Preview: Twenty Years Later, And Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Is Still A Blast To Play
I’m not going to lie to you: before I sat down with Capcom to play the Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara remastered collection, I had never heard of Capcom’s two arcade hits,
Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara. The arcades around me had your typical classics, like Mrs. Pac Man, Galaga, and Raiden, and maybe a few fighting games like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. Then, and even now, I could and would never have equated the Dungeons and Dragons franchise with “hardcore action brawler-RPG.”
But now I know better.
Tower of Doom released in 1993, and Shadow Over Mystara released in 1996; so you can understand how surprised I was to find that for two games two decades old, they were as complex and innovative–or more–than current action brawlers you may find online or on consoles.
Set in Dungeons & Dragons‘s Mystara setting, and written by a Dungeons and Dragons writer, the Mystara games put you in the rugged boots of up to six character classes (four in Tower of Doom, six in Shadow Over Mystara). These include:
- The Fighter, a balanced character with range, power and high health;
- The Cleric, a capable low-powered fighter and but powerful spellcaster and party-healer;
- The Dwarf, who has the highest health and deals the most physical damage;
- The Elf, who has a good balance between fighting abilities and magical spells;
- The “Magic-User,” who has the most devastating magical spells but the weakest physical strength;
- and The Thief, who has many acrobatic and rogue abilities coupled with high speed.
Most interesting about the Shadow Over Mystara games is that the game goes well beyond the usual confines of an action-brawler, incorporating the infamous fighting-game inputs of Capcom’s Street Fighter series and many RPG elements to make for a truly unique experience.
During my time on the game, I got to use all of the characters at least once, some of whom use Ryu and Ken’s “Fireball” and “Dragon Punch” inputs to do special dash attacks, some of whom use a Guile or Chun-Li “Flash Kick” or “Spinning Bird Kick” attack to do a rising strike, some who can do special dash evasions about the stage, and more. I’ve even found some videos where players pull off crazy combos and juggles that take off massive amounts of damage in a way I’d never expect to see in a game like this. Am I surprised to see Capcom bleeding ideas into other games? No. And here it works pitch-perfect, enhancing the fighting mechanic far beyond most games of this type.
All characters have an Inventory Screen as well, which, upon holding down the “Y” or “Triangle” button–or viewing the Wii U’s touch screen, I’m told– allows players to enter a quick-inventory menu without interrupting the gameplay. This lets players change weapons, change tactics, use items, or choose special spells on-the-fly without needlessly interrupting gameplay. While playing, multiple paths and choices can be followed, which are voted on by players. With up to four player drop-in/drop-out local and online co-op, this can be just as fun and competitive as fighting over loot and kills. Some paths simply offer a different set of opponents to kill; some choices can offer wildly different experiences, like much harder enemies for the sake of rare loot, or a much easier experience for the sake of quick completion.
The Chronicles of Mystara collection is being handled by Iron Galaxy Studios, the developers behind the Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Online Edition, Marvel vs Capcom Origins and Darkstalkers Resurrection collections, so expect their style of presentation and unlockables here, all to good effect. Little challenges can be seen on the side of your screen, challenges that can be completed for bonus points. All the points players amass during the game can later be applied to the Vault, where players can unlock concept art, music, and–most importantly– “House Rules.” House Rules can be used to tweak gameplay, and can be stacked on top of one another to make for a new, unique, challenging or easier experience every time you play. Different views can also be applied to your screen, like a typical stretched view, and a classic arcade cabinet view, with variants in-between.
Undoubtedly you’re going to enjoy Shadow Over Mystara more, which offers more variety, more characters, and more innovation than Tower of Doom, but both games are fun to play, especially with a group of friends. While no price point has been discussed, previous games handled by Iron Galaxy have usually released to around $14.99. With leaderboards, tons of replayability, and seamless multiplayer fighting, it’s worth your time if you really love classic brawling side-scrollers. No particular release date has been set yet, but expect the game to release next month, June 2013, to the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC. For a closer look at the game, check out the trailer and screenshots below.