Atari Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Nintendo DS)

In 2005, Retro Atari Classics was released on the shiny new Nintendo DS platform.  After some very solid emulation/classic games hitting the GBA in the years before – many of us couldn’t wait for some retro gaming goodness on our new handheld.  Unfortunately, this collection of 10 titles (original and remixes) was what one could only call a “digital abortion”.  Those of you who played (or worse yet; bought) this anthology know what I’m talking about.

It’s only reasonable that gamers would be gun shy about ponying up for another Atari-labeled collection of retro games – even six years later.

Those familiar with my classic gaming roots know I’m a sucker for pretty much any retro collection on the DS – so I naturally scooped this up, despite the poor track record of Atari’s.


The Gen Y / Millenial gamers may have never played an Atari-labeled game.  But we Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers know the Atari jauggernaut from the ‘70s and ‘80s – where the titan owned both the arcade and console market until the video game crash of 1983.  Atari never really recovered after that – essentially being an “in name only” company struggling to get hits out.

But during it’s heydey, Atari ruled the roost – with prolific arcade games and the venerable and almost unstoppable Atari 2600/VCS console.  This back catalog of titles gives the Atari group an insane collection of intellectual property (IP) to re-release on modern day hardware.

While “Nintendo” was metonymical with gaming after 1985, Atari was the genericized trademark for gaming before it.

Digging into the Game

Atari Greatest Hits Vol. 1 comes in a standard DS case on a 32MB DS cartridge.  The game has no extra DSi features or enhancements.

Promising us 50 classic games (9 arcade and 41 Atari 2600 games) including several unreleased titles (both home and arcade) as well as head-to-head multi-player (single and multi-card) – this title has a lot to live up to.

Firing up the game presents us with a clean, usable interface that logically segregates the games into both home and arcade categories and then further breaks down the home games by genre (you can view them all at once too – thank you guys!).  Pleasant accompanying music and sound accent the interface and believe me – I’m very appreciative of a usable interface when it comes to gaming.

Rounding out the two game format collections, other menu options offer up Wireless Communications, Extras and Options.  The options let you change the sound volumes of the music and sound effects.  We’ll cover the other two in a minute.

The Presentation

The most important aspects of gaming compilations of this nature are the collection of games themselves, the quality of the emulation and the amount of extras included for those that buy these titles for their nostalgic qualities.  Since these are recreations of existing games, looking at graphics and audio prowess doesn’t make as much sense as looking at them from a “recreation accuracy” standpoint.  Likewise, game play quality is measured in accuracy of emulation; that is, how close are the games to play to the originals.

What’s Included?

First up – what games do you get?  (* = two player)


3D Tic-Tac-Toe Gravitar Sky Diver *
Adventure Hangman Slot Machine *
Air Sea Battle * Haunted House Slot Racers *
Asteroids Home Run * Sprintmaster *
Atari Video Cube Human Cannonball Star Ship *
Basketball * Math Gran Prix Stellar Track
BattleZone Miniature Golf Submarine Commander
Bowling Missile Command Surround *
Centipede Outlaw * Swordquest: Earthworld
Championship Soccer * Realsports Baseball * Swordquest: Fireworld
Dodge ‘Em * Realsports Boxing * Swordquest: Waterworld
Flag Capture * Realsports Football * Tempest (Prototype)
Football * Realsports Tennis * Video Checkers (Prototype)
Fun with Numbers Realsports Volleyball *


Asteroids Missile Command
Battlezone Gravitar
Pong * Tempest
Centipede Space Duel *
Lunar Lander Bradley Simulator (Prototype)

Technically you get 51 games – if you include Battlezone retooled as the Bradley Tank Simulator (more on that shortly).  Two of the Atari 2600 games are prototypes never before released to the public.

None of the games are “locked” or “hidden” – you can play everything right away.

The arcade line up should look familiar – it’s pretty much the same games you’ve seen before on either the Retro Atari Classics previous package or in other packages. The Battlezone based games were not included in the previous package on the DS.  Several games were dropped from the previous collection – including Warlords, Sprint and Breakout.

The Atari 2600 line up looks considerably less enemic – featuring fan favorites such as Adventure, Asteroids, Basketball, Centipede, Haunted House, Missile Command, Outlaw and the Swordquest series.  Huge fans of the Atari 2600 console will note the absence of the great third party games from Activision and Imagic (can’t we ALL just get along??).

I find it particularly interesting that with focus on multiplayer and dual play games, that the iconic Combat isn’t included.  Outlaw is the next best thing, but not including the game that was a pack in for almost every Atari 2600 console out there seems … peculiar … to me.  Perhaps they are saving it for Volume 2?

The Extras

Before we get into emulation, let’s talk about the bonus features of the collection.

Looking under the Extras menu item you will find several bonuses.

One of the previous Atari collections on the Gameboy Advance contained a very fun little trivia game that tested your knowledge on Atari lore and history.  I’m very pleased to see that this trivia game is back in this collection.  Answer multiple choice questions about Atari, rack up a big score and you can share your score on the leaderboard right on the Atari website.  While the feature is neat, it requires you get a code from the game and type it into a web browser on another device like your PC or phone.  Having a more “live” leaderboard like the original Touchmaster DS game would have been a better choice rather than this missed opportunity.  Still, the trivia game is top notch with some great esoteric questions that will stump even the most die hard Atari-head.

Next up in the Extras section is the Arcade Gallery.  Here you can view roughly five printed media relating to each of the 9 arcade games.  Items include flyers, operator brochures and other similar promotional items.  A simple media browser lets you look at the items, but I’ve seen better browsers on other collections.  While you can scroll up and down across the items filling both screens, but you cannot zoom in – so a lot is lost.  Casual players might be ok with this – but the real fans would want a closer look.

Under the Arcade Gallery is access to the Atari 2600 gaming manuals for the included games.  The resolution is high enough to read these easy enough and being color you get to see all the classic artwork and diagrams in their full glory.  Don’t laugh – we didn’t have great screenshots back then – so they adorned the packaging with some great hand drawn artwork.  Even the Atari 2600 console manual is included.  Well worth a stop while checking out the Extras.

Finally we have Army Battlezone.  I mentioned the Bradley Simulator, an offshoot of Battlezone.  This is a very cool bonus – since it has never before been included in a commercially released product (it has been available in the popular MAME emulator for some time).  Battlezone was retooled into a Bradley Tank simulation at the request of the U.S. Army – and only two were made.  Not really a game per se, but a fascinating piece of history.  Read more here.

Of the prototype games Tempest and Video Checkers (Atari 2600), only Tempest really brings something exciting to the table.  Originally being a high resolution vector game, it is almost impossible to think of Tempest as even POSSIBLE on a low resolution bitmap graphical console like the Atari 2600 – and yet it is remarkably well done and worth spending some time playing.

Playing the Games

All the arcade games can be played single player as can about half of the Atari 2600 titles.  Several arcade games as well as many 2600 games can be played by two players – taking turns as per the arcade.  Some of the games allow two player simultaneous play via wireless communication (more in a minute) – and the Atari 2600 games that require two players (like Basketball) will play as solo games – but the controls affect BOTH players at the same time … so it’s kind of useless.  You will need multiplayer wireless networking to play these games with a friend.

Multiplayer Wireless Communications

If you look at the list above, games denoted with an asterisk are eligible for multiplayer over wireless communications.

The great news is that single card play is fully supported.  So, all you need is a buddy with a DS to play with and you’re set.  Your friend goes to DS Download, you Create a Session – and in a minute or two, you’re playing!  Pretty damn painless and the games play fantastic over the local area network.  Cody Mystics get BIG thumbs up for allowing MULTICARD play too – so you aren’t forced to send the whole game to those that also have the cartridge.  Hey Capcom, would it have killed you to do that for Point Blank?

There is no Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection play.

So many of these Atari classics really need a second person to be enjoyed and I have to take my hat off to Atari and Code Mystics to care enough to make sure we can play together games together.

The Emulation

For retro-enthusiasts, the authenticity of classic games is incredibly important.  Many old games had patterns or exploits that allowed you to better master the game.  For some people the music and sound effects trigger emotional nostalgia that is important to the gamer.  For others, timing of enemies or powerups … heck, even just animation speeds … are all things they remember fondly and stick out like sore thumbs if they are wrong or different.  A good example of poor emulation is the Jakks Pacific TV controller games.  You can get one of these TV games with Pac-Man on it, but the game just isn’t … quite … right.  The sounds are a little off … the ghost patterns you might have so painstakingly memorized are gone.  Sure, it sounds nit picky but it is important to a lot of people.

These sort of collections are remarkably hit and miss when it comes to accuracy of emulation of the original games.  Some are much better than others – while others are DEAD ON.

How well does this game collection stand up?

We will start with the arcade games.  I gotta say, the boys at Code Mystics did an incredible job on the emulation.  Everything is smooth and all the ducks appear to be in a row. Even the high resolution vector games are TOTALLY playable – they worked hard to keep the text readable and the detail high where it needed to be.  In some cases, where the vector text might be blurry, they duplicate the text on the other screen so you can read it.  A top notch job.

There are multiple control options (touch and pad/buttons) as well as the ability to play on either screen.  Games with special controls even offer different types of control (simple or arcade) – not just assuming you want to play it like a DS game but rather like the original arcade game.  For example, you can play with the d-pad and buttons as left and right tread respectively in Battlezone.  Less experienced players can use a more simple control scheme.

I’ve played enough of these games to sign off on quality emulation for the arcade games.

What about the Atari 2600 games?

You’ll be happy to know that the entire 2600 control panel is replicated on each game – meaning yes, you can even play your favorite game in black and white.  The game settings are preserved and selectable – and they even indicate on the screen what the different options will play like.  All the controls are mapped to buttons as well as having on screen controls which is a damn nice gesture.  So many User Interfaces are inconsistent and frankly, suck.  Not here.  Attention to detail is obvious and appreciated.

The emulation looks great – right down to the bleeding off-the-screen rasters to the horrible scan line flicker we all put up with in the 1970s.  Each game comes complete with a shot of the original cartridge as a bonus.


After the horror of Retro Atari Classics, I thought we’d never see a quality emulation project on the DS again.  Thank God I was wrong.

The only thing that will keep this title from being wildly successful is the price tag.  Compilations like this usually clock in $10 cheaper than the asking $30 price tag – and while this ride is completely worth the price, only the truly devout will likely buy a ticket.  Hopefully good reviews of the product will win people over and get them past the price point because there is no reason not to pony up.

This is a top notch title – top to bottom.  The development team obviously knows their business and has learned from past DS mistakes with emulation titles.  Aside from a couple minor niggles – none of which affect the game play component of the games – this compilation gets a huge recommendation from me.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors

The Nintendo DS is alive with “rare” and “niche” games.  I have personally purchased much more than my fair share of “games for the sake of collecting” – and I won’t lie; I bought this game soley based on the fact that it had a short production run and the prices on it were already being driven up.  However, I was intrigued by 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors and decided to crack the seal and give it a go.

At it’s heart, this title is a puzzle solving adventure – but wrapped around a very thick story.  On the surface, it’s more interactive fiction than game – but we’ll get to that shortly.

You play a young man, Junpei who awakens with amnesia in a cabin aboard a mysterious ship.  The only way out of the room is a metal foreboding door with a big red number 5 on it – and it’s secured by a strange card reader.  Suddenly a porthole bursts open and water starts filling the room.  Your first puzzle is on … escape the room before it fills with water and you drown.

While the game sounds incredibly urgent in nature, there is no clock running (yet).  This first puzzle will get you comfortable with the interface and introduce to you the puzzle elements behind this story.

The story and interaction unfolds in first person through mostly still environments not uncommon for these sorts of games.  Using the stylus, you’ll click around the room – looking for items, clues and areas to interact with the environment.  Items you collect will assist you on your quest – by either being directly usable – or combinable with other objects to make a new one.  The items screen offers you the ability to rotate and look at  your items three dimensionally.

As  you start working your way through the ship’s cabin you’ll start to unravel your memories about what happened to you and how you were brought to the ship.  This is done through an interesting narrative method consisting of stills, animations, videos and scrolling dialogue (which is the standard  read-click-read-click-read-click type).

During the tutorial level, you’ll find some basic codes to break, some briefcases to open and be introduced to the main core puzzle element, the Digital Root.

The Digital Root is a method of taking several numbers and adding them together to create a new, single digit number.  This code breaking system is used throughout the game.

It goes something like this.  You have a target code – say the number 4.  You have a series of numbers to use to get to the number 4.  You have to add the digits together to make another number – which in TURN can have ITS multiple digits added up to make a final number.  So …

5+6+2 = 13 = 1 + 3 = 4

So the Digital Code for 4 is 562.  Got it?  Don’t worry – they will drill this DEEP into your subconscious during the tutorial and the first couple of scenes of the game.  You’ll get it by then.  Just know there is a lot of it going on.

The tutorial level will hold your hand quite a bit through the puzzles you’ll need to get out – gently telling you more and more information so you can succeed in your initial quest.

The portions of the game where you do interactions to get out of a room are referred to as ESCAPES.

Once you get out of the ship’s cabin, the actual plot begins as you are united with eight other people who have also mysteriously been brought together on this ship.  As you start to get to know each other (through endless dialogue I might add) your “host” makes himself known and tells you that you have 9 hours to get off the ship alive before it sinks and you are all killed.  He is playing a game with you, see?  I couldn’t help but relate it to the SAW movies … “I want to play a game”.  While you’re given 9 hours, this is not real-time and you will not have direct control over how that time is always spent.  Don’t get hung up on the “time pressures” – it’s not a time driven game despite the time being in the title.

The portions of the game where you get the story are referred to as NOVEL PARTS.

To continue discussing the plot would probably ruin the game, but suffice to say that there is a lot of character building between the 9 characters and lots of plot to unfold.  After two full hours of play, I cannot honestly say the story is anything overly original or amazing – but there is something to be said for any game that keeps me up two hours past my bedtime to play.  While rather cliche, I can at least assure you that the writing is good and the obvious translation didn’t suffer coming across the pond.

Instead of talking about the game plot further (and possibly give away spoilers), let’s talk about the the title as a game..

The game is rated M for mature.  Just a sampling of the sort of things you’ll run across … the F bomb (pretty much all manners of profanity – for those used to playing Pokemon, this might startle you a bit), someone being blown up from a bomb in the stomach (ever see the movie Fortress?) and even a little girl being held at knife point.  So yeah, there is mature content here.  The good news is that the game doesn’t go out of the way to earn it’s M rating – it just does – and I appreciate that.

The User Interface is quite pleasant to use and it’s actually intuitive.  The best part is that it allows you to use any combination of touch screen and D-pad/buttons.  If you dig using buttons, you can – likewise the touch screen centric folks will be right at home.  At no time did I get frustrated because I couldn’t accomplish something with the UI I wanted to do – and while that doesn’t sound like a great accolade, we all know that no one notices a UI unless it’s bad (and there are plenty of DS games with bad user interfaces).

My only complaint is the inability to skip or speed up things that you’ve seen or done before – especially tasks with heavy dialogue.  I get that they are looking to set a mood with the S-L-O-W writing text sometimes, but some of us DO read above a fourth grade level and we would like to consume the story a little faster.

Visually speaking, it’s clean.  The graphics range from standard 2D hand-drawn Japan-style animation to realistic 3D rendered style graphics – and some hybrid stuff.  Light, sparse but effective use of animation keep it from looking too static or Myst-like.  If you’re expecting tons of video or full moving action – this isn’t it.  But for a puzzler of this nature – it’s a perfect combination.  The graphic quality is quite high and you can tell some love went into the game.  Again, I appreciate this.

From an aural perspective the game is a feast.  While sound is often the clicking of dialogue skittering by, the highlight/accent sound effects and music are top notch.  I’ve always felt sound was a powerful tool in setting mood and enhancing situationals and this game doesn’t disappoint.

As an old school gamer, I still love boxes and manuals.  Some of my favorite games wedged their way into my heart by providing great manuals, pack-ins or other even just fantastic artwork on the media itself.  Sadly, there is nothing remarkable about this title in that respect.  The manual is even of the obnoxious “white text on black” variety.

I’m not sure there is much more I can relate to you without giving away spoilers, so I’ll end the coverage here.

I’ll be the first to admit that this sort of game is not my regular cup of tea – however, the gamer in me so appreciates the style, pinosh and obvious love that went into it – that I was sucked in proper.  I can only imagine how much someone who simply loves this genre of game will appreciate this title.  If puzzle adventures are your bag and adult language and situations aren’t an issue for you – I have NO problem recommending this game highly to you.

Finally, if you’re just a gamer that appreciates a well-done game – regardless of genre, I would recommend picking this up.  If you’re apprehensive about the title, just remember that even if you don’t love the game – you have a nice collectable sitting on your shelf that will probably go for double or triple the value in a couple years.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Dragon’s Lair (Nintendo DS)

This review covers both the DSiWare and retail cartridge versions of the game.  Due to their similarities, only the differences between the two will be denoted throughout the review.

The year is 1983. Arcades were filled with video games considered archaic by today’s standards; Mario Bros. (the original), Spy Hunter, Track and Field, Cloak & Dagger and Food Fight – just to name a few. The home video game market was collapsing and the NES had just hit Japan, but wouldn’t hit our shores for another two years. Theaters were playing movies like Risky Business, Scarface and The Dead Zone. Michael Jackson was still black and groups like Eurythmics, Duran Duran and Prince topped the music charts. Chicago elected the first black mayor, Sally Ride was the first woman in outer space and a suicide bomb attack in Beirut killed 241 Marines.

Are you firmly dialed back into the ’80s now? Good – because video games like Dragon’s Lair and its ilk are “period pieces” – and they require a proper mindset to be enjoyed fully.

Dragon’s Lair appeared in the arcades in summer of 1983 to a technology hungry audience that simply went rabid for the cinema-quality animation and full audio soundtrack which immediately separated it from the rest of the games. Within a year, the game had made the developers over $30 million. The game spawned dozens of laserdisc based games (some similar to Dragon’s Lair, some featuring computer graphics overlayed on real video) from companies like Stern and Sega. Some of them were mildly successful, but none of them reached the status that Dragon’s Lair did.

One of only three games to be featured in the Smithsonian Institute (along with Pong and Pac-Man), the legacy of Dragon’s Lair is story unto itself.


Dragon’s Lair pioneered the concept of Quick Time Events (QTE) later brought back to gamers in titles such as Shenmue, God of War and Resident Evil. Instead of directly controlling your on screen persona, you flick the stick or press the button during a sequence of events to successfully carry the game forward. Failing to make the right sequence of moves results in tragedy – usually the death of the player and the process has to be restarted. If you’ve ever killed a Minotaur or jerked the head off a Medusa in God of War, you know what QTE is.

In Dragon’s Lair, you take on the role of Dirk the Daring – a bumbling but charismatic knight – navigating a monster-filled castle complete with a big scary dragon to fight at the end of the journey. Your reward? The rescue of arguably the hottest princess ever to grace a video game.

The journey through the castle is set up through a series of rooms or scenes. Each room requires precision QTE solving to move on to the next room. To assist you on the way, quick flashes of light will show you the combination of timing and action you need to perform in order to keep the movie going. Fail to act – or act incorrectly – and you’re treated to a short clip of Dirk biting the dust in various ways. Run out of lives and your quest is over.

The game mechanics are quite simple by today’s standards and are always the subject of criticism (as are most Full Motion Video games of the past). It is more a game of memorization than action and dexterity. What I tell people going into Dragon’s Lair for the first time is – treat it like an INTERACTIVE MOVIE where you’re just like a glorified editor – keeping the movie flowing from start to finish. When people have that expectation, they seem to enjoy the game more than if they go in expecting to take live control over Dirk and his sword.

A common expression for these games: Come for the animation, stay for the game.

Digging Into The Game

The cartridge version of the game comes on a single, 16MB (!) Nintendo DS Cartridge for about $20.  The DSiWare version comes as a 127 block download (16MB) and costs 800 points ($8).  Neither version feature any DSi enhancements.

The game’s attract mode plays while awaiting the user to make a selection from the pleasant-yet-unremarkable menu.  Aside from the requisite PLAY GAME and OPTIONS there is also a HIGH SCORE selection as well as a button for accessing the EXTRAS (retail version) and HELP (DSiWare version).

The HIGH SCORE table contains the highest five scores achieved as well a means of clearing the scoreboard (I never understood the value of a score table you can so easily clear).  The game really isn’t about “score” so I’m not even sure this was needed.

The EXTRAS menu (retail version) allows for a WATCH mode (locked until you’ve completed the game) as well as accessing the CREDITS for the game.

The OPTIONS area allows you to set the number of lives (don’t let the term INFINITE fool you – that’s not infinite LIVES – it’s infinite CONTINUES – where you lose your score each time), a MOVE GUIDE (retail version) that will show you which way to move and when, video/effects volume controls, which screen you want to play on as well as how often you want audio to play during the attract mode.

Other than the MOVE GUIDES option and the WATCH mode, the retail version is IDENTICAL to the DSiWare version.  The DIFFICULTY settings of EASY or HARD are not in the OPTIONS screen in the cartridge edition – but you’re asked after you hit PLAY GAME which difficulty level (easy or hard) you would like to play.  Both versions also ask you which version of the game to play – HOME or ARCADE (more later).


Both versions of Dragon’s Lair have two MODES of play – ARCADE and HOME. In arcade mode, you’re playing the “authentic” arcade version (the F2 ROM set – for those in the know). The HOME mode is similar to other home versions they’ve released in the past – featuring scenes never accessed on the original arcade game. These include the intro drawbridge scene, the “Ye Boulders” video clip, etc.

There is also a difficulty setting for EASY and HARD – which requires more precise movements and shorter “action windows” to work in. More on that in a bit.

The MOVES GUIDE (retail version) will show the moves required to successfully navigate the game while you play.  Unfortunately, they are not displayed overlayed on the video – they are on the other screen – which means you don’t really get to “watch” while you play.  I will give Code Mystics props – the way the moves do display is pretty decent.  The arrows (or sword) start to fade in as the move is coming up – then “flash” when you actually need to execute it.  It beats the heck out of a basic arrow showing up at the last second.  It just would have been better if it had been over the video.

The retail version’s WATCH MODE is exactly that – you can watch the game play itself without your intervention.  This is a reward for completing the game and is not given away like on other home versions of this game.

The HELP file (DSiWare version) includes the standard “DSiWare” help file that outlines the basics.

Both versions allow you to control the volume of both the video playback and the venerable (and remarkably distinctive) success/fail beeps that sound during play.  This is important, actually – as we’ll talk more about later.

Playing the Game

For the purposes of this review, we’ll be playing this on EASY, in ARCADE mode.

This is the best configuration for the newbies to start with. The required movements are slower paced and easier to perform.  This is the version that MOST people probably played at the arcade.
As mentioned above, you do not directly control Dirk – you simply keep the movie going by entering moves that are echoed by the knight on the screen.  Failure to keep the movie going results in death.
Each room or scene has fairly stringent movement requirements – with some “alternative moves” allowed (this is on EASY mode). That means that in certain rooms there may be more than just one right move to continue. These alternate moves are often “issues” with other home releases of the game (more on accuracy in a minute).
During the game play, flashes of light appear on various objects – in various directions – to help you know which way to go.  These flashes are right on the video – not added by the code.  Correct moves give you a pleasant beep – while incorrect moves give you a buzz (or just kill you outright).  Unlike with the MOVES GUIDE turned on, there is very little warning with these flashes – meaning they are more of a “hindsight tool” than a means to help guide you through the room.  The game was intended to be “learned as you go” (doesn’t help that a lot of quarters are needed to play a game like this).
As you complete the moves for the current scene (or room), you’re taken to the next room.  If you fail a room, it’s put at the end of the “queue” of rooms you have to complete before you reach the dragon’s lair.  Therefore, any room you fail, you WILL play again.  Once you complete all the rooms, you will take a stab at the dragon’s lair.
Many of the rooms play both standard and “mirror” – meaning the video is mirrored (as are the moves).  Some rooms only play standard mode (including the dragon’s lair).  This was a clever way to make the game last longer at the arcade without more video being required.  Think of it as the “doubling back” levels in modern shooters.  Some rooms do not always appear in every game – and are often considered “bonus” rooms.
Unlike games that followed Dragon’s Lair – like Space Ace or Dragon’s Lair II – Dragon’s Lair really feels like the “sum of the rooms” vice the playing of an “interactive movie”.
The Presentation
I’m not a gamer that’s “all about graphics” – but since this game is pretty much an interactive movie, we have to look at the media as a core element of the game.
Recently, Digital Leisure performed a six-month restoration of the video on Dragon’s Lair in order to prepare it for HD release on Blu Ray.  The low resolution of the DS does not offer much in the way of super high quality video so it is unclear if the new transfer was used for this video.  Because the colors are a bit brighter than the arcade, I would suspect the new transfer was used.  However, there is an issue with the DS transfer …
In order to get 22 minutes of video to fit in 16MB of space, you can imagine that some sacrifices had to be made.  The sacrifice comes mostly in the way of dropped frames – which isn’t usually a big deal for most people – but the dropped frames have a nasty side effect; sometimes the “move queue” flashes mentioned earlier  have been shortened or removed altogether – making the game even MORE difficult to figure out.  Purist especially will notice these omissions – but the novice player is immediately thrown a rather nasty curve ball that impacts the way the game was intended to be “figured out”.  Most reviews of the DSiWare version (remember, no MOVES GUIDE in that version) are quick to point out this huge flaw in the video presentation.
I had high hopes that the retail cartridge version (with sizes up to 256MB) would provide us with extra silky video playback with all the frames in tact – removing this issue from the table.  This would have easily justified the cost difference of $12.
Unfortunately, the video on the downloadable version and the retail version are identical – dropped frames and all.  This really starts to beg the question – is the extra $12 worth it?
The final issue worth noting is that the video audio is pretty quiet on my DSi.  You will need to wear headphones for a proper experience.  Because the game tells you when you’ve done something right with an audible queue, you must be able to hear the queues while you play.  With both volumes set to the highest settng, you still cannot accurately get the move queue audio 100% of the time – meaning you’re going to die even when you think you’ve made the right move.  So, you have to crank DOWN the already-too-quiet video volume to hear the queues – which makes headphones even MORE of a must.


Just how accurate is the games compared to its original arcade counterpart?  For die hard purists, this is the most important aspect of the game.

Instead of emulation of the original, home versions use simulation; near accurate representations (of various quality) based on how much time and money the developers want to invest in the recreation.

The most common inaccuracies in Dragon’s Lair consist of missing rooms, incorrect ordering and sequencing of rooms, failure to allow “alternative moves” for certain rooms as well as a couple of other little inconsistencies.This version has some timing issues in a few spots, and I’ve noted a few issues with a couple of rooms – namely the Falling Platforms.  As home versions go, this is definitely one of the best ones so far when it comes to move accuracy.  Purists will scream a few times – this is not arcade perfect – and until Digital Leisure and their coders start using actual emulation of the laserdisc video game hardware, we’re simply not going to get it.
Is This For me?

I get a common question from the current generation of gamers: Can I play and enjoy this game if I’ve never played it before?

If you enjoy QTE sequences in modern gaming, there is no reason why you can’t get into this game. If you’re a fan of traditional animation, these are extreme period pieces that are valuable to anyone’s collection. Fans of “trial and error” gaming (and you know who you are), this game practically invented the concept.

Now – if you watched my Quick Look videos and can’t figure out the draw, this game may not be for you. There IS a lot of nostalgia required to enjoy the game to its fullest – and no one is going to blame you if you just “don’t get it”.

Just remember – animated doesn’t mean it’s a kid’s game. This game isn’t easy (even with the MOVES GUIDE hints). You’ll need patience and perseverance to get through this game – and it just isn’t for everyone.


While we will continue to chase the “perfect” versions of these types of games, this game has never quite played this accurately. Despite what appears to be a laundry list of accuracy issues – no one but the most die hard amongst us are going to even notice.

Many reviews like to bring up the fact that you can play the game  from front to back in about ten minutes. The simple fact is, you’re not going to. Even with onscreen move indicators – you’re going to spend some hours with this. Once you have mastered the games on easy, there are plenty of options to make it harder and/or longer. You’ll also want to sample some of the great death scenes hidden away.

If have more than just a passing familiarity with Dragon’s Lair – you can easily forget the WATCH MODE and the MOVES GUIDE.  This would have put you in the market for the DSiWare downloadable version for $8.  Honestly, the game should go for 500 points – but we all want cheaper games, right?  The problem with advocating the download version isn’t so much the 300 more points than I want to pay – but rather that without a moves guide AND dropped frames, this is going to be much less approachable for most people than the retail cart.  You also have the fact that is sucks down 127 blocks AND if you move to another DSi/XL/3DS – you won’t be able to take it with you.
For $20, the retail version seems like a better buy – the moves guide alone is worth a few bucks for those that want to master the game without the “hit and miss” nature of regular play.  However, without ANY other improvement to the game other than that (sorry, not counting the WATCH MODE), and the grossly compressed video which wasn’t necessary in a cartridge version, I have a lot of reservations in the $20 price tag.  At $14.99 or cheaper, I could have issued my “No Brainer” rating – but aside from the obvious collectible nature of the cartridge and the longer lasting durability of the cart, you’re not seeing much for that extra $12.
The obvious nature of the retail version is that regular DS/DS Lite owners can now partake in the fun of playing Dragon’s Lair on their favorite handheld – and I had a lot of friends chomping at the bit for a non-DSiWare version to come down the pike.  For those of you with the “classic DS” hardware, this IS your only choice.
Final Words:  This isn’t the best or the worst Dragon’s Lair I’ve seen at home.  The real question is the price and the format you want.  I’m a collector – the cart wins every time for me – even with the same video ported over.  However, knowing that fact up front would have made me wait for the inevitable bargain bin price drop to $14.99 (or even $12.99 used at Gamestop).  The DSiWare version isn’t going to get any cheaper – and the difference of $3-5 between the download and the cart makes FAR more sense – if you are willing to wait.  If you have a Wii, I would immediately send you to The Dragon’s Lair Trilogy, also by Destineer – which is easily the best version you can currently play at home – which includes Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair II as well for only $10 more than the current DS retail price.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

What to Expect from Wii in 2011

Could 2011 be the year?

As a followup to our 2010 Wii Year in Review article I’d like to turn the calendar page to 2011, which could be a pivotal year for Nintendo’s popular home console. Speculation ranges from continued success to a sharp decline in sales; some foresee a high definition rehash of practically the same console, while others are expecting a successor announcement as early as this summer at E3. Will there be a price decrease in the first half of the year? And can we expect to see a $99 Wii sometime in 2011? Each guess is as good as the next. So perhaps it’s best to take a look at what we do know about what we can expect from Wii in 2011 so far. Read more

Filed under : Consoles, Nintendo

From DroidX to Thunderbolt: One Man’s Story

This last week, I upgraded from the Verizon DroidX 3G to the HTC Thunderbolt phone and I’ve been asked to write up a review.
This article will be both a review and an introspective of making the change from one smartphone to another.


People “upgrade” their phones because they are unhappy somehow with their current phones (or they are a “keep up with the Jonses” type).  Since I’m not the latter and I really like the DroidX hardware, you’re probably wondering why I chose to upgrade at all.

The HTC Thunderbolt is the first Verizon 4G phone which is what was initially attractive to me.  With 4G boasting double-digit speed multiplication – I figured it would be more than an “incremental” upgrade of speed. Read more

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

Wii 2010 Year in Review

Best year yet, or the beginning of the end?

In what many are predicting to be the Wii’s last year of console market dominance, 2010 turned out to be a year of stellar game releases for Nintendo’s little white box–perhaps it’s best year yet. While competitors played catch-up with gesture-based gaming solutions of their own to capture the ever elusive “casual” market, it was mainly a back to basics year for Wii that will be remembered for nostalgia-driven releases and surprising third-party successes. Read more

Filed under : Consoles, Nintendo, RandomPost