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Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

Score: 88%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Iron Galaxy Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Arcade/ Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Dungeones and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is a new offering from Capcom containing the classic titles of Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara and Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom. This version is a very true port from the arcade version, but with some modernizations that don't disturb the authentic look and feel. As such, the graphics are definitely dated, but then, so is the side-scrolling brawler genre, for that matter. The result is a fun retro game that can create feelings of nostalgia in those who played games from the era - even if they've never played Shadow Over Mystara or Tower of Doom before. Played Golden Axe or even Double Dragon? Mystara takes you back in time to that era and then takes you on a RPG-infused, story-driven side-scrolling adventure. The graphics are a bit jagged and are sprite-based, but convey the D&D theme well.

Sound has always been the underdog throughout the history of games, and Chronicles of Mystara simply underscores that point. The music isn't bad and, for that matter, neither are the sound effects. The sounds are low-fidelity, as would be expected, but they're generally acceptable. However, the voice samples are few, far between, and really bad. A text prompt may say a couple sentences of greeting, while the accompanying voice sound bite will simply eek out a very tinny "Hi!" Not just noticeable - laughable. But then, it was about on par with anything else at the time.

I mentioned some modernizations. These take the form of some post-processing options, such as a blurring filter to smooth the graphics out a bit, the option to display scan lines or not and the option of viewing the game in its original aspect ratio with a decorative surrounding frame that displays recently earned achievements and the like or stretching the screen into a widescreen view. (The graphics are dated to start with; don't use the widescreen view and stretch them out further unless you're going for an authentic arcade cabinet build and you've got an appropriate monitor.)

The graphics in the actual games of Shadow Over Mystara and are old-school, but there are extras built on around the outside of the game that have updated graphics. The Collection of valuables and weapons you've picked up throughout your adventures, for example, is a gallery of found items and all of the item images are high-resolution images. There is also a Vault feature, where you'll find unlockable items that range from concept art to optional variations on the rules. These are also rendered in higher resolution.


Dungeons & Dragons is the grandfather of the modern RPG game; elements of D&D can be observed in any RPG game on the shelves today - and, for that matter, the same can be said for many videogames spanning across a variety of genres, including side-scrollers, such as Dungeons and Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara, and its predecessor, Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom, both of which are included in this package deal called Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara.

Shadow Over Mystara is a side-scrolling brawler that, at its base, is fairly similar to other side-scrolling brawlers, such as Double Dragon. However, being a D&D game, Shadow Over Mystara has a lot of elements from the role-playing game incorporated into the brawler, from the theming and the variety of characters, which are taken from a sampling of popular character and race combinations from the game, to the treasures, potions, spells and even character leveling as you progress through the game. There are even stores in which you can buy additional supplies and some occasionally encountered areas that feature map-based travel, reminiscent of top-down RPG games, such as old-school Zelda. Mind you, these dalliances and distractions from life-threatening side-scrolling progression are kept short by an artificially imposed time-limit, since the game was originally in an arcade cabinet and, as such, was designed to consume the almighty quarter.

The gameplay is true to the original arcade game, but there are some nice tweaks available, such as unlockable rule variants that can be purchased with earned in-game experience and Challenges to try to accomplish when playing the game and corresponding achievements that you can pour over later to see what all you've done.

Oh... and you may have noticed that I keep mentioning Shadow Over Mystara, when the game is called Chronicles of Mystara. That's because you also get Tower of Doom as part of the deal. I know, right? Two games for the price of one. Tower of Doom is much like Shadow Over Mystara, except that there are only four characters to choose from and you can't change between different characters during the game. Also, as the predecessor, Tower of Doom isn't quite as pretty as Shadow Over Mystara.

Another aspect that has been upgraded is the multiplayer aspect. The Steam version allows you to play both games in Chronicles of Mystara with a party of up to four players online. (Or locally, if you can get four people around your computer monitor and figure out the controls.)


The difficulty in the arcade version was to work your way all the way through the game before you became completely broke. The difficulty increases as you proceed through the game, but your character levels up as you go, so that helps to level the playing field a bit. Also, playing with other players is generally going to make it easier - and playing with a coordinated group of friends will make it even more so. Mind you, if the other players are faster and greedier than you, you could find yourself running low on supplies, such as health potions, secondary weapons or silver... to buy more health potions.

I know I seem to be harping on the arcade cabinet aspect a lot, but there's a reason; the PC port of the game doesn't take quarters, which causes a big difference in difficulty. In the Steam version, all you have to do is to tell the game you want to continue and you do, no quarter required. The number of times you can continue appears to be unlimited. However, the enemies don't regenerate when you continue, so it is possible to simply keep continuing with new characters and whittling down a tough opponent. In short, the difficulty increases as you go, but anyone with patience should be able to forage their way through to the end of either of the games, should they desire.

The only thing I truly found difficult was keeping the controls straight. The normal in-game typical stuff is reasonably straightforward (and, for that matter, re-assignable if you don't like the defaults), but the usage of other keys seems counter-intuitive. The Control Key momentarily displays your worn items, which I didn't find much use for, but my biggest gripe is the space bar. When your character dies, if you want to continue, you have to hit the space bar to continue. In Shadow Over Mystara, you can then use the arrow keys to select a different character, should you choose to, or hit the space bar again to select the character and rejoin the fight. However, if your character is alive, hitting the space bar pauses the game. I can't tell you how many times I've intended to either select something and hit the space bar (instead of the Enter key) or hit the space bar too many times when my character died or simply hit the space bar too early when trying to continue and been rewarded by the game pausing and showing me a pop-up menu. It's a minor thing to get back into the game (simply press Escape), but it happens a lot and tends to interrupt the gameplay at times.

Game Mechanics:

The games in Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara are every bit the Brawler, but, with the inclusion of the D&D RPG aspects, it may be the "thinking man's" Brawler - especially if you play as the Magic-User, with his selection of spells.

For its time and its genre, Shadow Over Mystara's selection of six different characters was fairly impressive, as were some of the built-in gimmicks, such as the ability to name your character (with up to six whole characters!) and the Sword of Legends - an in-game item that bore the name of the fighter with the highest score on the leaderboards.

These new incarnations bring the fun of the original arcade games to your home, complete with the ability to play with three other players. The addition of the spendable experience points (for unlockable special feature items and rule variants) and the Challenges and Achievements give players more reason to keep coming back and playing some more. The icing on the cake is getting both Shadow Over Mystara and Tower of Doom - in full - utilizing the same enhancements, complete with online gameplay and shared unlockables.

If you're nostalgic about D&D and Side-Scroller Brawlers of yesteryear or you're simply curious about what gaming used to be like back when arcades (and dinosaurs) ruled the Earth, you owe it to yourself to check out Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara on Steam.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

OS:Windows Vista, Processor:Intel Dual Core 1.8GHz (or higher) or AMD Athlon II X2 (or higher), Memory:1 GB RAM, Graphics:nVidia GF6600 (or higher) or ATi X1600 (or higher) with 256MB of RAM, DirectX®:11, Hard Drive:350 MB HD space, Sound:DirectSound compatible, DirectX 9.0c (or higher) compatible, Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection, Additional: DirectX 11/Shader3.0 or higher

Recommended Specs:

OS:Windows 7, Processor:Intel Dual Core 2.4GHz (or higher) or AMD Athlon II X2 (or higher), Memory:2 GB RAM, Graphics:nVidia GF8000 (or higher) or ATi X1800 (or higher) with 256MB of RAM, DirectX®:11, Hard Drive:350 MB HD space, Sound:DirectSound compatible, DirectX 9.0c (or higher), Other Requirements:Broadband Internet connection, Additional: DirectX 11/Shader3.0 or higher

Test System:

[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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