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Dragon's Lair (1990)

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Dragon's Lair
Imagine being killed by a gate door of the castle in the first stage.
Protagonist(s): Dirk
Genre(s): Platform
Platform(s): Nintendo Entertainment System
Release: NA: December 29, 1990
AU: 1990
JP: September 20, 1991
EU: January 3, 1992
Developer(s): Motivetime
Publisher(s): NA: CSG Imagesoft
JP: Epic/Sony Records
EU: Elite Systems
AU: Mattel
Country: United Kingdom
Series: Dragon's Lair
"Fuck this game, man! Jesus Christ, i'd rather fucking 69 a grizzly bear while shoving King Kong on my ass! I'd rather fucking stand in the middle of a ring of monkeys as they drown me to death with their own anal waist! Fuck this game! Fuck it to hell! Fuck it to oblivion! Fuck it to damnation of mankind!"
The Angry Video Game Nerd
"No, but... what kind of shitty logic is that, already?! But... this is just stupid, because the dudes who did this game thought: "Oh, it'd be funny to inverse the logic of the enemies!"?!"
Joueur du Grenier

Sullivan Bluth Presents: Dragon's Lair (simply known as Dragon's Lair) is a cinematic platform game developed by Motivetime and published by CSG Imagesoft for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990. The game is based on the 1983 LaserDisc game of the same title, which was directed by legendary cartoonist Don Bluth, known for his work with Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well has his own original films, including The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, Anastasia, and Titan A.E., in which the latter two, Anastasia and Titan A.E. are now both owned by Disney due to their recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox in 2019.


Dirk the Daring, the best knight in the kingdom, must rescue Princess Daphne, Dirk's love interest, from the evil dragon, Singe.

Why It Sucks

  1. Dragon's Lair on NES has some of the worst controls that can ever experienced in a platform game. Dirk moves so slowly and takes so long to respond to various inputs such as jumping and toggling crawling to standing that he can barely avoid getting damaged by enemies at all.
    • The jump controls are extremely sluggish, and Dirk also has Castlevania syndrome because the direction of movement cannot be changed in mid-air and the landing distance after jumping cannot be adjusted at all. It's very hard to land into short moving platforms because of that issue.
    • The controls are even more difficult and slower in the American version of the game due to it running slower than the other regional releases.
  2. It is impossible to determine the distance of launch of the knife without alternating from standing to ducking with the D-pad. Because of this, it's very difficult to hit some enemies with the knives, since they are in a distance impossible for the knives to reach.
  3. The amounts of damage that most projectiles, enemies and obstacles deal are completely unlogical. For example, a bat barely deals any damage to Dirk if touched, but a stone thrown by a prisoner kills you in one hit. There are even more things that can kill Dirk in one hit, including the door on the Drawbridge level if touched when closed.
    • On top of that, Dirk has a health bar on the top of the HUD, but it's almost useless as again, most enemies in the game can kill him in one hit (though in some levels, it's rare to find enemies that kill you in one hit, but they are still hard to get past them mostly because they either follow Dirk or frequently throw projectiles).
      • If you attack, you take damage by yourself.
  4. Some physics do not even work properly. The upwards wind on a bottomless pit in the second level is buggy and would often not push Dirk up high enough so that he can reach the other platform, making him fall into the pit instead.
  5. Instead of usually pressing Start to pause the game, the player actually has to press Select, then to unpause, press Start. On the second level, the Start button instead turns on the lantern if the level goes dark.
  6. Dull sound effects. The explosion sounds look like they came from an Atari 2600 game.
  7. The elevator room is extremely unfair and broken. To access a level, the player needs to jump on a platform situated either on the left or right at the correct timing; if too late, then Dirk will fall through the platform and die. It also doesn't even tell which level to pick, the platforms aren't labelled and there is even a fake path that takes the player to a boss that is almost impossible to defeat (the boss cannot be killed no matter which weapon is used and will always try to move towards Dirk to kill him in one hit after collision. The player has to push the enemy by throwing projectiles into them then collect an icon that says the letter "G" situated over the throne to get out of this level, but it's very hard to do so due to the sluggish controls and also because the icon flickers randomly).
    • This part throws stones from the top of the screen in random directions. They require fast reaction times to avoid since Dirk takes almost a second to turn and walks very slowly.
    • Even worse, this fake path is on the platform on the bottom of the room, that the elevator will stop moving and will not go back after reaching it. If the player was to always wait for the elevator to reach the bottom, it will be forced to take the fake path over and over again and lose all its lives here if it's not talented enough to collect the "G" icon to get out of this level.
  8. Most of the game is focused on enormous trial and error because of the bad controls and most things killing Dirk in one hit. The player has to keep remembering the moment that can kill Dirk in a section to continue further, so it's practically impossible to beat the game at the first attempt.
  9. Finding extra lives is very difficult as there are only very few "L" icons that can collected in the whole game to get more lives.
  10. Even worse, the game has no continues even though it is really tedious to beat. Because of this, the player are basically forced to put so much effort to remember everything that kills Dirk to do not lose as many lives as possible, to head onto the ending of the game and the ending itself is horribly made and very pathetic for such a hard game. It is only consisted of a small picture of Dirk holding Princess Daphne in his arms, and a generic message below the image.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The graphics are okay; the animations are pretty fluid and the visuals are colorful.
  2. In the Japanese and PAL releases, Dirk actually moves faster than the original American release, due to the frame rate being upgraded.



Publication Score
AllGame 1.5/5 stars
EGM 4/10
GamePro 18/25
Mean Machines 21%
Defunct Games F

Critical reception

AVGN Enraged.jpg "What were they thinking?"
The Shit Scale
Games that are debatably bad High level of shit contamination The very high category The severe zone Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Major code red
This game/console belongs to the "Very High Category" category of the AVGN's Shit Scale.

Dragon's Lair on NES has been heavily panned by critics and players alike for its poor controls, trudging movement, and immense difficulty level. Dying in one hit has been a major flaw of the game pointed out by players, despite Dirk having an obvious health bar.


External link


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