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Dragon's Lair Restoration

posted on 8/20/21

I vaguely remember the time and place where I first was introduced to the arcade game Dragon's Lair. While browsing through a now retired video game store as a child I stumbled upon a display of Dragon's Lair running. It was a PC port playing from a cd-rom and right then I was stunned. Until that point I had never seen an animated video game. The idea was so novel and intriguing to me that from that moment on I had to eventually acquire a copy of the game for my computer. Many weeks passed and upon great luck while shopping in the mall with my dad I witnessed a small stand of Dragon's Lair PC games for sale. I recall the location of the stand being in a rather odd place but no matter I was pleased to be reunited. My dad bought the game for me easily since I think I occasionally brought it up and was looking forward to buying a copy. Being our last purchase of the day we set out to enjoy getting trapped in horrible traffic. Time stuck drifted by rather quickly since I was engrossed in the wonderful box art of the game and anticipating getting my chance to walk across that draw bridge into the castle. Upon many hours of trial and error I completed the game and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The fact that I was really into cd-rom technology made it all the more fun to play. Hearing the ever speeding up and slowing down of the motor fervently seeking out data on the disc was magical. I put the game to rest for a few years and moved onto other titles but I would never forget the game. Later in life when the internet was a common commodity I was searching around the net for Dragon's Lair related information. I don't recall why but I'm glad nonetheless. The Dragon's Lair Project was a site I discovered in my search musings and what a treat it was (and still is)! For the first time I saw the true form of the game. It's original 1985 arcade form. My fascination increased and I read all I could on the site to learn of others doing restorations of the classic and even emulating the original code using the Daphne Emulator.

Gleaning all of this new knowledge of the arcade form of Dragon's Lair hatched the idea in my brain to find my own cabinet to restore. By the graciousness of my parents they helped me slowly start buying the missing pieces. I obtained an old Sony laserdisc player and even got a couple of the new pressings of Dragon's Lair! Truly fortunate timing for me. I couldn't wait for the new discs to show up and try them out in my slowly expiring LD player I found on ebay. Over the next months I continued to acquire various components like a null modem cable, arcade buttons and joystick. Another lucky day was approaching when on one of my daily hunts on ebay for a Dragon's Lair cabinet I browsed a listing of a game the looked very familiar to me. The dimensions, height and control panel seemed to match that of the original Dragon's Lair cab I've been looking for except an imposter game had taken over its rightful housing instead. I mulled over the specifics that were provided on the auction listing then discussed with my parents since they would be the ones placing a bid provided I had no way to pay for something of that price! My parents considered it a high school project that would be educational and thus alleviating any issue for them to take on the expense. Whatever they wanted to categorize the project as I was beyond grateful and anticipated its arrival after having successfully won the auction! Time played its usually tricks and dragged on the days while I carefully listened for a call to come from my dad who had the large pallet shipped to his business. An overcast day is when that call came and then I was off to examine! Upon careful scrutiny of the cabinet I was relieved that it was in fact a true Dragon's Lair cabinet. The Cinematronics sticker, that predates me, was stapled to the back with minimal rust. Many a customer had taken their toll and frustrations on the game with various cracks and vinyl peeling away. Once we managed to get the huge package home I began removing all of the game parts and loving getting to see what an arcade cabinet contains. I wish I could recall what game was installed but I do have the main board. It was some sort of side scrolling, on rails, shooting game.

Well I've taken entirely too long discussing the origins of this project and will skip more of the past details. With my arrival to Texas, after purchasing my first home, I brought along the old cabinet and I thought it was time to get it fully upgraded from the hack job I had it as. The laserdisc player had died and the old PC running Daphne looked completely out of life. With my knowledge of the Dragon's Lair Project site I took to there once more to see what new parts I could buy to make it new and last many more years. I was very happy to see that some incredibly smart and dedicated people have built replacement parts for every critical piece of the Dragon's Lair puzzle. My timing I feel was very fortunate again and I was able to by a Dexter board and an Arthur board. I also found that flat panel, 19" LCDs were a thing I bought one from Arcade Shop along with some fresh push buttons and a Wico 8-way joystick. Patiently waiting for all of these numerous goodies to arrive I set about cleaning, drilling and wiring up all of the new gadgets. Oh! I forgot that I bought an excellent wiring harness from Golden Age Arcade Parts. This is definitely a must since finding an original harness can be very hit and miss on auction sites. The wiring up of everything took me a few days since the grounds and audio volume connections took me a bit to figure out and the coin door had to be rewired to connect to the harness. I bought some new molex connectors to get the coin door back into working shape. The score board that I had bought years ago from Mark Spaeth worked as good as ever! Just for safety I discovered that new scoreboards could be purchased at LaserCon from Shaun so I picked one up and got all of the components needed in case my board were to ever fail one day. Upon firing up the power strip once I doubled checked all of the wiring it actually all booted up! Well.... I had to do some firmware updates on the Dexter and Arthur boards but easy instructions were provided so it was no sweat! Moments later after the upgrade I fired up the cabinet again and heard those joyous blips from the still functioning speakers. The attract sequence burst on to the LCD tv and seeing our hero once more in his gloriously hand drawn world made the effort all worth while. I flung one of the coin door slot's actuators a few times for some lives and soon began dying at every turn in the castle haha. My memory has completely dropped all knowledge of the moves I once knew and had mastered as a child. Never the less it was fun re-learning the game. I haven't gotten quite that far into the castle just yet but I plan on taking some time to complete it once more. Maybe even then move onto finally playing Dragon's Lair II and Space Ace!

I'll now leave you with some photos of the arcade cabinet in its current state. I'm missing many previous photos from years back and if I'm able to track those down I'll update this page to show them. This has been a very long project and I'm happy to have it working beautifully and ready to last for many more years!

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