Dragon's Lair (1990 video game)

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Dragon's Lair
Dragon's Lair NES cover.jpg
Developer(s) MotiveTime
Composer(s) Mark Cooksey
Series Dragon's Lair
Platform(s) NES
  • JP: September 20, 1991
Genre(s) Action-platformer
Mode(s) Single-player or Two-player (taking turns)

Dragon's Lair (ドラゴンズレア, Doragonzu Rea) is a side-scrolling platform game based on the laserdisc game of the same name released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and developed by the MotiveTime group. Plotwise, the game is identical to the original.


The Drawbridge, the first level of the game

The game has been regarded as a difficult side-scroller, in part due to the slow movement of the main character, particularly evident in the opening screen of the game. Dirk can walk, crawl, or jump forward, and he has an array of weapons that he can discover and use to dispose of enemies. The controller layout is reversed from other mainstream NES titles, with Select functioning as the Pause-button while Start is used for the Candle object (which helps reveal hidden weapons). Also, B is used for jumping, and A for attacking (the input of the A & B buttons is almost always the opposite in similar NES games).


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 1.5/5 stars[2]
Defunct Games (F)[3]

Due to the game's sluggish pace and the fact that most enemies are able to instantly kill Dirk with one touch (only the smallest enemies, such as bats, drain Dirk's life bar instead of killing him outright), the game received extremely negative reviews for its high difficulty level. The game is not unbeatable, but requires the player to learn the timing of the game's enemies and obstacles through repetition. The game's poor controls, lack of checkpoints, and finite number of lives, however, make this nearly impossible and unplayable.

Another factor adding to the game's immense difficulty is the fact that the player can only lose five lives before being forced to start the entire game over. Also, in between levels, the player is taken to an elevator that travels between different floors, like in the arcade game. If the player gets off at the correct floor, they can continue the game. If the player gets off at the wrong floor, they are forced to replay a previous level.

The PAL and Japanese NTSC releases of the game stored the animation data in ROM, which greatly improved the game's frame rate and therefore responsiveness at the cost of a more expensive cartridge. However, the game was still considered remarkably difficult by the European games press.

Regional differences

The European and Japanese versions of the games had major modifications made to them before being released in their respective countries, as the USA release was first. The speed of both versions is faster, including the music. There is also a specific death animation when a door hits Dirk, where it will squish him down to his helmet and boots walking around briefly, instead of turning into a skeleton. Also, there is an image shown before the start of each level with the level's name and its boss. The bunch of snakes that acted as a boss in the second level of the USA version has now been replaced by one giant snake. The international releases are also harder, with some enemies being replaced. During the elevator level, there are rocks that fall from the ceiling which can kill the player instantly.

The jump button has been changed from B to Up in the Japanese release.


  • The Drawbridge
  • The Dungeon
  • The Elevator
  • The Mines
  • The Reaper's Domain
  • The Dragon's Lair
  • The Lizard King's Throne Room (bonus level)

After the Dungeon section the player must go through an elevator stage where the player dodges falling rocks and must jump out at the appropriate floor to enter the next level. The player cannot explore freely, but instead jumping on the wrong floor forces him to replay the previous level. The Lizard King's throne room is located at the bottom and can be entered anytime to recover all the gold that the Lizard King has stolen from the player. Unlike everywhere else, here touching the Lizard King leads to an instant death. Artwork for the game was provided by Don Bluth[citation needed], animator of the original Dragon's Lair laserdisc game.


The game was panned by critics and gamers alike due to its poor controls, trudging movement and immense difficulty level. Gamers especially criticized the game for the player dying from one hit by any object or enemy. The game has been universally regarded as one of the worst video games ever made.


  1. ^ Dragon's Lair Release Data at gamefaqs.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
  2. ^ Michael Baker, Christopher. "Dragon's Lair - Review". Allgame. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 
  3. ^ Lachel, Cyril (May 22, 2012). "Dragon's Lair Review for NES (1990)". Defunct Games. Retrieved January 7, 2014. 

External links

  • Dragon's Lair on IMDb
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