For those who weren’t there, try to imagine the shock of seeing this game back in 1983. Games like Crystal Castles and Mario Bros. had pretty cool graphics, but Dragon’s Lair was an honest-to-goodness cartoon, hand-designed by The Secret of NIMH director Don Bluth (later responsible for An American Tail and The Land Before Time, among others). There was no ignoring it—Dragon’s Lair practically blew away everything else in the arcade.
In fairness to Crystal Castles and Mario Bros., Dragon’s Lair wasn’t as fully interactive as its video game contemporaries. The game was made possible through the use of Laserdisc technology, whereby Bluth and company were able to animate several scenarios for each scene, essentially making a full-motion Choose Your Own Adventure story. If the correct choices were made, the hero lived on to face the next challenge. If not, the animation skipped to a brief, grotesque, often hilarious death scene.
The game starred Dirk the Daring, an heroic but not always bright knight in shining armor. The voluptuous Princess Daphne had been kidnapped by the dragon Singe, and Dirk stormed the beast’s lair to get her back. From the entrance on, there was no set pattern for your individual adventure. Scenes were accessed randomly, though they were grouped in increasing levels of difficulty.