Dragon’s Lair is a beloved franchise that originated in arcades, before being ported to different consoles. With Dragon’s Lair Trilogy launching on Xbox One recently, I couldn’t resist installing it on my Xbox. To my surprise, each game in the collection (Dragon’s Lair 1 +2 and Space Ace) was entirely made of QTEs. As it turns out, my first foray into the franchise was 2002’s Dragon’s Lair 3D, an action platformer. While I was initially turned off by this realization, my time with Dragon’s Lair Trilogy helped me respect the influence it had on modern gaming.
The first two Dragon’s Lair games follow Dirk the Daring as he attempts to rescue the kidnapped Princess Daphne. The first game takes place entirely in the titular lair. There are bats, goblins, magic-infused enemies, and traps that attempt to immobilize our hero. Players basically watch a film and press the appropriate button to move the narrative forward. Playing the arcade version will send Dirk to a random scene among death, while the home version has players attempting a room until completion. The quick time events leave little room for error. In fact, the timing for some of the events required more precision than I expected.
While the first game is pretty linear, Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp offers something a little different. The quick time events are back, but you’ll need to collect treasures to actually reach the end. During my first run-through, I made it to the end and was told that I needed to collect missing treasures. This sends the player back to the first treasure you failed to discover. Finding them requires an eagle eye and fast reflexes. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I missed the freaking golden butterfly. It’s interesting to see how much the franchise evolved since the original installment.
Space Ace, while not technically a Dragon’s Lair game, was included in the trilogy for some reason. It follows a man named Dexter, who energizes himself into the heroic Ace while attempting to rescue the captive Kimberly. The gameplay is identical to the other two games in the collection. It was during my playthrough of Space Ace that I found the formula begin to wear thin. In could be because I played all three games back to back to back. With that being said, I’ve always loved quick time events. Some of my favorite games (God of War, Resident Evil 4, Asura’s Wrath) use QTEs frequently. As I’ve grown as a gamer, many titles have relied on the mechanic. It’s fascinating to see just how far we’ve come from the 80s up to now.
Paving the way for the future
Dragon’s Lair was one of the games that pioneered the QTE mechanic. Whether you love or hate it, QTEs are highly influential to modern gaming. Some move the narrative forward while others are meant to have the player perform over the top actions. I’ve never been someone who hates the mechanic, and while others do, I’m fascinated by its roots. Dragon’s Lair Trilogy isn’t fantastic in 2019.
You can clearly see all of its flaws, tell that the games are dated and that it lacks substance, but as with all media from the past, you learn to appreciate what it inspired. So many of the greatest games learned something from Dragon’s Lair. By the time I rolled the credits on Space Ace, I couldn’t help but feel thankful for Don Bluth’s influential collection of adventures. They’re not for everyone, but if I grew up in the 80s, you better believe I would be raving about these games to everyone I knew.