For a while in the 1980s and ’90s, side-scrolling beat-’em-ups were a big deal in arcades.
They were big machines, often with four or even six sets of controls, and players would crowd around them, fighting as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the X-Men or the Simpson family against whatever nasty enemies and unfair challenges the designers dreamed up to keep the players’ heroes dying and their quarters flowing.
Most of the noteworthy examples of the genre made it to home consoles years ago — several are available for download now. But Capcom’s memorable pair of “Dungeons & Dragons” brawlers — 1993’s “Tower of Doom” and 1996’s “Shadow Over Mystara” — were only ever released in Japan for the Sega Saturn, until now.
“Chronicles of Mystara” bundles both these games together in one package. They remain relatively simple games, but for the genre they’re pretty complicated — you choose from several heroes, and each has its own emphasis and special powers — magical classes get access to a number of spells, for example, while fighters are extra tough. “Tower of Doom” offers four heroes — the human Fighter, the sword- and spell-wielding Elf, the divine Cleric and the powerful Dwarf. “Shadow Over Mystara” increases the hero count with the Thief and the more specialized Magic-User.
As with other games of this type, the core of the gameplay is hitting things until they fall down and flicker out of existence, and trying to avoid the same fate. It’s not easy — these games were designed to be tough and unfair, and some special moves chip away at your own health bar (see how long it takes to get to 60 deaths — that’s about how long you could have played in an arcade before you reached this collection’s price in spent quarters). Each character has various items and abilities unique to them, and you can shop for more in between quests. As the more recent game, “Shadow” has more variety and a few other improvements over “Tower,” but both are entertaining games made better by having a group to play them with.
The visuals have a smoothing filter applied by default, but there are also options to see the original pixel art, add scan lines or even an arcade cabinet backdrop for a more arcade-authentic look.
"DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CHRONICLES OF MYSTARA"
Published by Capcom for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U, PC
Rated T for Teen (violence, blood, suggestive themes)