It's not that I don't understand what the designers were trying to do, or the challenge involved in somehow creating a game that evoked the laserdisc coin-op. Believe me, I do. And I could even handle the laggy controls, the frustrating enemy placement that constantly forces you to crouch, the sprite breakup that occasionally makes projectiles go invisible, the way attacking drains your health, or the fact that platforms behave differently from almost every NES game out there.
All this, however, pales in comparison to the sheer, unadulterated dickishness of Dragon's Lair. Over and over again, it takes situations in which a normal game would allow you some wiggle room, some reasonable margin for error, and gives none. Moving platforms and barriers that should pause at one extreme, to allow you time to gauge your movements (and compensate for the awful lag), don't. Enemies spawn in ways designed to impede any sense of "flow", and force you to wait at awkward times.
The worst of all comes right before the final boss fight against Singe, where nearly pixel-perfect jumping is required to avoid an item that, if collected, makes the game essentially unwinnable. Got 7-8 extra lives in the tank? Too bad, you have to start over. And you have to replay this section every single time you face Singe (who's the one tough boss fight in the game, and a doozy -- the others are embarrassingly easy).
What's the point? Why make your own game so singularly unpleasant to play? It's not even that hard per se, it's just...a joyless, loveless experience with nice animation, good music, and no heart. F.
19. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom (NES)
Though an infinitely easier game, this reminded me more of Dragon's Lair than I ever would have expected, in that most of the game's challenge is memorization and it can be annoyingly dickish, especially the platforming segments. And Space Mountain proves that you can have the shallowness of an FMV game in cartridge form, as you memorize long strings of inputs meant to simulate a cockpit space shooter.
Where's the fun? At least the Bump 'n Jump-style racer is sort of OK. D+.
20. Wayne's World (NES)
This might be the "objectively" worst licensed NES game I've ever played, with literally nothing to recommend it except the digitized voice samples and (to a lesser extent) graphics.
Bad though it was, the Game Boy port is, remarkably, an improvement in every way over this Action 52-level disaster, made with the utmost in lazy cynicism by our fine feathered friends at THQ. Actually, scratch that -- some games in Action 52 play better than this, and I'm not engaging in hyperbole here. F.
Beat Dragon's Lair (at last) and Adventures in the Magic Kingdom.
I also tried the PAL version of Dragon's Lair, which is substantially different, including a much faster gameplay speed, new enemies and bosses, and an extra death animation. I don't plan to take it on anytime soon, though.
Got close to beating this: I can make it to the final boss consistently (with max lives, even), and can beat him if I start there from a savestate, but haven't put both of those things together yet. Horrible, miserable, torturous game.
This would almost be a decent little tennis game if it weren't for the fact that the programmers completely failed to implement the "no returning the opponent's serve before it bounces" rule that's been part of tennis since...
...well, I can't seem to find out how long ago the rule was added, but France might have had a king at the time. Anyway, it makes it possible to cheese the game trivially, but maybe that's fine. D.
15. Star Voyager (NES)
I've beaten this every year since 2016, so no new comments needed.
16. Krusty's Fun House (NES)
This would be a decent little puzzle game to chip away at, if it weren't for the designers' decision to use hardcoded passwords, forcing you to play up to 15 levels at one sitting. Instead, it's a slog with an excessive upfront commitment, questionable controls, and a limited lifestock system that adds nothing to the game. The puzzles themselves are fine, though. C-.
17. Conan (NES)
How to make a short game artificially long? Try padding it with cryptic stage completion requirements, buggy hit detection, bizarro-world controls, and unnecessary jerkitude.
It's a miracle this isn't worse than it is -- in fact, once you know what to do, the game is quite forgiving to the point of being easy -- but whatever cleverness is present in the stage design, there were times I really felt like I was playing Action 52 all over again.
I guess the original C64 and ZX Spectrum version was better...but if the sequence with the urns is truly trial and error, with no clues whatsoever in the game, that's unforgivable on any platform. D-.