Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
Originally hitting arcades back in 1993, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom was quite the oddity. It prominently featured gameplay similar to that of its other brawler brethren, specifically the combat system of Final Fight mixed with the license quality of titles like The Simpsons, but also with the added benefit of being part of the complex D&D story. Not only was the game addictive but mild RPG elements, power-ups, and branching paths that had you etching a unique campaign were almost unheard of in arcades. Unfortunately this gameplay style and a long branching campaign required two important things: time and money. It probably costs somewhere between $5-$10 in quarters to conquer the first game, and probably twice that to take on the sequel Shadow Over Mystara and at least an hour of your time. As it stood, I never completed this game as a child, either due to lack of time or money, and I always wondered how fun it would be to have this title at home. Well finally Capcom has decided to bring this classic arcade duo in digital format and finally give free rein to a pair of arcade games that are among my favorite of all time.
As for the games themselves, they haven’t changed much. You get unlimited credits, all of the gameplay straight from the arcade, and both games in one. Not only that, but Capcom has integrated a sort of save system that remembers each level as you complete it. This is a great benefit over the arcade version because it’s hard to find 1-2 hours (or more depending on how much playing you want to do) without interruption, so now you can quit anytime and pick up at the beginning of the level you left off. Additionally the controls are left untouched, the four face buttons of whatever platform you choose relates directly to the original 4-buttons of the arcade and I was pleased to see my fight stick gave the game that true arcade feel. A front end menu system not unlike the ones recently seen in Darkstalkers Resurrection provides a collection of all the loot that can be collected in a checklist format, plenty of challenges to activate as you play, a mostly useless leveling system based on completion of the overall collection, and unlockable art and content. It all bundles the collection into a nice package for those that enjoyed it in the past.
Not only did Capcom bring both games together, but it has plenty of additional options to tweak the gameplay to your liking. Whether you prefer the world of smooth, slick modern visuals or want to try to capture that old school arcade feel the options are there for you. Display resolutions are available in traditional 4:3 boxed versions, a widescreen perspective, a stretched mode for full screen, and even three arcade views including a zoomed out over-the-shoulder view of the original 4-player dual cabinet. I don’t know why anyone would want to view the game that way, but now you can at the press of a button. You can also toggle scanlines, make the graphics smooth or sharp, and even have a modern type bezel art that shows you how close you are to completing challenges. With online capabilities you now have drop-in drop-out co-op play for up to four people, which can be as open or limited as you choose. Some of the aforementioned unlocked bonus content is the ability to have mods in the game such as regenerating health or unbreakable equipment, which can make the game more amusing when trying to do a speed run or assisting someone else. There are even passive options like seeing stats on your friends, leaderboards, and even the ability to make spell and equipment selections on the gamepad in the WiiU version. While I honestly think the visual options are the only true necessary extra, I was pleased to see that although an inexpensive HD re-release, this wasn’t thrown together.
To this day I still love Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons games to the point that I dropped around $50 to import the Japan-only Saturn port of this collection long ago. Now it’s fully localized and available without any sacrifice to the gameplay and at a much lower price. If you are a fan of arcade games, the D&D universe, or brawlers you definitely need to check out one of the most impressive sprite-based arcade titles to ever release. Now I may actually get to explore all of the various alternate routes and branching paths thanks to an unlimited amount of credits and time. Despite the fact that Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara does little more than bring back the two arcade titles to home consoles, the games themselves justify the purchase even if they were nothing more than direct ports of the original. Thank you Capcom, now my collection of favorite license-based brawler titles is nearly complete.
This title is available for $15 starting today on PSN and Steam, with the XBLA version going live tomorrow. No information was given on the upcoming WiiU digital release. A review copy of this title was provided with the main campaign of both games totaling about two and a half hours. We played approximately six hours of gameplay for this review including online and offline co-op and several replays of the campaigns.