I basically grew up in video game arcades back in the 1980s. So it goes without saying that I have a place in my heart for classic arcade games. Among my proudest possessions is a full-size custom arcade machine that can play all kinds of retro games from the 1970s until the early 2000s. While most 1980s arcade games used pixel art or vector graphics, the games from Cinematronics took a very different approach, hiring on artists like Don Bluth to create movie-quality animation sequences, then digitized them onto LaserDisc. Cinematronics’ best-known titles are Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace, which eventually were licensed to Digital Leisure. Now, thanks to the folks at New Wave Toys, we can play the 1983 classic Dragon’s Lair on a miniature replica of the original arcade cabinet.
This officially-licensed 1/6th-scale machine is part of the company’s RepliCade line, which previously included pint-size versions of Tempest, Centipede, and Street Fighter II. A RepliCade version of Asteroids is currently in the works as well. New Wave Toys prides itself on accuracy, so their mini cabinets are spot-on reproductions of the originals. They even package their 12″ tall machines in cardboard boxes that look like the ones they might have shipped to arcades inside of.
Every little detail is there on the Dragon’s Lair machine, from the classic red ball joystick and arcade buttons to the illuminated coin slots to the pristine vinyl cabinet art. The machine even comes with a tiny LED scoreboard, just like the original machine. The scoreboard has been synced up with the game software, so it displays real-time scores for two players, along with how many lives and credits you have remaining. A push on the left coin return button adds credits just like adding quarters in the arcade.
The machine’s iconic angled marquee even has backlighting. Of course, the most important thing with a system like this is how playable it is, and at that, it excels. Since it uses data from the original game ROMs, the graphics and sounds are identical to the original arcade game, and they look great on the system’s 4.2″ color LCD screen. Note that the blur seen in my photos here is an artifact of trying to photograph moving images, and the video is razor-sharp in person. They did improve one thing from the original, too, eliminating the black screen which appeared between scenes in the original game as the LaserDisc player’s mechanism was seeking. If you must have perfect arcade accuracy, you can turn this back on in the game settings.
The gameplay is spot-on and every bit as challenging as I remember the game being back in the day. Just be prepared for Dirk the Daring to die over and over again as you attempt to time your moves perfectly in pursuit of the elusive Princess Daphne. I’ve still not succeeded at rescuing the Princess, but at least now I don’t have to use any quarters while I work towards my goal.
The tiny machine has excellent sound for its size too, and it also has a USB controller port and HDMI output in case you want to play it on a bigger screen. A push of the right coin return button brings up a settings menu, which lets you adjust the screen’s brightness, marquee lighting, number of lives, difficulty level, and more. Its built-in rechargeable battery should give you somewhere around 2 hours of play on a charge. Of course, you can always plug it in if you want to play for longer.
The machine also comes with a few collectibles in the box, including four tiny game tokens, a Daphne kickplate decal, a replica of the original game LaserDisc, and it’s supposed to come with a miniature LaserDisc player and remote control, though that was missing from the box of my review unit for some reason.
New Wave Toys clearly loves classic arcade games, and the attention to detail in the design of their miniature machines is better than that of any arcade machine clones I’ve played with over the years. The Dragon’s Lair machine is a perfect copy of the original game and a wonderful collectible for any diehard arcade fanatic. It sells for $119.99, and while it’s currently out of stock, you can sign up on the New Wave Toys website to be notified when more are available.