Pros: Nice sculpt; surprisingly good articulation
Cons: Rough paint applications
Long ago, in a magical time, a good king named Aethelred ruled a peaceful and prosperous kingdom.
Now his kingdom had many treasures, but it's greatest prize was Princess Daphne, the king's only child. Brave knights and handsome princes came from afar just to pay her court, for she was a maiden of exceeding beauty and grace. but, though they laid vast riches at her feet and pleaded most earnestly for her fair hand, the Princess Daphne refused them all. For her heart had long been given to another... to Dirk the Daring, the king's champion and bravest knight.
Then one day, Mordroc, an evil wizard who ruled over a shadowed land, appeared in Aethelred's kingdom and demanded that the king deliver up his kingdom and people to him. When Aethelred refused Mordroc's vile demand, the wizard kidnapped the beautiful Daphne and imprisoned her in a crystal sphere in the horrible dungeons beneath his enchanted castle.
Mordroc then sent Aethelred this message: Relinquish your kingdom before the setting of the sun or your beloved daughter will perish.
Aethelred and all the people of the kingdom were plunged into despair. All, except for Dirk, who vowed to go to the enchanted castle and free the princess... if he could survive the dungeon's many perils... if he could reach the dragon's lair...
-Dragon's Lair - 1984 manual
So what have we learned here? That apparently the famous Anglo-Saxon king Aethelred the Unready (Aethelred Unraed) employed a guy called "Dirk the Daring" and had a scantily-clad daughter named "Daphne." I guess I was asleep during that part of my English history class in college - which wouldn't have been that unusual.
Or perhaps this is some sort of allegory where the Vikings, who plundered England's shores during Aethelred's reign in the late 900s CE, are represented by an evil wizard named "Mordroc" while Aethelred's faithful thanes (the most famous of whom being Byrhnoth, aldorman of Essex, who died fighting the Vikings in the Battle of Maldon in 991) are represented by Dirk...
Ahem. False history lesson aside, Dragon's Lair 3D was one of the great advances in the nascent arcade industry of the early 1980s. It began collecting kids' allowances in 1983. It created quite a furor at the time: it was the first game to feature laserdisc technology, allowing it to sport handsome graphics rarely seen at that time. In fact, DL3D was less of a "game" than an animated film that required occasional motivational prodding by the player (and, of course, a quarter or two). This was always the worst criticism leveled at the game: despite the gorgeous graphics, it wasn't nearly as interactive as other games of the period.
But what animation! DL3D was the product of Don Bluth, the escaped Disney animator responsible for such films as The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time, An American Tale, and Anastasia. If you've seen any of these movies you'll immediately recognize Dirk's distinctively Bluthian looks - the dark near-unibrow, the hawkish nose, the curved grimace over the huge, smooth chin. Daphne's a bit less familiar, as none of Bluth's other works feature near-naked blondes of Jessica Rabbit proportions.
Of course, I don't really have any memories of Dragon's Lair myself, as I was probably too short to play the game in 1983, when I was all of four years of age...and I certainly didn't have a pile of quarters to keep pumping in to the machine.
But I've digressed from my pre-review digression (hold on tight, don't Off Topic me, I promise I'll review the action figure soon). DL3D became so popular it spawned a sequel game (naturally) as well as a cartoon series (which lasted for one season). Then it went away. But, like everything from the '80s, it's back now, baby! A new game is in the works, which will debut later this year on pretty much every game system.
To celebrate the event, Anjon Toys (working through Diamond Distributors) has created a four-figure line of action figures based on the game. Included are Dirk, Daphne, Mordroc, and Singe, the eponymous owner of the Lair. Anjon is a newcomer to the action figure market, but unlike so many neophyte companies, they've done a pretty good job with these figures.
Take Dirk here. These days, young toy companies tend to take their cue from McFarlane Toys, a company that (until recently) has consistently emphasized the importance of sculpting over articulation. This resulted in a number of toys with what usually amounted to unarticulated lumps that often didn't even make up for the lack of articulation with a good sculpt (N2 toys, anyone?). Anjon, however, has avoided this pitfall. Dirk looks just as he should, right down to that distinctive grimace and oh-so-stylish pointy cap. Since this is a cartoon character, the sculpting is admittedly simple, but really, I've got nothing to complain about.
But the articulation is even better. Ol' Dirk sports ball-jointed shoulders and swivel joints at the neck, biceps, waist, wrists, hips, and calves (at the top of his boots). Ball-jointed hips and elbow/knee articulation would have been nice, but that also may have interfered a bit more with the sculpt. But still, Dirk features more articulation than I might have expected from a relatively new company.
Before I go any further, let's get the packaging out of the way. I always open all my figures, but I know there are those of you who prefer to collect MOC (mint-on-card), so I try to cater to you folks as well. The packaging has some great graphics, but it's your usual cardboard j-card with a plastic blister bubble. Also, the graphics on the back are the same for every figure, which is kind of boring. The blister does feature some nice little cardboard graphics at the bottom, though.
Much more impressive are Dirk's accessories. He comes with his trademark sword, which fits into a scabbard that hangs from his hip. The sword is fairly simple, and the scabbard is simply glued on and hangs a bit precariously; I think a kid would probably end up breaking it off. Dirk also has two keys (bearing some importance to the game, I can only assume) and a magic bottle of some sort of potion. Dirk also has a backpack, and the keys and potion can be stored inside. But the coolest accessory, by far, is the hideous Eyeball Tentacle Creature, a purple monstrosity consisting of four intertwining tentacles topped by green glaring eyeballs. I must admit, I don't quite see the danger inherent in such a creature - what does it do, look at you to death? But the tentacles are bendies (meaning they have wires inside, so they can be posed in many different positions) and its base is thick enough that it stands on its own. So even if the only figure you buy is Dirk, he's still got someone to tussle with...though how that tussling would be achieved with such a malformed creature, I don't know.
But the figure isn't perfect. New companies tend to have a flaw somewhere, and Anjon's appears to be paint apps. This doesn't seem to be endemic to the toyline - Mordroc, for example, has great paints (see my Mordroc review). But Dirk's paints are blotchy in some places, particularly the shoulders and around the ball-joints. There's some spillover and brushmarks as well. It makes the figure look a little cheap, though it's really not so bad. I'm willing to forgive, seeing how cool the figure is overall.
I can't say I'm a fan of DL3D, but I am a fan of medieval and fantasy toys, which is why I picked this fella up. I can easily recommend him to any DL3D fan and the casual collector who finds him interesting. But, despite the cartoony look, I wouldn't recommend this guy for kids - he's not very durable, he can only be found at specialty stores, and at $9.99 there are better toys (like the new He-Man figures!) you can get your kids.
Check out the new Dragon's Lair 3D game at www.dragonslair3d.com
Get the scoop on the Dragon's Lair cartoon at http://www.yesterdayland.com/popopedia/shows/saturday/sa1257.php
And of course, as always, visit www.oafe.net (coming soon)
Suggested For: Fans of Dragon's Lair and interested toy collectors
Bang For the Buck: 7 - I like the fact you get what amounts to nearly two figures.
Best Feature: Sculpt/likeness