Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara Review - classic action with a new coat of paint

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Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

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Chronicles of Mystara won't wow gamers with modern tastes, but it's a competent arcade port that pays due respect while introducing tasteful new features.

We like

  • Classic arcade experience
  • Online and offline multiplayer
  • Beautiful artwork

We dislike

  • Difficult, repetitive combat
  • Dying doesn't matter
  • Generic story

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

In the midst of new AAA and indie titles being released, Iron Galaxy Studios has reached into the chest of 90s arcade games and pulled out two Capcom arcade classics inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons table-top adventure game. Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara contains two D&D-themed button mashers: Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow over Mystara.

As the name suggests, the two games take place in the land of Mystara, and together follow a storyline seen many times before in games. An impending doom looms over a joyful land and a team of misfit heroes is needed to eradicate the evil. Dungeon & Dragons fans should not expect to see a story as detailed and elaborate as ones created by an ambitious dungeon master. The story is slightly above the bar set in terms of 90s arcade games, but pales immensely in comparison to most retail games found today, so don’t expect to find yourself becoming invested in the storyline or characters. While mildly interesting, the plot serves mainly as a flimsy push from point A to point B to point C. It’s forgettable and events happen very quickly, making it easy to miss important plot points on the first playthrough, especially if you’re playing with a trigger-happy companion.

After further playthroughs, I discovered that although I may have missed some details in my first run, some events are just never explained. There is a point in Shadow over Mystara where the heroes are in peril but are saved by a random figure that appears out of thin air, standing next to the heroes as the stage ends. This figure is never seen again, nor is he even given any kind of name or identification--not even a label of “mysterious figure.” A minor gripe, but it’s one that can actually fit under the overused term "plot hole."

Of course, for those looking for an old-school arcade experience, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara delivers in full force. Both beautifully rendered 8-bit games have surprisingly detailed characters and environments that add impressive atmosphere. The environments themselves also often have various hidden secrets that encourage multiple playthroughs (especially so in Shadow over Mystara). The all-important gameplay also has been left raw in all its perfection, or imperfection.

Arcade games are known to be notoriously difficult in order to literally nickel-and-dime players. The two entries in Chronicles of Mystara were no different when originally created. Fortunately for the console player, instead of dishing out quarter after quarter to bring your character back to life, a simple press of the Start button puts the player right back into the action. While financially forgiving, this feature is also an unfortunate one. The player is allowed an infinite number of deaths, completely alleviating the fear of death and essentially removing any challenge. There is a counter that keeps track of every “continue” used during your playing, which presumably affects your final score.

Both titles found in Chronicles of Mystara fit the definition of button masher. The first game, Tower of Doom, has four playable characters to select from: warrior, dwarf fighter, cleric, and elf sorceress. The second game, Shadow over Mystara, has six characters which include the previous four characters and the additions of a sorcerer and thief. Each character has clear advantages and disadvantages to them. For example, the dwarf has a short reach but deals sizeable melee damage and has a large health bar, while the sorcerer deals minimal melee damage with a small health bar but has magical attacks that devastate enemies. While character stats are hidden, they become quite apparent as soon as they are used. I personally found the magic users to be the most interesting and effective, but using a spell temporarily pauses everything onscreen while the spell animation plays out. This can get tiresome for players using melee-focused characters, because they'll be forced to sit and wait until a magic user runs out of spells before they can truly contribute to a fight.

Both games can be experienced independently or with friends, supporting up to four players at once on a single console. These arcade ports also offer online matchmaking, letting you ... (continued on next page)

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