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Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Iron Galaxy Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Local and Online)
Genre: Action/ Arcade/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

One of the most depressing parts of being a lifelong gamer is the inevitability of certain games losing their luster as the years roll by. This is most often true of arcade games. The intoxicating atmosphere of the arcade is something that doesn't really go away, and it always evokes a special kind of nostalgia. In recent years, a healthy collection of arcade game ports has made its way to the digital marketplace. And unfortunately, many of these games have not held up well. I downloaded versions of The Simpsons and X-Men and was utterly shocked that I actually used to spend quarters to play them. Iron Galaxy Studios has quickly established itself as the savior of the arcade space. Their exceptional Street Fighter and Darkstalkers arcade ports are the standards to which all other arcade games must hold themselves. Their latest project combines two niche arcade classics into a single package, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. This old-school beat-em-up isn't always fair, and it most certainly isn't deep, but if you've got some friends to join the ride, it's a hell of a time.

Having played neither Tower of Doom nor Shadow Over Mystara, I cannot vouch for the quality of the emulation on display. However, since Iron Galaxy's steady hand is at the helm, I'm confident that what we have here is exactly what we had back then. Neither of these games breaks any new ground in the fantasy space, but several classic heroes and foes are well represented. Animations are high-impact and fun to watch, even though you'll have seen most of what there is to see within the first ten or so minutes.

Chronicles of Mystara sounds like a classic Capcom beat-em-up; that applies to both the sound effects and the music. The music is generic fantasy fare that sometimes borders on plagiarism (I hear Back to the Future and Star Wars trying to break out of the soundtrack all the time), but it's charming all the same. The heroes of the Dungeons and Dragons universe let loose with battle cries and mystical abilities. It all sounds great.


Gameplay:

Left to right. Hammer the attack button. Remember when games used to be simple? Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara sure does. Both of the games in this downloadable collection are hearty helpings of side-scrolling button-mashing goodness. The stories are completely disposable, and you'll undoubtedly skip all the text and introductory scenes just to get to the action.

And what action it is. Along with however many friends you choose to bring along, you fight your way through baddies and monsters of all sorts as you draw closer and closer to a climactic showdown with the Big Bad. You choose from one of a handful of fantasy hero types (mage, cleric, thief, warrior, etc.) and plow through herds of beasts. You hack, you loot, you hack some more, and you loot some more. That's pretty much all there is to the game.


Difficulty:

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is, at the same time, the hardest game in the world and the easiest game in the world. This game will make you resent the original developers for coming up with the most ruthless, sadistic ways of making you pony up your hard-earned quarters. Many of the bosses are capable of executing unblockable attacks, and some of the particularly nasty ones are capable of killing you off in a single hit. This would cripple the game but for one concession: there are unlimited continues. Hardcore fans and purists might cry foul, but I honestly don't think it's humanly possible to make it through the entire game without continuing at least once.

Game Mechanics:

Make no mistake Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is old-school enough to the point where you'll be madly hammering on buttons without much (if any) thought at all. By default, your character will move pretty slowly, but a double tap will make him/her break out into a sprint. There are a few special commands, one of which must be used sparingly, and each of which should be used strategically. Each character has a special lunge attack and a powerful spin attack. The spin attack costs health every time it hits, but it packs quite a punch. It's a nice risk/reward element.

Chronicles of Mystara may not be deep, but it's deeper than most other arcade beat-em-ups. Usable items and special abilities make this game stand out. Most characters can use the same types of consumables, except for the obvious ones (certain characters don't use bows, for instance), but the special abilities are individual and can sometimes complement each other. Your options are many, but limited to the character you choose to play as. For example, one might be able to summon an ice storm or fire a series of magic missiles, while another might have an arsenal of buffs to bestow upon himself and his allies. Each of these has a limited number of uses per level, so use them when necessary.

Iron Galaxy's special achievement borders are great for encouraging replay; they were great in their fighting game ports, and they are great here. Of course, they might ask that players play the game in a manner they otherwise wouldn't choose, but to be fair, they mix things up quite a bit.

It's confidently lacking in modernity and basks in its old-school appeal. If you're looking for a trip down memory lane, one that includes the casual slaughter of monsters with some buddies at your side, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is your huckleberry.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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