- Plenty to do and collect
- Soundtrack is surprisingly enjoyable
- Still look great, even today
- Not hugely difficult thanks to unlimited continues
- Default filter makes things look a bit ropey
Some people see retro re-releases as a way for publishers to make a quick buck and whilst this is pretty much the exact reason publishers do this, playing a classic game again but with modern features is always interesting. Getting the makeover this time are two classic Capcom games: Tower of Doom and Shadow of Mystara, bundled together as Chronicles of Mystara. Although there’s not a huge deal in the way of new since the original Sega Saturn versions, they are two of the most enjoyable Xbox LIVE Arcade titles you can pick up today.
Although two separate titles, both games included in the package follow the same formula and are side-scrolling beat ‘em ups similar to more well-known games like Streets of Rage. You pick a character and move from left to right, battering anything that crosses your path as you make your way to a showdown with a beefy boss type. Being a game set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the playable characters come equipped with all manner of fantasy weaponry and magic.
In Tower of Doom, you’re limited to four playable characters in the forms of a fighter, elf, cleric and dwarf. In the follow-up that is Shadow of Mystara, the four previous characters return but you can also pick from a thief and a few magic users. Ultimately, which you play as just depends on who you get on with most. It’ll probably take a few deaths before you decide which character you enjoy most and even then, it almost feels wrong just sticking to a single person all the time and you’ll likely find yourself chopping and changing fairly often.
Although both games can be played solo, it’s worth teaming up with a friend (or three) to play it co-operatively. You can play with up to four players all running around on the same screen and whilst it does make the game less of a challenge, it can be insanely enjoyable, even if it does become hard to tell what’s happening. Saying the above though, one thing that may disappoint if you’re feeling particularly retro and fancy a challenge, unlike the original versions, you have unlimited continues so deaths feel less threatening than they perhaps should.
Although each of the titles won’t last longer than around two hours each, there are plenty of things to do and collect if you’re a completionist. As part of the revamped package, you’re offered a slew of unlockables including concept art, cheats and more along with a levelling system and challenges that both carry across both games. Completing any of the various challenges for menial tasks such as killing enemies, gathering treasures or using specific abilities will earn you gems which in turn act as experience points. Levelling up will unlock more goodies and if you’re a hunter: achievements. Completing everything will take you a while so if you’re thinking about getting every achievement, you’ll get more than your money’s worth. Collecting every treasure alone is a monstrous task.
Although Chronicles of Mystara comes bundled with a number of filters and effects that “enhance” the visuals, one of the first things you should do upon start-up is head into the options and turn them off. Typical of common emulators found online, by default the pair come equipped with a filter that smooths the retro pixels and attempts to make the game clearer and more modernised. If you really fancy staying retro however, steer clear and turn the option off. The games look far better in their original forms.
As a package, Chronicles of Mystara should appeal to fans of the original releases and those that have never played them. Even if you’re someone who looks in on Dungeons & Dragons in general with an air of disdain as if it’s a forbidden realm, the games don’t really have a great deal to do with the universe aside from the titles and locations. You could easily slap another brand on it and you’d be none the wiser. If you fancy an enjoyable and challenging side-scrolling beat ‘em up, you can’t go much better than Chronicles of Mystara. Although fairly short, having two games with some replayability and tons of extras make the package strong enough to stand up against the more well-known titles on XBLA.