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Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair Package Art

Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair

20 years ago, Don Bluth brought to life one of the most groundbreaking videogames to date-- Dragonís Lair. When the laserdisc-powered title hit arcades in 1983, people went berserk. The title was amazingly animated and featured some rather mature themes, much like any other work that Don Bluth has created. In fact, Dragonís Lair is one of only three arcade titles that reside within the Smithsonian Institute. Now, Encore Software brings Dragonstoneís remake of Dragonís Lair onto the Nintendo GameCube. Well, it shouldnít be called a remake. More like a recreation. Dragonís Lair 3D: Return to the Lair is just thatóa recreation of the amazingly popular arcade title.

In this title, the world of Dragonís Lair has been set in a completely 3D world. However, the game takes us through the original castle filled with traps and obstacles, most of which were found in the original but with nearly 30 hours of gameplay, thereís definitely a lot more at hand here. The game also features some new animated cut scenes, featuring the astounding artwork of Don Bluth, which advances the storyline in more ways than the original. The title feels both nostalgic and very fresh at the same time; however, it isnít without its faults. The overall game feels as if it didnít reach the top of the ladder and other, more solid titles, have taken the lead.


Dragonís Lair 3D looks like itís straight out of the original arcades. The cel-shading engine used in the title is just that amazing. The look that Dragonstone gives this title is seamlessly identical to that of the original laserdisc title. The textures in the game are very bright and full of color. The environments created for Dirk to traverse are nothing short of amazing and truly resemble extremely well produced matte paintings. The titleís graphics are beautiful, solid and the animations are so fluid, youíll imagine that it really is a cartoon.

All that said, the game has a very unsightly problem with the framerate. At 30fps, the title chugs along at a pace unimaginable with todayís standards. When the framerate dips, it is extremely noticeable that it feels rather unstable. If you can overlook the framerate, the title is overall an artistic beauty.


Voice acting in the game is dead-on from the original Arcade classics. However, they can be extremely annoying, especially Daphne. This could be a good thing since Daphne should be overly ditsy, but at times, it's like fingernails on the chalkboard. Very good over the top job! Dirk gives his usual grunts and screams without speaking at all, which is really how it should be as the clumsy hero. Other voices in the game are great and give the player many nostalgic flashbacks to the old laserdisc days.

The music is beautiful, inspired by the original Dragon's Lair titles as well as Don Bluth's other works. The soundtrack to the title is great and is probably the best aspect of the audio. The sound effects are very cute and offer up a lot within the recreation. The swinging of Dirks sword and the strikes he makes on enemies are very clear and entertaining. However, there really isnít anything here that would make anyone boggle.


Dragonstone has done an excellent job at recreating the world of Dragonís Lair while still staying true to the original designs. There are roughly 250 rooms to trek through in Dirkís quest to save Daphne. The title follows a general platformer formulaófight enemies, solve puzzles, and advance to the next stage. Puzzles are a big part of this title, since what part of a mystified castle would be complete without traps, switches and gizmos? The puzzles are fairly straight forward, however some do require a bit of head scratching and prove to give the player enough of a challenge. Sometimes puzzles involve obstacles, much like the original arcade classic. If you fail, you die. This isnít so bad because the game starts you off only a few feet away from where you died and you obviously have unlimited lives. While it can be frustrating at times, it could be much, much worse.

The controls in the game take some getting used to, as they try and follow the basic platform layout, but at the same time try and do something a bit more Zelda-esque. One button can even target an enemy, locking the camera on it while you hack away. The button layout can be a bit confusing, but once you get the hang of it through the first few rooms, itís nothing short of comfortable.

Dragonstone has certainly proven themselves with a faithful redux of the classic Dragonís Lair while still offering something new and enjoyable to the modern crowd. The look, the feel, and the overall atmosphere of Dragonís Lair 3D: Return to the Lair leaves me with nostalgic flashbacks to the original arcade classic. It truly is amazing.




Dragonstone should be commended with a brilliant, faithful recreation of the original Dragonís Lair arcade title. At first, it sounded like a very daunting task to take on, but the team did it brilliantly and managed to still keep with Don Bluthís vision. Amazing work! However, the title still has its shares of problems. With an unstable framerate and average gameplay, the title is subject to skulking in the shadows as more popular titles like Zelda and even Vexx may steal the limelight.

While I wouldnít recommend this game for everyone, I can definitely say that if you ever enjoyed the original arcade title, you owe it to yourself to pick it up. When you do in fact ďreturn to the lairĒ, you wonít be disappointed.

final score 7.5/10

Staff Avatar Austin Starr
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"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"

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