Spoiler alert: If you’ve watched my unboxing video or followed my Instagram or read my Tweets or been anywhere near me since it came out, you know that I absolutely freakin’ LOVE LOVE LOVE this machine. So if you came here looking for someone to drag it through the mud(men), go put your quarter in someone else’s blog, because I’m about to gush over this thing like the lava geyser in the electric cage scene.
HI, I’m TJ and I’m a Dragon’s Lair fanboy.
I feel like I’ve over-established that fact on this blog already, as I’ve written about it, talked about it, and out of the handful of videos I’ve made on my YouTube channel, two of them are about Dragon’s Lair. Well, suck it up haters, because here comes the biggest dose of DL fan service yet.
As soon as New Wave Toys announced they were adding Dragon’s Lair to their line of Replicade 1/6-scale, fully-functioning arcade games, I was on that Kickstarter just hurling money at it. 2020’s favorite mascot, The Rona, delayed its production and shipping, pushing its inititally-expected ship date from spring of 2020 all the way to October. Frustrating, but understandable!
When it finally showed up, though, every agonizing second of the long wait was worth it.
Now, some of this is stuff I already mentioned in the unboxing video I made mere seconds after this thing arrived on my porch, but I wanted to do this as a blog post as well just to go over a few more features and take a closer look at the machine via photographs.
I’ve never handled or played a Replicade machine before, so right off the bat I was impressed by the quality. Made of laminated MDF, like a real arcade cabinet would be, it has a nice weight and feel to it. The printed graphics are nice and clear, the marquee lights up nice and evenly, and the screen looks awesome. Even the additional digital scoreboard, matching the arcade original, looks like the real thing.
Speaking of detail, there are some little (and I do mean little) things that really just impressed and amazed me: for one, I LOVE the teeny-tiny little bolts on the control panel surrounding the joystick, where the actual bolts would be on a real arcade panel to mount the stick. The fact that they went that far in replicating the cabinet says everything about their attention to detail.
The little extras included are just too freakin’ cute: the wee laserdisc player with its tiny remote, and the little laserdisc (accurate right down to the Dragon’s Lair label) you can put in the player, are a really amazing touch. The whole thing can be kept in a drawer in the back of the machine.
The tiny coins are funny, but really, doing anything with them other than keeping them in their plastic baggie is just inviting lost tiny coins for my cats to find and eat.
Not only does it look incredible, it plays really nicely, too — I mean, I’ve played through it at least a dozen times now, on both Easy and Hard modes, so obviously those tiny controls work just fine. I hope they hold up to extended use, because this isn’t just a shelf piece for me: I actually really love playing it, and it’s probably my new favorite way to play Dragon’s Lair this side of a real arcade machine.
The settings menu is accessed by pressing the right coin button. The options include your standard difficulty settings, lives, and a couple cabinet options like screen brightness and cabinet light. One interesting setting, however, is “Screen Blanking.” This replicates the original arcade game’s split-second black screen when the laserdisc player was searching for the next scene to play. Often seen as a bit of a flaw back in the day, including it on this release (an option not seen before in home Dragon’s Lair releases, as far as I can remember) helps make this possibly the most arcade-accurate home version of the game ever. Those black screens bring about a nostalgic feeling that some gamers may have forgotten about if they haven’t played a real DL arcade game operating on original hardware in a while.
While I love playing this machine right out of the box, in the interest of thoroughness, I had to check out how it works as a plug-and-play. The unit has an HDMI out jack and can be plugged into an HDTV, and with two USB inputs, it can accept external controllers as well.
I first tried connecting it to a 32″ Samsung HDTV. It looked okay, and it looks fine in the photos below, but it’s actually quite low-res and looks pixelly in motion. The resolution looks great on the machine’s small screen; not so hot when blown up to HD size. In that regard, playing a newer release of Dragon’s Lair, say on the PS3 or PS4, looks much better.
When hooking the cabinet up to a TV, you can select where the sound comes from via the menu screen: you can have the TV provide the sound, or it can continue to come from the Replicade speakers.
Incidentally, the menu screen is very high-res and looks great on the TV. Go figure.
You can also continue to control the game with the unit’s joystick and buttons, or try different USB controllers to see if your favorite one works. I haven’t given this an extensive test, but I’ve heard that some pads and sticks don’t work well, or at all.
Of course, I had to try what I always try when testing out any newer HDMI gaming units, and that’s to run it through my cheapo converter and play it on a CRT.
The fact that there’s no way to change the aspect ratio means the picture is squeezed, but the low resolution is no longer a factor and it doesn’t look bad at all. If there was a way to force the aspect ratio back out, it would actually look almost as good as the original laserdisc.
At any rate, all the hype that the Dragon’s Lair Replicade machine has received is absolutely deserved. New Wave really knocked it out of the park with this one — so much so, that the second production run sold out instantly. Thanks again for such a great product, New Wave!
Now I just hope that everyone who bought it actually plays it and learns how great Dragon’s Lair really is.
And if you haven’t seen my unboxing video yet, here it is:
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