DRAGON'S LAIR II ENHANCEMENT     NOW AVAILABLE FOR DEXTER!

image: screenshot

Created by · Dave Hallock
Hardware adaptation · Shaun Wood
Beta testing · Tony M. Victorino


Hover your pointer over the large textDL2E is here! on this page for detailed information.


INTRODUCTION


The "DL2E" software is a Dragon's Lair II Enhancement.  With DL2E loaded onto a Merlin MultiROM board, your Dragon's Lair (or Space Ace) game can play Time Warp the way it was supposed to in 1984!   For the video source, you can choose to use a DL2 laserdisc, or...

Lost alternate scene has been restored!
If you didn't know, the original Time Warp film includes an alternate climax scene, which the Leland Corporation (alone) decided to cut out before producing the laserdiscs for their arcade version of DL2.  An extended video file for the Dexter laserdisc replacement device adds this missing scene back in!  Using Dexter as your video source, DL2E restores the animators' original game design where collecting all the magic items during the game will trigger the appearance of this alternate scene.  More details on this are below.


QUESTIONS SO FAR?   Hover your pointer for answers...

What exactly is DL2E?
What is Merlin?
What is Dexter?
What is required to use DL2E?


VIDEO OF DL2E IN ACTION

Here is a gameplay demonstration, and there is another video below that focuses on the collection of items during the game.

This is DL2E running with Merlin-8000 and the LD-V8000 laserdisc player.  When a frame search is initiated, the LD-V8000 continues to display the last-played frame as a still image instead of blacking-out the screen.


CHOOSING BETWEEN MERLIN-1000, MERLIN-8000 & MERLIN-DX FIRMWARE

The version of Merlin you need depends on which laserdisc player (LDP) or other video source (Dexter) you're going to use.  Hover for details.


Merlin-1000
Merlin-8000
Merlin-Dx



The simplest way to put it, is that Merlin-1000 offers the MultiROM function only and integrates with whatever hardware you currently have working, Merlin-8000 lets you convert to newer Pioneer LDP models which all have on-screen text capabilities, and Merlin-Dx is for Dexter.  The only difference between them is the software.  All three Merlins are the same board.

image: LD text used by DL2E during attract modeThe LDP character generator:
When using Merlin-1000, the only thing you will ever see on the screen will be the actual DL2 laserdisc content, which is not ideal for DL2E because the text messages available on the DL2 disc are very restrictive.image: DL2E attract mode text using LDP OSD  With Merlin-8000, DL2E will use the LDP's built-in character generator to display custom text during the attract mode, including how many coins are needed, how many lives the game starts with, the score interval for extra lives, detailed playing instructions, and a complete score chart.  The Merlin-1000 version shows simplistic game instructions and resorts to Leland's continuation messages in an effort to show coinage info.

The LDP's text display is also used by Merlin-8000 to show a menu of the different game ROMs that can be selected with the joystick, and it also allows you to choose a Space Ace skill level from an on-screen menu if you don't have a control panel with the skill level buttons mounted on it.  Merlin-Dx with Dexter also has on-screen menu functionality, and Merlin-1000 users select different game ROMs from an abbreviation of the games' titles shown in the score display.


DL2E is now available with new Merlin boards, and as an upgrade to all previous Merlin boards.
You're currently at the official DL2E web page for game information.  You can get DL2E at

» THE MERLIN WEBSITE «


CHOOSE DEXTER!

It's a shame that Leland cut a scene from the film before pressing their DL2 laserdiscs.  I'm excited at the ability to offer Time Warp's alternate climax scene with Dexter, which makes it the preferred version of DL2E.  And, in addition to Dragon's Lair, Space Ace and Time Warp, the future just might even bring more games to your Merlin, Dexter and Cinematronics hardware combination!  Not to mention that all games in a Merlin-Dx system are completely switchable on the fly from the game's control panel, without ever needing to open your game cabinet!  It's a true multigame.  So, consider the benefit of Dexter as a long term solution for aging players and discs, and save the DL2 discs for people who need them in their Leland cabinets.

The Dexter video for DL2E was not distributed before July 2017.  All previously purchased Dexter licenses for Dragon's Lair II already cover the required DL2E video file update available from the manufacturer.

The Dexter video also includes literally dozens of authentic, 1984-style still-images for all of DL2E's text requirements - as if the game had been released in 1984.
(as opposed to using Dexter's character generator to superimpose text)
image: customized DL2E attract mode art for Dexter


Learn more about Dexter at
» THE DEXTER WEBSITE «


ITEM COLLECTION VIDEO

Here is a demonstration of DL2E performing perfectly elegant transitions to the item collection sequences using the LD-V8000.  Notice the hammer in particular...  even the super fast-moving background art is frozen in precisely the correct spot!  These sequences were designed & animated to be completely seamless, both when they start and when they end.

And likewise, Dexter performs even faster, near-instantaneous searches during its operation with DL2E.

The digital frame buffer of the LD-V8000 should always be enabled with DL2E to prevent black-outs.  For Dragon's Lair, some people prefer the screen to go black after completing a scene, because the changes of environment in that game can sometimes be abrupt, but there is no occasion during Time Warp where the action looks better with a black-out.


ENHANCEMENTS   Hover for details...

↓ 

Here are some of DL2E's enhancements, as compared to the Leland Corporation's 1991 arcade game.

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And these are some enhancements that DL2E brings to the general style of the original Dragon's Lair and Space Ace games.


• Level progress is saved Time Warp has very long levels.  Way too long to be starting over again when you lose a life.  I believe that this is the primary reason why the Leland game failed in the arcades.  You can't expect people to put up with losing their progress and starting over again after completing 49 moves in a row, as can happen with the Leland game.  When you lose a life in DL2E, the game will resume at the failed move, and you will try it again.  (Exception: The first couple moves of the game will push you forward to the next move if you fail.)
• Seamless magic items Leland called them 'treasures', but research identifies them as 'magic items' at the time of their creation.  The sequences of Dirk collecting the items were animated to provide seamless video transitions, both at their starting and ending points.  Dirk always returns to his starting position after picking up an item.  The concept was for the normal game events to freeze in time, then play the animation of the item collection, and then resume the game at the same instant where it was frozen.  The above video demonstrates how smoothly DL2E allows this to happen.

In contrast, Leland somehow thought it would be better if, after the item was collected, the game backed up to an earlier point instead, (causing the item to appear again and flash again, even though Dirk had just picked it up), so that the player could be forced to complete the alternate joystick move that was also flashing at the same time as the item.  This made a waste of the effort that went into making the segments capable of flowing seamlessly.

• Item collection not mandatory In DL2E, collecting the magic items is important for scoring and earning extra lives, but it is not required to finish the game.  In the Leland game, if you miss any, you are denied entry to 'level 7', and you are sent back to replay the levels where you missed them.  If you miss them all, you must basically replay the whole game.  Ridiculous!
• More death scene variety For any particular move of the Leland game, only one death scene can possibly be shown for any of the incorrect joystick/button inputs.  In other words, if you make a wrong move, then you will always see the same death scene no matter what your input was.  DL2E will usually queue up multiple potential death scenes during the same move and allow different incorrect inputs to have different results.  For example, move left towards a dinosaur and get eaten, or move right towards a ledge and fall off.  The Leland game never does this, and it assigns the same death scene to all of the incorrect joystick/button inputs.  When appropriate, DL2E will even show different death scenes for the same joystick direction depending on the timing of it, to make sure that Dirk will never get killed by something that has not appeared on the screen yet, (nor by something that has already left the screen), as can happen with the Leland game.
• No reversed resurrections It's a general consensus that the horizontally flipped resurrection scenes on the Leland laserdisc look bad.  DL2E will never show you these clips.

The original Time Warp film includes reversed footage of only two scenes (Wonderland & Eden), and per the animators' usual practice, just like they did with the reversed scenes in Dragon's Lair, the resurrections for those two scenes were not reversed on the film and were left intact.  (This is why they are not reversed on the laserdisc.)  None of Time Warp's other scenes were reversed on film.  This time around, the animators realized that the footage could be digitally flipped when the laserdiscs were pressed, and they could fill the film reels with more varied content instead.  But when Leland was ultimately charged with digitally reversing the remaining scenes, they allowed the resurrections to get reversed along with them.  They 'didn't get the memo' that resurrections are never supposed to be reversed!  DL2E will always search to the closest proper-looking resurrection.

• Limited use of text overlay DL2E prints text on the screen with Merlin-8000 and a late-model LDP, but this will only happen on a still frame, and not while any video is playing.  Leland obscured the video with text during the game and also during the attract demo.
• Alternate climax scene Using Dexter, DL2E offers the lost alternate scene, which was designed to be triggered upon collecting all the magic items during the game.  (details below)
Extra lives awarded for score • DL2E does not offer a 'continue' feature when the game is over.  For an arcade game, a continue feature is not too much different than an unlimited lives setting.  Some arcade games are designed to be virtually impossible to complete without adding coins to continue, but the Don Bluth games are not very long games, and they should not be 'churned' through with unlimited lives.  (As demonstrated by people who churned through the DVD versions and then put them on ebay the same day they bought them.)  These games deserve better, and they should remain a challenge.  In fact, I didn't even include an unlimited lives DIP switch option in DL2E!  (So there!)  But I also know that Time Warp is a much harder game than Dragon's Lair or Space Ace, and that limiting players to only 3 or 5 lives may not be reasonable.  So, the ideal compromise was to award extra lives for score, at intervals that can be selected with the DIP switches.  The available settings are very flexible, and the feature can also be turned off completely.  The 'pay-as-you-go' setting of Dragon's Lair offered the option to award an extra life with a mid-game coin drop, but other than that, DL2E is the first time that I've ever seen extra lives being awarded for score in any version of a Don Bluth game...  and it actually works out really great!  The feature breathes a refreshing new interest and purpose into the entire scoring concept.
New feedback sounds • DL2E uses the same three original sounds from the on-board sound chip, (the coin chime, the joystick dink, and the joystick buzz), and two new sounds have also been added!  There is a new dink that plays when an incorrect joystick/button input has been accepted.  You can hear it in the first video at the top of the page at time 0:12.  DL2E will only play the traditional dink sound when a correct joystick/button input has been accepted, and the buzz sound will only be played when an input is not accepted.  This means that, for the first time ever with this arcade hardware, each of the joystick feedback sounds will always have only one clear and distinct purpose.  There is also one other new sound.  A bonus chime will play when an extra life is awarded for score.  You can hear it in the video at time 0:34.
Variable scoring tiers • The DL2E scoring system (fully explained in its own section below) may seem simple at first, but it's actually very dynamic.  Every move of the game...  every action that you correctly input with the control panel is worth a base 500 points.  But you can increase that value by collecting magic items.  Each item boosts your base score for each action by 50 points.  This makes collecting items a key component towards earning extra lives.  If you never collect an item, then you will perpetually earn 500 points for every move, and the difference really adds up!

The scoring of Dragon's Lair and Space Ace is completely static.  It always awards the same scores in the same places.

Bonus score display • A bonus score is awarded for collecting magic items.  (The first one you get is worth 5,000 points, and they can increase to 5 figures.)  Instead of just adding the amount directly to your score total as usual, DL2E uses the score display to show you the bonus you are receiving!  Watch the video of Dirk collecting magic items above.  When Dirk picks up an item, its value flashes in the display.  With the gameplay frozen at this point, it can easily catch the eye, and the player has ample free time to take notice of it.
Coins and credits display • If start is pressed while the game contains only partial credit, DL2E will display a message to tell the player that more coins are needed, instead of doing nothing like Dragon's Lair and Space Ace.

When set to free play, DL2E will not show '02' in the credits display like DL & SA.  It will show dashes to indicate that credits are not active.

Longer attract mode • The original Dragon's Lair and Space Ace games provide only about 12 seconds of still images between each attract mode demo.  That's not much of a rest from the demo sounds, and the DIP switch setting to play the sound only every 8th time is quiet for too long!  DL2E has a much better balance.  The DL2E attract mode has 3 pages of text instead of 2, and each page displays for longer, totaling about 30 or 35 seconds (varies with software version & LDP performance).  The result is that DL2E is quiet for about 40% of the time during normal attract mode cycles.  Additionally, in consideration of this longer delay, the DIP switch setting to reduce the audio now plays the attract sound every 4th time instead of every 8th.  The result of this is roughly 4.5 minutes of silence between demos with sound, compared to about 6.7 minutes of silence when Dragon's Lair plays sound every 8th time.



GAMEPLAY INFORMATION

Playing Instructions
Press start, and watch the video for flashes of light.  Move Dirk towards the flash by tapping the joystick in the correct direction, then let go.  When Dirk's sword flashes, press the sword button.  If your input is accepted and is correct, you will hear a tone.  If your input is accepted but is not correct, you will hear a flat version of the tone and lose a life.  If your input is not accepted at all, then you will hear a buzz sound - try again.  A correct action will never be accepted before the flash occurs.  All moves must be made after the start of the flash.  Magic items that you can collect will appear during the game and flash separately, causing two flashes at once.  Choose wisely!

Scoring
Every correct action is worth a base 500 points.  This amount increases by collecting magic items.  Each item will add 50 points to the base.  For example, after you've collected 3 items, you'll get 650 points for every correct action.  The magic items themselves are also worth points.  Your first item is worth 5,000, and additional items will continue to increase in value (by 500 each for the laserdisc versions of the game, and 1,000 each for the Dexter version).  Each item's value will flash in your score display as Dirk picks it up.  Magic items can become very valuable, which is crucial for earning extra lives.  Finally, there is one more bonus score.  Complete an entire level* without losing any lives, and you will get a 1 point bonus!  That might sound silly, but it may actually be the most interesting score of the game.  Without it, the last digit of your score always remains a zero.  These 1 point bonuses represent how many levels you've completed without any mistakes.  When your game is over, you can easily see how many it was.  And of course, this means that the maximum possible score for DL2E can only be obtained by never losing a life!
*Each 'level' ends with the activation of the time machine.

Extra Lives
See the DIP switch settings chart below for the available options.  When the feature is activated, a bonus life will be awarded at the selected score intervals.  A chime will be heard with each award.

Magic Items
For the Merlin-Dx version of the software only:   In addition to maximizing score, the magic items can also affect the ending of the game.  If you collect every item, Daphne will be protected from the Death Ring.



DIP SWITCH SETTINGS

Remember that the switch numbers printed in white on your game's PCB run from 0-7, and not 1-8.

Number of Coins Required for One Credit
1 CoinA0=OFFA1=OFF
2 CoinsA0=ONA1=OFF
Free Play A1=ON
Attract Mode Sound
Always onA2=ONA3=ON
Every 5 minutesA2=ONA3=OFF
Always offA2=OFF 
Number of Starting Lives Per Credit
3 LivesA5=ON
5 LivesA5=OFF
For Merlin-1000 & Merlin-8000...
When powered on, boot-up to...
Merlin's game selection menuA7=ON
the game's attract modeA7=OFF
Bonus Life Award
If set for 3 Lives (A5=ON):
Every 50,000B6=ONB7=OFF
Every 60,000B6=OFFB7=ON
Every 70,000B6=ONB7=ON
If set for 5 Lives (A5=OFF):
Every 70,000B6=ONB7=OFF
Every 80,000B6=OFFB7=ON
Every 100,000B6=ONB7=ON
No extra lives awardedB6=OFFB7=OFF
For the Merlin-Dx Game-Changing Feature...
Changing the game is disabledA6=OFFA7=OFF
Change games w/ Left+SwordA6=OFFA7=ON
Auto-rotation (Factory ROMs)A6=ONA7=OFF
Auto-rotation (Enhancement)A6=ONA7=ON

Switches A4, B0, B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 are only used with the other games in the Merlin MultiROM.


There is no recommended setting for the starting lives and extra lives.
However, here is the suggested order for how the settings rank in terms of game difficulty,
based upon averages of how soon lives can become available for use during the game:

Setting  (easiest to hardest) Maximum lives attainable
       5 lives ‑ extra @ 70K        9
       5 lives ‑ extra @ 80K        9
       5 lives ‑ extra @ 100K        8
       3 lives ‑ extra @ 50K        9
       3 lives ‑ extra @ 60K        8
       5 lives ‑ no extra        5
       3 lives ‑ extra @ 70K        7
       3 lives ‑ no extra        3


THE ALTERNATE SCENE

Here are all the details about it!  There are no spoilers in the next paragraph.

The alternate scene is designed to replace the segment that the Leland Corporation called 'level 7' if Dirk collects all the magic items during the game.  The intended variable nature of this scene is the only reason that a break exists in the animation between what Leland called 'level 7' and 'level 8'.  (These are not supposed to be considered two different levels.  The complete game has 7 levels.)  The sole purpose of the break is not to start a new level, but to act as the seam where both versions of the climax could converge and transition smoothly into the last half of the level.  For some reason, Leland totally scrapped this concept and even went so far as to cut the alternate scene from their laserdiscs.  Boo!  (There is still PLENTY of empty space left on the DL2 disc.)  To make matters worse, Leland then incorrectly identified the break in the animation as the start of a new level, and called it 'level 8'.

Each of the following pop-ups will now slowly progress to completely spoiling the alternate scene.

• The role of the magic items Leland called them 'treasures', but research identifies them as 'magic items' at the time of their creation.  For collecting all the items, the concept was for Dirk to receive some type of aid with safeguarding Daphne and defeating Mordroc.  Somehow, all the items together in Dirk's backpack are capable of affecting how the game's final events will unfold (even though Dirk never actually uses any of them.)  Exactly how are the items able to do this?  That's a good question.  But with the word 'magic' used to describe them, somehow it's all OK.
• The length of the alternate scene The alternate scene is shorter, about half the length of the common scene.  The number of moves that Dirk makes is also proportionately less.
• Comparison with the common version In order to be able to describe how the alternate scene differs, the more common ending must also be spoiled.  Here is a summary of the common version:

When Dirk finally confronts Mordroc, Mordroc places the Death Ring on Daphne's finger, and she transforms into a large banshee (monster) and tries to eat Dirk.  While dodging many attacks, Dirk eventually manages to pry the ring off of her finger, and he flings it onto Mordroc's finger using his belt.  Mordroc bloats up while the banshee begins to revert to Daphne.  Dirk destroys Mordroc with his sword, and Daphne returns to a normal, sleeping state.  At this point, some small dacaryii (little pterodactyls) start flying in to serve as Dirk's final annoyance for the remainder of the game.  Dirk swipes at one of them as he stands above Daphne.

This marks the ending point of the popular climax, and this is also the same ending point for the alternate version.  From there, both versions are designed to transition into Dirk kissing Daphne while she sleeps, followed by their return home.

• A detailed summary Spoiler!  Full scene details:

Like the longer scene, the alternate scene also begins with Mordroc placing the ring on Daphne's finger and Dirk throwing his sword into Mordroc's arm, but then Daphne disappears, and the ring remains on the platform where she was standing.  As Dirk jumps over to grab the ring, he accidentally kicks it down to an area beneath the platform.  He jumps down to get it, and the structure begins to crumble.  Dirk removes his belt and loops it through the ring just as everything crumbles away.  Mordroc shouts and takes aim at Dirk with his finger, and he fires down a magical bolt of energy.  Dirk jumps away from it and twirls the ring on his belt like a sling.  As Mordroc points at Dirk to fire another shot, Dirk flings the ring onto Mordroc's finger, and Mordroc bloats up.  Everything begins crumbling, and Dirk jumps away as Mordroc's body explodes.  Dirk finds Daphne sleeping, and rocks fall from above, wiping out the remains of Mordroc.  Dirk stands above Daphne, and the dacaryii (little pterodactyls) start flying in.  Dirk swipes at one of them, and from there, the game continues with Dirk kissing Daphne while she sleeps.

• Design analysis Admittedly, the longer scene is more spectacular than the alternate, and with that in mind, someone might be inclined to suggest that playing the longer scene should be the reward for collecting all the items, and that the shorter scene should be played if any items were missed, but this is simply not how it goes, as confirmed to me personally by producer Gary Goldman.  The items need to trigger the shorter scene.  Dirk's reward for collecting everything simply cannot be that his wife transforms into a monster and attempts to kill him.

I realize that in Space Ace, the concept of 'energizing' is to provide a more challenging and spectacular game and to get more score, but that concept (having a longer scene as a reward) doesn't translate to what's going on in Time Warp, and it just doesn't support the story or Daphne's well-being, or otherwise make any sense from Dirk's point of view.  Dirk's reward must be the alleviation of hardship and the protection of his wife.  And just to let you know, I've painstakingly made certain, through the design of the DL2E scoring system as outlined above, that the highest possible scoring game of DL2E occurs with collecting all the magic items and playing the shorter climax!


MERLIN-1000 DEMONSTRATION

Here is another video, in which beta tester Tony M. Victorino plays through a few levels of the Merlin-1000 version of DL2E.

Tony's video represents exactly how the game looks and performs when it's running with either of the original 1983 laserdisc players (PR-7820 or LD-V1000).


ADDITIONAL INFO

If the hovering pop-up text boxes on this page do not work with your device, here is a link to all the text that appears in the pop-up boxes.

Check out the D-L-P forum discussion of DL2E that started in July 2015.

This initial release of DL2E is version 1.0, and an additional digit is shown in the score display when the game is turned on:
   1.0.0 is the Merlin-Dx version
   1.0.1 is the Merlin-1000 version
   1.0.8 is the Merlin-8000 version


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