The brainchild of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Dungeons & Dragons ignited the fantasy role-playing genre with its niche appeal, as players placed their eager adventurers under the fateful gaze of a Dungeon Master.
By 1981 the game had attracted more than three million players around the world, so it is unsurprising that the games industry eventually clamoured to tap into such appeal. And so Dungeons & Dragons video game tie-ins cropped up everywhere: from the NES, TurboGrafx 16 and Mega Drive to the Amiga. Name the system, and there’s more than likely to a Dungeons & Dragons game on it in some form, and the Wii U becomes another.
Through the delayed arrival of Chronicles of Mystara on Nintendo eShop, Capcom invites us to once again revel in the arcade machine glory of Tower of Doom (1993) and sequel Shadow over Mystara (1996). Yet this isn’t the first time that the arcade duo has reappeared, last seeing a two-disc Japan-only re-release on SEGA Saturn back in 1999. However, as with WayForward and DuckTales: Remastered, Capcom have enlisted Iron Galaxy Studios to deliver more than a mere port, and they duly have.
There are a plethora of options facing you when you first load up, although it is through Arcade Mode that you can experience each classic as originally intended. Four players can group up together battling from screen-to-screen in your epic side-scrolling quest, with Nintendo Network being put to use to gather players online to aid you if required – though why two or three local players can’t fill their party with those searching online is a missed opportunity.
Fighter, Cleric, Elf, Dwarf character types prove an unsurprising mix, though are expanded in Shadow over Mystara with the addition of the Magic User, and Thief. You’ll stick to your favourites, but there’s enough to differentiate them from one another for those that wish to see what each have to offer.
Multi-choice decisions can steer your journey – pursuing stolen caravan supplies, or eradicating monstrous foes that have overrun nearby forts – which also provide additional opportunities to level up your characters so that they can endure more significant enemies hell-bent on gnawing at your health. Grizzly bosses also pose testing encounters, although a hefty amount of pickups – that include thrown weapons, magic missiles, and polymorph incantations – grant you the change to gain the upper hand.
A newly introduced Challenge System sees you rewarded with vault points, expended to unlock concept art, secret files and house rules – the latter altering the game by delivering stackable gameplay twists such as stronger enemies, or adding more treasure.
Whilst Shadow over Mystara grants a more refined experience over that which Tower of Doom provides, through its more expanded RPGS ideas, their value together grants an opportunistic moment to revisit a couple of retro classics that deliver a complete chapter of the Dungeons & Dragons saga.