Childhood dream: achieved!
January 28, 2020

I realized how little I've been playing retro games. I've been busy writing text adventures, and it can be exhausting to make even small changes. But it gives me more appreciation for even mediocre games, and I'm always glad to get back to playing, both games I have and haven't played before.

I don't go to the post office much any more. But I'm glad I did. And I'm also glad, in this case, that the city bike-sharing program does not have a station near a relatively large branch of the post office. It's sort of between two stops I've used. One, to the north, is by a supermarket and Dollar Store. The other, well, it's a few blocks less to travel. I didn't reslize this at first, but once I did, I figured I'd save a bit of time. It was a bit wet out, which is not terrible for January, but it makes me leery of biking.

I always window-shop bars, but there's nothing in there I really want. I just see the ambience or whatever. I wasn't expecting anything ...

... but then I saw the Dragon's Lair machine. I have a long history with it. I was dazzled back in the 80's as a kid. I remember watching big strong college students work their ways through some of the later rooms, imagining they required 20 moves or something. I wish I remember all I imagined. It's obviously wrong, but it'd be fun. I think I assumed the later rooms had to take lots more moves, and they took a few, but not THAT many.

I also remember buying a hint book and studying up for the times my family went to ShowBiz Pizza. I'd have played more, but I got hooked on Journey, which had a persisting high score list where I took over 9 of the top 10 scores. (I always meant to clear #6 out. It would've taken just one dollar for five tokens. The other guy had 70k and I could score 100k.)

So I was stuck with my imagination and memories of what I was pretty sure rooms looked like. The hint book was wrong in some ways. It got the moves right, but it also didn't understand certain rooms were mirror images, or you had to solve them all. The mysterious Goop Room was one it said was unnecessary. I remember triumphantly saying "Ha! They missed one!" and not realizing that they had a different name for the room than I did.

My scores did go up every chance I got. I was so proud of defeating the skeletons. (You went forward to start. Everyone tried using the sword.) The tentacle room lost its mystery. So did the Lizard King. But I still felt awesome solving them.

The final game I played in my youth was on the south side of Chicago, in a Chuck E. Cheese, by a Venture (another chain now defunct.) I had a middling start and despite clobbering the Lizard King, thought I was in big trouble with the Smithie on my last life, where you had to deflect the spear at just the right moment. I did! (Or maybe the cabinet was set to easy, which left more time. I don't care. I'll pretend I came through.) I plowed through a few rooms I'd read about but never played--I nailed the Fire Room, the Earthquake Room and the Robot Knight. For some reason, I thought I cleared the Mud Monsters, too, but I couldn't have, not that game...you'll see why.

(http://www.dragons-lair-project.com/games/related/sequence.asp and http://www.dragons-lair-project.com/games/related/walkthru/lair/easy.asp show what these mean)

I remember the slanting board room. I panicked and went forward--I don't know why. It was my last life. I looked up at my score. 99800 and change. I wanted to hit 100000! But I didn't!

Years later I bought a VHS tape on eBay with all the moves and cut scenes. It was $10. It was worth it! Then years after that I bought a DVD of Dragon's Lair, Dragon's Lair 2 and Space Ace. You had to make the moves a second in advance. I gave up on Space Ace, but DL2 was winnable, and that was cool, as I remembered seeing a cabinet as a kid and wondered what it was about. DL was on hard mode and I had a bear of a time even with infinite lives, but -- I could say I beat it, sort of!

Back to the present, last Thursday (24th.) I asked if customers could just come in and buy a drink and play, and the bartender said sure. I said I'd be back and he must've thought, what the heck? You see, I just had to study.

I came back a few hours later. I put a coin in the slot. I didn't NEED to put a coin in the slot. The game gave free infinite credits. But ... bummer ... once I started, I realized it didn't keep score!

The first night I didn't get to the Dragon's Lair, but I got close. The first few games were duds. I moved too early, and in some cases, I just got fooled and didn't recognize things. And yes, I moved too early on the slanting board. It's back, forward, left, but too soon going forward and you catch fire.

The way the scenes are arranged, I saw all the pre-lair ones but couldn't get past the spinning boulders. They're tricky--you need to pass them when they're together, but they make me dizzy watching them. I remembered I used audio cues, and I asked the bartender if the music ever went off. No. Well, I'd find something. Maybe I'd get REALLY close to the speakers.

It was still worth what I paid for a Sprite and a tip, though. I mean, fifty cents in 1985 is worth a bit more today, and as I played six games ... well, I got my money's worth!

I came back the next night after scanning some YouTube videos for the spinning boulders--and boning up on the Dragon's Lair itself. It's not too bad--you go left until you escape the second pillar, then I imagine a path traced in the gold to the Dragon. (This works well to supplement memorizing moves--for instance, in the Earthquake room, you just remember to zigzag swordside, use a sword on the spider when Dirk looks up, and it's a snap.)

But I got stuck on the boulders again. I tried making an "Okay" sign so I could focus on seeing both boulders. I tried zooming in close to the speakers. I wasted like 4 lives in one game on the boulders.

At this point I think I remembered my Dragon's Lair DVD and the heuristic I used. You could go ahead almost right away, when Dirk stuck his hand out. Was it really that simple?

Yes. It was.

The Dragon's Lair was an anticlimax. But when I showed someone I solved the game and they asked questions, I ran through again with commentary. Dang, I felt smart.

I'll be back once they fix the score. (They said they would.) But I've had enough fun so far, for now. This was a big thing to cross off my list, one I wondered if I ever would, and doing so in 30 hours was a rush. The momentum got me started on a few other goals I'd forgotten, too.

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honestgamer honestgamer - January 28, 2020 (03:26 PM)
Dragon's Lair is available on all sorts of platforms in digital form, and I have a few of those editions so I can eventually get around to the game, but I've not done so yet. I'll probably never find a physical arcade cabinet like you did. It's exciting you were able to finally conquer an old goal and have fun doing it. Congratulations!
aschultz aschultz - January 30, 2020 (04:42 AM)
Thanks! The DVD version is quite satisfying and you can probably get it cheap.

I also like that it is lumped in with Dragon's Lair II, which I enjoyed, though I needed a walkthrough. It's rather creative.

Sadly, Space Ace is tricky on the DVD because you have to anticipate the moves before you can see them. Two out of three ain't bad, though.

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