A nice trip down memory lane...
Written by Vincent Deshaies
Published Monday, 08 July 2013 10:40
When Microsoft introduced Xbox Live Arcade on the original Xbox, its purpose was almost solely to invite players to revisit old classics. While the service has strayed away from that focus over the past few years, and developed into one of the most interesting video game platforms out there, it’s nice to see that it’s still a great place to take a trip down video game memory lane. Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara may not be a familiar sounding name to all gamers of this generation, but this re-release is a perfect time to discover it.
D&D: Chronicles of Mystara features not one, but two games from the 1990s arcade scene: Tower of Doom, as well as its sequel, Shadow Over Mystara. Despite their old age, there is actually some fairly deep storytelling going on here. Each level plays very much like the classic, old-school 2D brawler we’re all used to, but each time one of them is completed, you get rewarded with a cutscene that progresses the story. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a nice touch that may keep the most interested ones playing.
At its heart, the game asks the player to use a combination of magic and melee attacks, each determined by a selection wheel and different characters. Each of these characters offers a different style, as well as their own finely-tuned mechanics. While an Elf could have its magical, ranged attacks perfectly mastered, a Fighter would be a stronger choice for melee combat situations. As you hack and slash your way through the enemies, you may find that switching between characters is a smarter way to progress through the game. Chronicles of Mystara also offers an RPG-like system which lets you level up each character individually, so other types of players may prefer to stick with a single persona, as they will level up quicker that way.
I wouldn’t fault anyone for simply ignoring the Tower of Doom installment in favor of Shadow Over Mystara. In fact, the two titles are so strikingly similar that it may not be worth your time to play the original, as its sequel is by far the more refined version. However, it’s always nice to be given extra content, and the most dedicated players will want to experience the whole thing. Given that both games are fairly short, it’s only natural that they would offer a ton of replayability. With the excellent co-op mode, as well as the levelling capabilities, the game certainly demands to be replayed. As you learn the intricacies of each level, master the techniques of all the characters, and learn all of your enemies’ weaknesses, you’ll be thrilled to realize how much you can get out of the game when you really take the time to master it.
On the visual side of things, it’s clear that Capcom hasn’t done much to remaster its baby. The game still runs in a 4:3, low resolution format, and the graphics, while very good for their time, certainly haven’t aged too well in this day and age. The animations retain all the charm from the arcade classics we all know and love, but they may not be received too well by less nostalgic gamers. As far as audio goes, it also appears dated. One important thing to note is that this version includes the full English language translation, as opposed to the original, Japanese-only release on the Sega Saturn, which is a nice addition.
All in all, you get exactly what you can expect from Chronicles of Mystara: An excellent, old-school brawler that won’t necessarily please younger gamers, but that will almost certainly delight older, nostalgic fans. With a faithful presentation, deep gameplay, a nice storyline and great replayability, the value of the whole package will depend on your willingness to play the Tower of Doom installment, as well as your love for the original games. Don’t go in expecting a modern take on the 2D brawler, but certainly expect to take a nostalgic trip back in time.
+ A nostalgia-filled journey
+ We finally get an English translation!
+ Tight gameplay mechanics
+ Great replayability factor
+ Surprisingly good storyline
- Dated presentation
- The price is a bit high
- Dated, less interesting first installment
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