Also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Windows, and arcade
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a home port collection of Capcom's two Dungeons & Dragons arcade games - Tower of Doom (from 1993) and Shadow over Mystara (from 1996). The games play like beat 'em ups in the vein of the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Double Dragon games with some RPG elements thrown in because D&D. I downloaded the game on my Wii U during Capcom's recent sale for like $3, but I'd say this would be a good buy at up to $10 (though, if memory serves, the standard price is $15, and I do think that's a little steep).
The narrative is a riveting tale of a brave band of warriors' struggle to protect the realm from the evils of a dread warlock and his army of terrifying demons. Or something. I didn't really pay attention; as my characters' names, Titzzzz and Anal!!, demonstrate, I didn't take the narrative as seriously as I perhaps could have. They were accompanied by the only-slightly-more-seriously-named Pepsi and TSwift, respectively, since I played online with Colin. The game features your typical Dungeons and Dragons enemies - kobolds, goblins, ogres, beholders, a couple dragons, evil elves, etc. That familiarity can feel a bit stale to some, but it never leaves you feeling out of place since none of the enemies should be alien to those familiar with the fantasy genre.
With regards to visuals, both games show their age, although Shadow over Mystara features DRAMATICALLY improved visuals over Tower of Doom even considering the three year difference between them. Some of the scrolling backgrounds in Shadow of Mystara, especially towards the end, are really impressive. The sound design isn't as noteworthy, though it's perfectly competent. One thing that is worth pointing out, however, that changed from the first game to the second is the selection of playable characters. While the first game featured four playable characters, the second game expands the roster to include six or seven, giving some more options for different gameplay styles and adding some replay value. The single greatest aspect of this whole two-game collection, however, was in Tower of Doom. You're given branching paths a few times, and one of these paths offered the choice of facing a fearsome red dragon on your own to save this village instead of trying to rally allies. This is what Colin and I chose, confident that Pepsi and Titzzzz were a match for the foul beast. We were a little discouraged when it asked us three separate times if we were REALLY sure we wanted to fight this dragon that no one had ever managed to injure on our own, but we were confident! We then proceeded to die approximately seven times each over the course of about thirty seconds without even hurting the dragon enough to trigger its health bar. "Oh shit," we though to ourselves, "we should have listened to the stupid villagers; this thing really is invincible." Eventually, however, we managed to hurt it enough to get a life bar, and after a lot of struggling and a LOT of deaths, we manage to slay the monster. You were a worthy adversary, dragon; fuck you.
Having played both Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara within a couple of days of one another, I can compare the two fairly easily; and despite being older, more limited in terms of player character options, and far inferior graphically, Tower of Doom definitely comes out as the superior game in my opinion. That's not to say that Shadow over Mystara is bad by any means, but it made some changes that just didn't go in the right direction. The hit detection felt off - some attacks would look like they definitely should have hit, and some would leave you wondering how you didn't miss - and the way the health and lives were set up felt needlessly difficult. You were a bit sturdier than in Tower of Doom, but you got one life per continue. There's a mode called Vampirism that you can unlock, and activating that will restore a little of your health with each hit on an enemy, but even with that, there are a few bosses that have attacks that will kill you no matter your health with a single hit. That part didn't feel "unfair," per se, but it did feel like it made the game more frustrating than fun.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a good two-game collection from back in the early 90s' glory days of arcade beat 'em ups. The second one shows the mid-90s roots with its general not-as-fun-itude, but it's still a good game, and the inclusion of online multiplayer on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, and Steam makes it a blast go play through with friends. If you can find it on sale, absolutely give it a download if you're a fan of the genre. I'm not sure I'd suggest paying the full $10, but if you can find it for less than $3 like I did, do NOT pass it up.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.