I am not ashamed to admit it – I have always been a “Dungeons & Dragons” nerd.
I don’t know if it’s the comradery among friends, the epic stories, the creatures, or just love fantasy role play. I am excited about this week’s release of “Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara” because it takes one of my favorite source materials and mashes it up with one of my favorite genres of games: the beat ‘em up brawler.
In the ‘90s, the “D&D” arcade games where regarded as some of the best of 2D side-scrolling brawler genre. This is a remake of a classic ‘90s arcade game with several noticeable upgrades. I have a long history with brawler games, from “Double Dragon” to “Battletoads” to “TMNT” to “X-Men,” I love them all. “CoM” is great because it reminds me of the classic brawlers with updated graphics and gameplay, but in a beautifully drawn fantasy setting.
“Chronicles of Mystara” is actually a collection made up of two great arcade retro remakes, “Tower of Doom” and “Shadow over Mystara.” In both games, you and three friends can team up online or locally to battle your way through hordes of classic “D&D” monsters like beholders, kobolds, dragons, and many more. There are several character classes you can choose from, and they are all great in their own way. Fighters are brutal; there are ranged fighters like archers and thieves, and mages have crazy spells. One of my favorite things about the game is that each of the levels has branching paths, so you can play the level several times and go a different way. This creates a ton of replay value, even though it is pretty short. “Tower of Doom” is the first game and stands great on its own; however, the sequel, “Shadow over Mystara,” is the better of the two.
In “Shadow over Mystara,” when you play through, you earn coins you can use to buy special game artwork and things to customize your character. There are also several game modes to choose from, including things like time challenges and custom rules that you set up. There is no real reward, but there are leaderboards for bragging rights. The only real reason to try these other play modes is to collect the trophies/achievements for completing them. These games are meant to be played with a friend; you can play them alone, but it just loses some of the fun you could have hacking and slashing up enemies with your buddies, just like you used to at the video arcade. This game is not as hard as it was in the arcade because you don’t have to put in money, and there are unlimited continues. This takes away some of the challenge, but it also isn’t as frustrating.
I really enjoyed the streamlined gameplay and the newly updated graphics. The only thing I had a problem with was losing my online connection; I had a few online games crap out, and that can be very frustrating because you have to replay the level. If this happens, you can start on the last level you unlocked, so there is only minimal backtracking. You also cannot mix online play and local co-op; it’s either all online or all on your couch. These are the only issues I had with this game; overall, the experience was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the action and the gorgeous widescreen HD visual upgrades.
This is one the best brawlers I have played in recent years, and it gives you an authentic feeling arcade style game. Best of all, you don’t have to keep pumping in quarters. “Chronicles of Mystara” is identical to the arcade version with several upgrades, so if you are a brawler fan, old school arcade fan, or even a “D&D” fan, you should take a look at this collection. $15 for two fun games is a great deal and will provide hours of fun for you and your friends.
-Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at [email protected]