Dungeons & Dragons has had a long history in the video game world. The classic tabletop game has translated quite well over the years, going as far as spawning several of the most widely-praised RPGs of all-time. However, even with a series as big as D&D, there are often a few obscure bits of the franchise that simply go under the radar. Such is the case with Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and its sequel Shadow Over Mystara, two hack-n-slash arcade games that never truly got the attention they deserved. Luckily for us, Capcom has once again released both games in one collection, simply titled Chronicles of Mystara, but are these classic arcade games worth revisiting?
If you’ve ever played a hack-n-slash sidescroller, you’ll be able to jump right into these Dungeons & Dragons games with ease. Players choose from a variety of different characters, each based on a specific class such as Dwarf, Thief, and so on. While most games in this genre have very little difference between the various characters aside from appearance and special attack, Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara gives a unique inventory and skill set to each class. The magic user, for instance, has the ability to launch powerful fireballs and other advanced special abilities, while the Dwarf can fire arrows or use his shield to protect himself from attack. The characters and their abilities bring a lot of strategy to what would otherwise be just another mindless beat ’em up game. Playing with multiple friends also allows for some interesting combat.
The combat gets especially creative during the game’s many boss battles. The enemy design is top-notch, and as with most old-school bosses, success is all about learning attack patterns and having quick reflexes. These battles are where the game really shines, though in a single-player game they can be frustrating and difficult due to the arcade design. After all, these games were initially designed to devour quarters. This leads to many situations where you are surrounded by enemies and pummeled until death, or losses that can drain a vast majority of your health in a single hit. This happens far less frequently when playing with friends, but if you are a solo player, be prepared to die. A lot. Thankfully, Chronicles of Mystara features unlimited continues for you and your friends.
In fact, playing with friends is the ideal choice when it comes to both of the games included in this collection, as the solo experience can get quite tiring after only a few chapters. Capcom clearly understands this, and has included an online multiplayer mode that allows up to four players to quickly jump in (or out) of games already in progress. It provides an arcade-like experience, which is one of the game’s best aspects, and it’s surprisingly easy to sink a few hours into each game when playing online.
It also helps that Chronicles of Mystara features some new enhancements in the form of unlockable content and the ability to level your user profile. By completing specific in-game achievements, such as lighting five enemies on fire or collecting a certain amount of “SP,” you can net some Vault Points which can then be used to purchase new content. The most interesting unlockables come in the form of House Rules, which can drastically alter the in-game experience by giving players bonuses. These House Rules are also stackable, and give players a good reason to experiment with unfamiliar classes in order to unlock new loot.
Ultimately, if you are a fan of classic sidescrollers, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is one of the best. The single-player experience is a bit lackluster due to the overwhelming odds and arcade design, but playing online proved to be an incredibly enjoyable experience.
Chronicles of Mystara is available for Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, and PC.