Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laserdisc Games

Many out there might not know about Laserdisc games.  In the mid eighties (it also had a revival in the very early nineties), a new genre of game came out.  The first one was called Dragon's Lair.  The whole game was basically an animated short (or movie).  The whole game was controlled by a Laserdisc player, along with a regular processing unit.

What would happen is that the game would play an animated sequence, and you would have to react to it by using the control stick and any buttons.  If you put in the correct move, the animation would continue; if not, you would be taken to a "death scene," lose a life, then replay a certain scene.

Though critically panned, these Laserdisc games were wildly popular back in the day.  Some used footage from Japan anime series, such as Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro (renaming it Cliffhanger) since creating footage was a massive undertaking: not only in manpower, but also in funds -- remember, this was before the age of computer-aided animation, where everything needed to be drawn and colored by hand.  A few games were also created in Japan, such as Time Gal, or Road Avenger.

In the late ninties, the games came back for a brief time, prodded by Sega's Time Traveler holographic game.  This brought out the abandoned Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp, as well as giving a revival of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace.

Maybe you couldn't really call them games: the general critique was that it wasn't a game, but rather a movie where you hit buttons.  In reality, that was the truth, and without luck, you tended to spend a lot of money getting to the victory sequence, which was often very brief. 

Many of them made their appearances on home computers, and console video game systems.  Dragon's Lair was the most prolific, being the most popular, but some of the Japanese ones made their way to the Sega CD system and even the original PlayStation.  Some were also ported to DVD systems, but a little unwieldly, since DVD players weren't really made to play games.

A number of years ago I made a small program in Visual Basic that would allow you to make your own Laserdisc games, and will be uploading it in the near future to my website. Check the Downloads section of my website for the program.

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