Two decades after Tower of Doom stormed arcades, Capcom is reviving their highly-regarded Dungeons & Dragons games. After spending some hands-on time with Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, it's clear that the original arcade experience has been successfully remastered and enhanced without compromising the legacy of the original classics.
Starting up with Shadow over Mystara, the first thing of note is that the HD update is done with respect to the games' 32-bit roots. Everything from the medieval town houses and lush landscapes to the cloak of my selected character (which you can customize the name of), the elf, retains a lightly pixelated look, but with greater clarity and color depth.
To further enhance the arcade experience, you can change the view settings under options to select "pseudo arcade view," which alters the view to resemble an arcade cabinet (complete with CRT effects). There's also "super arcade view," a fun, nostalgic, and completely unpractical four player cabinet view. Scan lines can also be toggled on and off for that extra dose of old school flair.
What the updated enhancements really lend themselves to, however, is the seamlessness of movement. Pressing Y on the Xbox controller brings up the extra attack items and spells menu, which can be cycled through on screen in real time and immediately utilized. With the elf, I could still walk around while cycling to the bow or magic missiles and quickly attack without it feeling distracting or laggy.
As we fought off enemies and used various attacks and combos and picked up coins and items throughout both games, I noticed that our gameplay activity was being logged on the right side of the screen. Capcom representative Dan Pantumsinchai told Shacknews that these are "Dynamic Challenges" that log gameplay and provide players with "new goals to achieve" in addition to playing through story mode. As challenges are completed, you'll earn "vault points" which you can use in "The Vault" to unlock "House Rules" as well as character and monster artwork from both Wizards of the Coast and Capcom, and original game advertisements.
Although the demo didn't include time to toggle with the unlockable "House Rules," I feel that this is where Chronicles of Mystara will ultimately provide much of its replay value to fans of the original as well as series newcomers. House Rules "allow you to change the parameters of the game" to increase or decrease difficulty. A few of the parameters mentioned included not being able to press "continue" once your character has perished, the ability to open all chests without the use of a key, and replenishing health as you attack enemies. According to the representative from Capcom, the House Rules can be stacked to "create a customized gameplay experience."
Capcom has been guilty of making some sub-par HD ports, but it appears that Chronicles of Mystara bucks the trend. With streamlined gameplay, unlockables, seamless multiplayer, and an emphasis on customization, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara looks to be a classic arcade revival that fans can be proud of.