Ask any retro gamer to name some of his favorite arcade titles from years past and nine times out of ten, the Dungeon & Dragons series will get mentioned. Its four player beat em up action was an arcade staple back in the 90’s in two different games, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, both from Capcom.
When it was announced that both of these arcade classics would finally come to XBLA, PSN, PC, and the Wii U eShop, there was much rejoicing, but did our wait pay off or is this something that’s better left in the 90’s along with Nelson and pegged jeans? I won’t even make you wait on the answer, this game is great. Everything you loved about the arcade classic is back along with plenty of new features to keep you glued to the controller playing again and again.
The meat of the release is obviously the two included games. Each game can probably be taken care of in about an hour, but in this game it’s all about replayability. Both games feature branching paths with different scenarios to conquer and different baddies to beat up. There are also many different characters for you to experiment with, each with their own special attacks.
But all of that is part of the original arcade release, this game is about the newly added stuff, like the challenges. The game features different challenges, each with three tiers for you to work for. Stuff like performing desperation attacks or attacking downed opponents. Completing challenge tiers unlocks overall player XP as well as rewards you with gems that you can use to unlock special content in the Vault. The challenges are a great way to encourage replaying the game as well as getting people to test out classes they might not usually use. Me? I’m not much of a mage user, but there’s some new concept art I want to unlock, so summoning monsters is gonna be my jam tonight.
Another great new addition is the previously mentioned Vault. In here, you can use the gems that you’ve earned with your challenges to unlock a nice treasure trove of concept artwork, promotional artwork, and even some new cheats and modes. Tired of not having enough keys to unlock those pesky metal treasure chests that you can’t just bust open? Add the Lockpick modifier and never worry about keys again! Dying too much? Add the Vampirism mode to regenerate health with every attack!
Of course, in a game like this, you can’t forget the major draw in the first place: Co-op. The original arcade game supported four player action and this home release doesn’t change the formula, it only enhances it. It not only supports couch co-op for a room full of drunk friends, it also features online, drop in/drop out co-op as well so if you’re home alone like me, you can still get a group together to beat some monsters up.
It’s not all perfect though. Given that this is an arcade game at it’s roots, there are definitely some spots in the game where you can see how badly it wants to eat your quarters. Cheap enemies and bosses definitely pop up in the game, and the final bosses of the titles are especially dickish when it comes to killing you repeatedly while you feel helpless to do anything. You also have to be careful to actually complete a game instead of quitting to the menu, or all of your recent kills and challenge progress might get lost. Having to re-beat the last boss in the Tower of Doom because I didn’t wait through the credits was a pain for how cheap he could be, but it’s only a minor quibble in the end.
Overall, this is everything I could have hoped for from this re-issue. They didn’t mess with the formula, they didn’t give it an ugly 3D visual overhaul, they added challenges and reasons to keep playing, they added online co-op, and the games are still as fun as they were 20 years ago. This is a port done right and if you don’t mind the $15 entry fee, it’s absolutely worth picking up. Hell, $15 is nothing compared to the quarters I’ve dumped into these games as a kid.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara was developed by Iron Galaxy Studios and published by Capcom. This title is available now for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and PC via Steam for 1200MSP/$14.99 respectively. The game will be available later this month on the Wii U eShop for $14.99
An Xbox Live Arcade download code for this title was provided to Save/Continue by the publisher for review purposes.