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Reviewed: Dragon's Lair Blu-Ray Edition
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: June 10th, 2007
Page: 2

Back in the beginning, video games were blocky, bleepy affairs. This didn't seem destined to change; the hardware of the time wasn't up to more. In the early 1980s, some enterprising designers came up with an idea; what if they could create "interactive" animated films? The technology to do this was Laserdisc, the early predecessor to DVD, and it offered designers an opportunity to create semi-interactive twitch games wherein players led characters through fantastic scenes.

The best-known of these is the venerable Dragon's Lair, released in 1983 and featuring the animation style of former Disney animator Don Bluth. This isn't the cuddle Bluth animation of later years, but features a grizzled, daring adventurer known as "Dirk the Daring" (okay, so it's a bit over the top) coming to fulfill the cliche goal of rescuing a kidnapped princess from a conniving sorceror. Somewhat routine? Yes, but the end result was a game that players still come back to; a castle full of fantastic scenes, fun puzzles, and all too many opportunities to get poor Dirk killed.

Enter Digital Leisure, who specialize in reviving and re-releasing these old titles; if not for them, Dragon's Lair might have faded. The hardware was prone to errors in its time, and owners complained of constant breakdowns and issues. By transferring the games to newer, similar systems - DVD, PC DVD, and now Blu-Ray - they've offered players a more reliable option.

The first DVD releases, alas, were tarnished by the fact that the DVD menu system isn't quite as quick as Laserdisc systems; for every button press/menu jump, there's a noticeable delay. On faster systems this is minimal, but it's still present and still occasionally disruptive. Dragon's Lair HD fixed this by having its own menu system and being able to run from the hard drive (albeit taking a DVD worth of space); Dragon's Lair Blu-Ray fixes this simply because the Blu-ray drives and menu systems can handle it by incorporating Java code; the result is a Java port of Dragon's Lair, reproducing the controls and response faithfully rather than trying to piggyback on the DVD menu system. 

The real result is that I'm able to take a PS3 controller, toss in the Dragon's Lair disc, and enjoy the game almost as it was originally, but with stunning surround sound on my widescreen TV. And the transfer is indeed stunning; Digital Leisure have some very nice videos over on the port web site, as well as screenshots.

The other thing Digital Leisure did for the Blu-ray edition, however, is throw in extras. There's a "watch" mode, for seeing the game played perfectly, just to enjoy the original animation. There's a director mode, which features "director's cut"-style interviews overlaid on the game, explaining what the creators were thinking and think of their gem years later; and there's a stunning series of interviews with original creators on the legacy of the title.

If you're looking for a definitive edition of Dragon's Lair - this is it. The transfer quality is so high that the imperfections in the original cellulose film source are actually visible; the gameplay is as close to an arcade machine as you can get without buying and refurbishing one; and unlike DL HD, it's playable from your couch.

Added:  Monday, June 11, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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