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Dragon's Lair (NES)

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Title Screen

Dragon's Lair

Developer: MotiveTime
Publishers: CSG Imagesoft (US), Epic/Sony Records (JP), Elite Systems (EU)
Platform: NES
Released in JP: September 20, 1991
Released in US: December 1990
Released in EU: September 20, 1991

SourceIcon.png This game has uncompiled source code.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.

NotesIcon.png This game has a notes page

The NES Dragon's Lair is a rather underwhelming platformer based on Don Bluth's famous Laserdisc game.


Miscellaneous tidbits that are interesting enough to point out here.

Source Code

While the US version uses a 128KB ROM, the Japanese and European ones use 256KB ROMs. As a result, the latter two have a lot of unused space filled with garbage, leftovers from MS-DOS executables, and more.

Still, there's a lot of source code within said garbage.

Combined Source

The Japanese and European versions contain different portions of their source code which can be compiled into one huge file, covering almost all of program banks 30-39. There are some differences between the two versions, and it appears the Japanese one was done earlier.

Regional Differences

Framerate improvements aside, several notable differences exist between the US/Japanese and European versions of the game.

Copyright Screen

Japan US Europe
Dragon's Lair J Copyright Screen 1.png Dragon's Lair U Copyright Screen 1.png Dragon's Lair E Copyright Screen 1.png

The American version of the logo adds Don Bluth's and ®️, European version only added ™.

The European version shifted most of the content slightly to the left and became out of center.

Japan US Europe
Dragon's Lair J Copyright Screen 2.png Dragon's Lair U Copyright Screen 2.png Dragon's Lair E Copyright Screen 2.png

The Japanese version was changed from Don Bluth's to Sullivan Bluth's. The European version of Sullivan Bluth's was different from the Japanese version and was readjusted.

Japanese version of the copyright text rewrite, European version of the copyright text color from gray to blue and slightly adjusted.

Title Screens

Japan US Europe
Dragon's Lair J Title Screen .png Dragon's Lair U Title Screen.png Dragon's Lair (E) -!--0.png

The title Logo is different between each version.

Splash Screens

These screens were added to the European version and appear as you enter each stage. Oddly, the dungeon does not have one. The splash screen for the Entrance Hall depicts a boss that was added for this version, detailed below.

DragonsLairNES-Splash1.png DragonsLairNES-Splash2.png
DragonsLairNES-Splash3.png DragonsLairNES-Splash4.png

Entrance Hall Boss

US/Japan Europe
DragonsLairNES-BossNTSC.png DragonsLairNES-BossPAL.png

A giant snake boss was added to the European version, which replaces the multiple snake enemies at the end of the Entrance Hall. The boss shoots projectiles either directly at you or towards the floor as you try to hit it in the face.


US/Japan Europe
DragonsLairNES-SpiderNTSC.png DragonsLairNES-SpiderPAL.png

For some reason, this spider enemy only appears in the European version. Touching it is an instant kill. Only seen in the Entrance Hall. They replace some of the snake enemies from the US version.

Flying Insects

In Entrance Hall, Bats fly out of the openings in the US version, while the European version uses flying insects of some sort.

Death Animation

Flat Dirk.

When Dirk gets flattened in the European and Japanese versions, you get a unique animation of him getting stuffed inside his helmet with only his feet visible and walking around for a bit. In the US version, you get the usual skeleton death for everything.

The Elevator Shaft


The European version was made a bit harder here with added projectiles flying around the elevator shaft. Touching one is instant death.

The Mines

When approaching the boss, US version will not switch scenes, while Japanese version and European version will switch scenes immediately.

Whenever the boss is hit, the American version without flash, Japanese version and European version will flash.

Reaper's Domain

The vertical-moving skull enemies go down to the ground in the North American version, making them harder to avoid. The Japanese and European versions have the enemies move back up before they touch the ground.

North America Europe/Japan
Dragon's Lair Grim Reaper US.png Dragon's Lair Grim Reaper EU,JP.png

Also, the Grim Reaper's room was a bit different, in that the Japanese and European versions add holes to the floor.


The music plays faster in the Japanese version. Also, as with most PAL games, the music plays a half-step/semitone flat of what the USA version sounds like. Some songs in the European version play faster compared to the USA version, while other songs play slower.

Ending Theme

A few notes were changed in the game's ending theme in the Japanese and European versions at about 0:24.

North America Europe/Japan (Dendy)

Here are the notes from that bar written in MML for easier understanding,

US version:

E4+q. D4+8 D4+h. A3+q B3+q C4+q D4+w 

European/Japanese version:

E4+q. D4+8 D4+h. A3+8 B3+8 C4+q D4+q D+w

High Scores

There were a couple minor tweaks to the high scores between the US, European, and Japanese versions.

US European Japanese
  • The place for SBIM was swapped from 3rd place in the US version to 4th place in the European and Japanese versions.
  • The 3rd (U)/4th (E/J) scores represent the publishers for their respective companies; CSG, Elite, and Epic.

Speed Differences

The Japanese and European version uses an MMC3 mapper. As a result, the game is more responsive compared to the US version which uses an UNROM mapper.

(Source: Displaced Gamers: The Hidden Source Code in Dragon's Lair (NES))


The international versions uses B button to jump while the Japanese version uses the Up button ,This because of Japanese version of the Player 2's controller does not have a select button and start button. This makes the jumping very tricky in the Japanese version, especially when trying to perform precise jumps.

In addition, the international versions use the Start button for the candle while the Japanese version replaces it with the B button.


The European and Japanese versions make some rather unnecessary changes to the ending text.

North America Europe/Japan
Dragon's Lair - NES - Ending Screen (USA).png Dragon's Lair - NES - Ending Screen (Europe).png
  • The exclamation point in CONGRATULATIONS ! and OUR HERO HAS TRIUMPHED ! was removed. The latter text was moved to the right a little bit to better center it.
  • The last line removes the question mark from the North American release.