Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

While this HD remaster of both Dungeons & Dragons: Towers of Doom/Shadow over Mystara may have already been released on other formats earlier in the year, the overall quality of the porting was said to have fallen short somewhat so it would seem that in this instance the best has been saved for last as the Wii U gets the definitive version even after the developer initially having issues getting to grips with things, the wait has definitely been worthwhile. For those unaware the two D&D games contained within this collection were both originally arcade classics featuring side-scrolling beat-em-up action for up to four players in simultaneous co-operative play which was rather impressive for its time; this isn't the first time a port of both games has happened either as there was a collection available on the Sega Saturn exclusively in Japan which had to sacrifice several elements from the game including reducing the number of players down from four to only two due to hardware limitations, fast-forward around fourteen years though and we now have the technology to not only enjoy the original arcade games with spruced-up visuals in full-screen with four players locally but also online as well... it's something we take for granted but really shouldn't, either way though it's a glorious day that these games can now be enjoyed even more than they were originally intended.

Upon loading up the collection for the first time you'll be thrust straight into Shadow over Mystara but go with it and you will most likely find that this is the best way to first experience the games despite the fact that you're playing these Capcom classics in reverse chronological order, SoM is definitely the more accomplised of the two titles as you might expect as everything seems to flow fairly easily right from the start as you pick your character from a selection of six which are all variations of being either good with Swords, Magic or just brute force while still retaining their unique abilities. I'd advise starting with the Fighter as this means you'll become the 'tank' but will have access to lots of combos, while playing as Magic user will mean that you're more effective at range plus you can deal damaage to mltiple enemies with certain spells, if you want to gain access to the stronger metal chests scattered throughout the game I'd go for the Dwarf as he's the only one strong enough to break them but maybe save that for a later play-through.

Basic attacks are handled by the 'A' button which will swing whichever weapon you happen to have equipped, you move with the d-pad as expected - or you can use the left stick if you're either stubborn or awkward - so using combinations of just those will get you through some of the game, double-tapping will allow you to run while some of the simple combos for your fighter are easy enough to pull off in true Street Fighter style by waggling between the diagonals of the d-pad plus the action button towards your opponent... this is classic Capcom lest we forget. Pressing the 'Y' button will bring up your inventory wheel - or just switch between items in ToD - giving you access to your characters extra abilities ranging from various magic attacks/stamina skills plus after another press you can access any extra weapons you may have picked up; lastly you have your jump button assigned to 'B' which you'll want to master at some point as it can be rather useful at times, if you feel like you don't quite underand it all though Iron Galaxy - responsible for the port - have been considerate enough to include detailed move lists in the main menu where you can also change the controls if you wish plus you can use your classic/pro controller from the start though I would advise against using the Wii Remote on its own as doesn't really make for comfortable playing.

ddcom



As with any good beat-em-up there has to be a decent level of variation this is perhaps better achieved in SoM where you can opt to change your character upon each - infinite - continue plus there seems to be a greater selection of everything from enemies to loot, even extending to stages but what is true for both is that you'll be killing a lot of Gnolls, Trolls, Dragons, Ogres and Imps plus more if your lucky... or not perhaps; still even when you're stuck with just the one character with less choice in ToD this at least makes for a more disciplined approach which some may prefer. Multiple paths to take along with various points of interest within each stage make an excellent case for longevity too, at certain parts in the story you can opt to go to different stages meaning in theory no two play-throughs should ever be the same providing you select different combinations each time which certainly keeps things interesting, one of my favourite parts in one of the stories is when you have the option to take on a dragon or take the long way round to avoid it... the game asks you if you're sure at least three times if you opt to take on the - rather formidable - dragon which helps to add a bit of whimsical humour to the proceedings.

In-between stages you will get to visit the shop where you can spend your hard-earned gold - which you'll regularly pick up - on items such as hammers or arrows, basically all of the limited items - you can carry up to nine of each - which are useful against not only against the hordes of enemies but also the bosses or which there are many including the Chimera which is a huge winged beast that has the head of a Lion, Dragon and a Goat which was probably the best battle of the games for me just because it's such an unusual mythical creature which gives you a break from the more standard encounters, though the battles against the Dark Elf are also particularly good. Slaying enemies as you progress through the stages also nets you experience at the end score screen, each character class seems to have their own level which in turn improves their exisiting abilities; I'm unsure if it was like this in the original arcade games but it certainly plays on the strength of the titles here giving you more of a reason to return, you also get to name your characters periodically which is a nice touch.

These are definitely titles which encourage you to play them multiple times just like in the arcades, this time there's extra incentive in the form of 'Challenges' which are basically in-game accomplishments you obtain for such things as killing a certain amount of enemies or looting many chests etc which only add to the experience, especially when you take into consideration that these earn you Vault Points so once you have enough VP you can go to the Vault which allows you to not only purchase many pieces of beautiful concept art but also special game modifiers to make those subsequent adventures a bit more interesting. All of these extras might seem like 'filler' but I can't stress enough how good they actually are as they feel like proper rewards for playing the games which will surely only further spur you on to play more, for instance one particularly annoying element is when obtainable items/weapons get broken during combat, sometimes before you even get to use them so naturally a modifier which makes them unbreakable is very useful indeed; there are plenty of other extras to play around with but I'll leave those for your potential discovery.



Visually both titles are quite simply stunning even by today's standards as it's clear that they have been rather lovingly ported across with care here as the detail in the pixels seems so natural, everything is very easy on the eyes even when it gets chaotic as you can always clearly differentiate the characters from the stage which is always helpful, if you choose to play in the games original ratio then you are treated to some nice detailed borders plus you can always see where you are in regards to the extra challenges but if you prefer then you can change to full screen which is rather impressive too even when played just on the gamepad but if you want the 'real' arcade experience then you can also have the arcade cabinet view which is pleasing and doesn't detract from the game at all. Audio is nothing short of being the highest quality possible as all of the classic music and sound effects seem to have been remastered, this is another area in which the Wii U version shines given its ability to output in unprocessed linear PCM as quite honestly the sound quality is far superior than on any arcade game featuring on rival platforms which is a pleasant surprise; naturally the actual score itself is proper adventuring fare that will keep you spurred on in each area as every moment is accompanied by just the right balance of moods managing to keep you spirited while also being slightly uneasy at what might be on the next screen, the sound effects are also suitably solid making for some really satisfying moments rather than the noise pollution that you might expect would come from four adventurers waging war across the lands.

You can play solo on this if you prefer but you'll be missing out on the fantastic experience that is the co-operative multiplayer which really brings the game to life much more than you'd expect, if you have many controllers plus some willing combatants nearby then prepare for one of the best two-four player experience perhaps on the console to date as it's quite easy to downplay just how much fun this game is when you play together as your enjoyment will likely improve tenfold especially if you get a group of friends/family who are very much into the genre. If you're short on either of the above though but are connected to the Nintendo Network then you can also enjoy online co-operative multiplayer which can be just as much fun only with a couple of minor sticking points; sometimes you'll have to wait for a few moments when jumping into a game that's in progress while the game rebalances everything in an attempt to make the game run smoothly, other times you'll get straight in but you might experience a bit of lag, however once you get a good game going with people who have a decent connection and know what they are doing the experience is nothing short of magical, just so long as you take into account that magic spells will always stop everything from moving until the spell has finished casting as this is a part of the game then you really can't go wrong as it's an online game quite unlike any other.

Overall there is plenty to love about both games contained in this brilliantly restored compilation that is Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara that it's hard not to enjoy almost every moment of it, these are two classic arcade games that have more than stood the test of time so I'm glad that many more players will now get to experience these truly top-class titles which now have more than enough extra content to keep you coming back for more dragon-slaying. Wile away an afternoon or a whole weekend if you so choose, it's easily done as once you've played just one play-session on this you will most likely keep playing for a good while, especially if you have a decent circle of available friends either online or off to fight alongside; side-scrolling beat-em-up's with an emphasis on loot and levelling don't come much more compelling than this.

N-Europe Final Verdict

One of the finest co-operative experiences available that surpasses everything else, the definitive version of two classic arcade games that you really shoudn't miss out on.

  • Gameplay4
  • Playability4
  • Visuals5
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan5
Final Score

9

Pros

Addictive gameplay
Excellent co-operatove multiplayer
Looks and sounds spectacular
Plenty to keep you occupied

Cons

Online can be temperamental


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