Until 2013, I had never even heard of the two games that make up Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. Hearkening from an age when beat-em-ups were many and you couldn’t walk into an arcade without tripping over a few Simpsons and Turtles poundathons, Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara took the skeleton of those other titles and injected them with a healthy dose of D&D glory. Bottom line? These are well-ported multiplayer games to break out when you and some friends just want to have some fun.
Adding a friend (or three) is really how these games are meant to be played, though, and I had a great time tackling the hilariously goofy-voiced villains in both adventures in multiplayer.
The interface for swapping between the two games is elegant and clean. Fulfilling achievement conditions in-game unlocks currency that can be used to purchase unlocks, like special house rules and artwork, and these are all accessible from the main menus. A full move-set for each character is also available, and swapping games is accomplished at the press of a button. There are options for a number of different screen filters, none of which I personally like, but it’s still nice to have the option for those that do like the visual equivalent of smearing their screen with vaseli… smoothing the graphics. There’s also some nice arranged music as well, and all of these things come together and give the sense that this wasn’t just a quick and dirty port-job.
As for the games themselves, both are entertaining, though Shadow over Mystara will certainly get you more mileage. These are tried-and-true beat-em-ups, with the addition of leveling, shopping, and various spells and equipment for each character class. The gameplay is more complex (and more fun) and the graphics are certainly more detailed in Mystara, but all things considered, I enjoyed my two playthroughs of both games. Adding a friend (or three) is really how these games are meant to be played, though, and I had a great time tackling the hilariously goofy-voiced villains in both adventures in multiplayer. The online play also works well, so even if you don’t have any pals handy, you can still enjoy the game’s multiplayer component.
With the addition of the various house rules, the game also gets a some extra replayability. Granted, these types of games already lend themselves well to being replayed due to their brevity, branching paths, and entertaining combat, so for me the special rules were more a nice perk than a major feature. Both games also feature four difficulty levels which range from hitting your head on the buttons to win to credit-consuming insanity. The game tracks how many credits each player uses over the course of a play session, but due to the unlimited supply, difficulty is mainly a self-imposed thing here — brute-forcing is absolutely an option.
I had never played these games before, and it’s possible that those darn kids we all hear about these days might not enjoy the decidedly retro gameplay and so-bad-it’s-good translation. On the other hand, if you’ve got an eye for classics that have aged better than fine wine and been given the premium porting treatment, I see no way you could go wrong picking this one up.