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EGM Review:
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

Posted on June 18, 2013 AT 12:01am

Welcome (back) to the D&D world!

It’s undeniable that Capcom has put a lot of work into bringing their classic games back this generation, but there’s something extra special about Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. For some, this will be another in a line of releases from the Japanese developer that offer up a way to relive games gone by with some fancier graphics and added bells and whistles.

For others, this is different. As much as I appreciate the Darlkstalkers games or all those titles bundled in Capcom’s recent Arcade Cabinet release, the company’s two coin-op adventures based on the pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons license were assumed lost to time. After both games saw their initial release in the early- to mid-90’s, the duo were bundled as part of a Japan-only release for the Sega Saturn—and that was it. If you wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom or its sequel Shadow Over Mystara, you either dusted off your Saturn and trudged through them in Japanese, or you went the route of questionable legality with downloaded ROM files.

So, part of me loves Chronicles of Mystara simply for the fact that it not only brings these games back to proper existence in English, but also to a new generation of gamers who might never have known they existed at all otherwise. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that—all of these years later—both games are still pretty darn good.

Not perfect, mind you. The side-scrolling beat-em-up genre has advanced quite a bit in the years since Capcom tried their hand at the Dungeons & Dragons mythos, and that’s definitely apparent when you play—especially in regards to Tower of Doom. And yet, it’s also impressive just how playable both games still are, as well as how forward-thinking their gameplay designs were. At a time when other four-player arcade games often had complexity that didn’t go beyond pressing the Jump and Kick buttons to execute a jumpkick, the cast of Capcom’s two Dungeons & Dragons games could duck, perform special moves, and even make use of a wide array of items and spells via user-navigated character menus.

Yes, these games show their age—but if you can at all appreciate the medium beyond what’s come out on this current generation of platforms, both Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara possess a lot to love. Also to be appreciated is the work developer Iron Galaxy has put into repackaging the games for those platforms. The menu system will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s played any of Capcom’s recent two-pack retro collections, and the familiar options such as screen filtering, visual presentation, and display ratio are all present. To play up the connection with role-playing games, an overall player-leveling system is present, treasures found in-game will be viewable in a collections menu, and—in a very awesome inclusion—players can set specific house rules when playing in order to up the challenge or simply make the adventure more interesting. Last, but certainly not least, one of the biggest points to the Dungeons & Dragons games were their multiplayer, and drop-in/drop-out co-op is supported either locally or online via GGPO netcode.

At the end of the day, both games in Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara feel like titles from the era they were released in—and nothing can really change that. But, you know, I wouldn’t change that. From the moment I first put a quarter into their machines, I’ve had a soft spot for Capcom’s take on the Dungeons & Dragons legacy. I’m glad to see these games dusted off and brought back for a second life, and hopefully, more gamers will now have the chance to experience a set of adventures that—up until recently—were lost and forgotten in the deep, dark cave of time.

Developer: Iron Galaxy • Publisher: Capcom • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 06.18.2013
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara brings back two of Capcom’s classic arcade side-scrolling beat-em-ups—and while both indeed show their age, they still have an immense amount of fun and adventure to offer those brave enough to stand up to their challenges.
The Good Two great Capcom arcade adventures finally get a home release in North America after 20 years.
The Bad While both games are still fun, they may lack the complexity that today’s gamers expect.
The Ugly The licensing issues that have no doubt surrounded these games for years.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS3.
Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got started via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as can realistically be crammed in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk Eric on Twitter: @Eric_EGM. Meet the rest of the crew.

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