The Lion, The Witch and the Warrior
Capcom has always been a leader among the porting crowd, and they’ve listened to the fans with the release of Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. Packing both Tower of Doom and Shadow of Mystara into one tidy wrapper this is a pretty tidy way to get your classic Dungeons and Dragons fix.
The real draw in this package is Shadow of Mystara which is so much more advanced than Tower of Doom. Both games are traditional 4-player Beat-‘em-ups in their hearts, and ToD doesn’t stray too far from X-Men, Simpsons or any of the myriad others that were so popular in the early-mid 90’s. Mystara adds a persistent level-up system, a much wider range of spells, unlockable powers, new classes and a deeper, more branching storyline.
It’s not often you can refer to an arcade game as “deep”, but if there is an example of that it would be Shadow of Mystara. Sure, the combat still boils down to jump and attack plus grab weapons and power-ups. Where more depth comes in is you magic/ability wheel. Every character has a radial menu of five abilities, and magic-types have up to 2 more wheels filled with spells. Early on these wheels won’t be full, but as you level up you’ll open up new spells and abilities until the end of the game when you can just really unleash some serious power. The magic system is interesting in that it doesn’t have a cooldown on the spells, but rather a limited number of each spell is available during each life. You can find scrolls that add another cast to a spell, but in general you have to die to refill those slots.
Because of that (and because their basic attack is weaker than most) it can be tough to play as a magic user at low levels. Thankfully this game supports 4-player co-op either off- or online so you can team up with a warrior and a dwarf to make sure you aren’t feeding quarters into the machine. OH WAIT! Of course you have unlimited continues, and that is one of the main failings of these arcade ports. With unlimited free continues, the game really loses all challenge as you can plow through the three or so hours of gameplay without fear of running out of money so death becomes no real object. This is alleviated a bit again by making the game a little deeper and also by making the classes play fairly differently. You will certainly get a new experience playing through as a physical fighter after doing it as a caster.
The price tag is a bit steep for this package, and if you are paying full price you have to ask yourself how much nostalgia, even high quality nostalgia like this, is worth. The game absolutely requires multiplayer to get the most out of the experience, even more so because it would be nice to have someone to take your mind off how repetitive even the best of these brawlers can be. If you’ve got friends and fond memories though, there is quite a bit of value in having both of these games in one place and a chance to appreciate the excellent UI they’ve incorporated to keep track of all the little running stats the game checks on. You certainly won’t find a better arcade port on the PSN right now.