Iron Galaxy is no slouch when it comes to breathing new life into old arcade games -- Capcom has used this studio before with "Marvel vs. Capcom" and "Darkstalkers " -- proving that there's still interest in reliving classic games. This time, they're tapped to resurrect two arcade brawlers for download with "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara." Packaged as a single download, fans of the fantasy-based beat 'em ups will feel right at home and will have new features to keep them playing.
As with most sides-croller games, "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" follows a basic formula of move to the right, beat up a bunch of hapless foes, repeat until the level ends. What's really cool is that both of these games have a fairly robust story given the traditionally limited time you'd be able to play at an arcade. The plot is basic in some much that there's a Big Bad raising hell and it's up to and three friends to return to peace to the land. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons lore might be a little more invested story-wise but don't expect anything ground-breaking.
On the plus side, as you make your way through the plot, you'll encounter the occasional side mission -- usually by way of a terrified peasant -- that you can either tackle or ignore. Generally, these quests involve some stronger monsters but yield greater rewards, like extra gold or items. It opens up the scope of the games and makes each journey a little different.
Combat is a bit stiff but this is the case with many side scrolling brawlers. As you slog your way through hordes of classic D&D beasts, you'll have to make every swing count. Charging into an encounter can quickly knock you out -- often you'll get in trapped between to creatures relentlessly beating you to a pulp. Connecting with enemies can be a little squirrelly, but as you get used to your character's movement you'll soon overthrow the most fearsome of baddies. Swinging wildly won't get you far: instead, you'll have to move and attack deliberately while choosing the right moments to use single use items like fireballs and daggers.
Even on the easiest setting, "Tower of Doom" and "Shadow over Mystara" are quarter chompers and you'll be using plenty of continues. Fortunately, you have infinite continues so you'll eventually be able to brute-force your way to the end. Bring a few friends if you can and you'll have a better time than simply straining through the game by yourself.
Your character also strongly dictates how you'll play. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses. For instance Fighter has a ton of health and can break enemies apart but can't use magic. On the other hand, Cleric has some recovery abilities but doesn't have a powerful melee. "Shadow over Mystara" includes two extra characters -- a magician and thief -- but the main thing to remember when playing with friends is to create a balanced party of heavy hitters and support. Finally, "Shadow" improves the combat by including "Street Fighter" button combos that deals lots of damage and can quickly get you out of a jam.
Just like any RPG, your character will level up between missions. It's automatic, though, so don't expect to min/max. However, you will find items and gear you can equip if you're quick on the grab. Everything from magical gauntlets that increase your attacks to speed boots can be found in chests or dropped by bosses. You can also purchase disposable items at shops so that you're always prepared for the worst.
Iron Galaxy includes the usual bells and whistles that have been in other arcade collections for Capcom. There's a persistent player level that tracks various achievement progress and Vault Points. These points unlock extra art and stuff but more importantly grants access to House Rules which change the way the game plays. These rules alter the game in ways that might make it more difficult or can be used just for fun. It's a neat addition to flesh out the total package. Lastly, "Chronicles of Mystara" is online compatible from the get-go so you don't have any excuse for not having a full team on your adventure. Online played relatively smooth but with older, non-fighter arcade titles your experience won't be ruined if there's sudden lag.
All in all, "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" is a pretty cool package from Capcom. Iron Galaxy has proved their ability to lovingly restore classic arcade titles and it shows here. Still "Chronicles" is just a window into arcades of yore and unless you're a die-hard fan or an enthusiast for game preservation you might want to pass.
Score 3 out of 5
"Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" is $14.99 for PC, PS3 and Wii U and 1200 for Xbox 360. Review code provided by Capcom.