Fend off goblin hordes and shadow elves in this old-school beat-em-up.
By Tim Colwill on June 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm
I’ll always remember Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara as a beeping, flashing arcade cabinet, sitting forgotten in the lobby of Valhalla, one of Perth’s only two Nerd Stores. Nobody ever seemed to play it, but every so often I would drop a coin or two in as I went past on my way to thumb greasily through sourcebooks for games that I, on my pathetic 13-year-old pocket money, could not possibly afford.
Fast forward to 2013: I have no less than 50 Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks on my living room shelf, and Shadow Over Mystara has been bundled together with Tower of Doom and re-released in HD for just $15.
The times, they are a-changin’.
Chronicles of Mystara brings together both 1993’s Tower of Doom and 1996’s Shadow Over Mystara, updating the original game so that it can be played with the two additional classes (Magicu* and Thief) introduced in SoM. It’s an impressive package, and clearly put together with a lot of love for the originals and an abject refusal to change anything, even the horrific Engrish which pervades most of the strictly awful narrative.
Still, this isn’t a game you play for the narrative. Gameplay wise, Chronicles of Mystara retains the complexity and well-layered combat for which the original arcade releases became so famous (and which took at least $25 of money before you even began to get a grasp on). With a huge variety of items, spells, enemies and moves, combat is still pleasingly technical — but the addition of easy mode and almost unlimited continues makes it a pleasure just to bash through.
Capcom have added a few new things into the mix as well, and one of the best ones is House Rules. You can use these settings to change how the gameplay works, including one that turns you into a vampire so you heal when you inflict damage, one that turns on infinite item durability, and one that sprays huge amounts of gold out of every defeated enemy.
The other is of course drop-in, drop-out co-op gameplay. Powered by the GGPO middleware library, you can just throw yourself into a friend’s game and leave a moment’s notice, and frankly playing CoM on your own holds little appeal.
However, here’s the rub — playing this game on a keyboard is awful. If you’re hoping to get four of your friends together to play, the ones that don’t bring controllers the party are going to be flailing around at the back of the screen getting murdered by goblins. It’s not that it’s unplayable, it’s just super-clunky — if you have a 360 or PS3 controller I highly recommend plugging it in as soon as possible. I played through with a 360 controller and have zero regrets.
All in all, there’s not much to say about Chronicles of Mystara except “Well, it sure is those games you already played ten years ago,” which is, I guess, the highest compliment you can possibly pay to an HD re-release. The updated graphics aren’t spectacularly improved but the rest of the interface is in crisp HD, the addition of extra customisation and characters is neat, and the price is right. Have a go, why don’t you.
- Well, it sure is those games you already played ten years ago
- Plus some great customisation options
- Don’t play it with a keyboard or you will want to hurt yourself and the people around you
Chronicles of Mystara is available on Steam for $14.99.
This review copy provided by the publisher.
*Magic User, I know, but ‘Magicu’ is funnier