of the game was a treat. Thank you so much for this! 👍😀

Author — Mistress Jen

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Imagine beating this at 7 years old. Probably grew up to invent and then cure a disease.

Author — Shawn Brodie

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So just in the beginning you fight an enemy harder than nowadays most games' final bosses. Good.

Author — Meta Ridley

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one of the most frustrating and annoying games ive ever had the displeasure of playing but i gotta give u respec. the pure dedication and trial and error it must have took to complete this video just to give us closure is insane!! thank u <3

Author — Fashie

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I paid 50 QUID for this game back in the day and I think in total I got to the lift section a dozen times before ending in a section where I died immediately.

That is when I learnt that the Nintendo Seal of Quality had fuck all to do with the actual quality of the game itself.

Author — SBandy

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Hardest game for me as a child. Glad to see it was beatable!

Author — J DoDs

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Kudos to the man who's playing through this, and made it past to the end. 👏👏👏

Author — PastelScylla

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There is a pattern with NES games. The shorter they are content wise=the higher the difficulty to compensate and in a way make for more bang for your buck. This game is so obscenely difficult but here we see it beaten inside of 20 minutes!

Author — guardian08527

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i have no idea how you had the patience for this. it's amazing. some of these games you get through...
really snazzy channel. keep it

Author — Matt Hatfield

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I always love it when a game needs to come up with something to represent an item of value to pickup and they're like.. oh how about a G! Why a G? It'll stand for Gold! Brilliant!

Author — burgundy

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I just bought this game, even after watching AVGN, and I did make it past the first dragon lol I just wanted to know for sure it had an end. Thank you sir!

Author — David Turney297

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I first tried this game out yesterday. I soon realized it could be used as some sort of mindfulness activity, a true exercise in patience.

Author — DeadlyDeadlyBeees

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I wonder how many hours you spend in order to memorize this abomination of a game .
Any ways . Thank you from the deep of my heart

Author — kegaan

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I know it sucks but I found it interesting. I never skip ads when watching your channel. I want as much support coming your way as possible.

Author — evildeadmitch

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Dirk's animation is quite good for an 8-bit game! Even... too good? 🤔😮

Author — Kermit

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The entire game is 16 minutes, the LONGEST 16 minutes of your life!!!

Author — Wes Freeman

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Mi niñez en un videojuego.. que recuerdos hermosos la puta madre!!! 🥺

Author — Nicolas Muñoz

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Oh dear... this
Anyway, congrats in beating it.

Author — The Clube Man

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Вот это был единственный УЖАС в прохождении игр тех времён😁😁😁 Автор молодец👍👍👍👍

Author — Олег Максимов

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I can certainly respect what the designers were going for here, but for me personally, I found it far too punitive and slow to be much fun. Dragon's Lair on the NES is a poster-child for games that are an "acquired taste". It's just not to my taste.

Author — NintendoComplete