Back in the 1990s arcade scene, my go-to games involved beat 'em ups like "The Simpsons" and "X-Men," where I pumped in an unhealthy amount of quarters to keep on playing.
You rarely see traditional arcades these days, but these brawlers are being revived on home consoles with digital releases. The most recent comes from Capcom, who just released a couple Dungeons & Dragons games in one tidy package. "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" features 1993's "Tower of Doom" and its sequel "Shadow over Mystara," which released in 1996. Each received the HD treatment and other enhancements so the games don't show their age too badly. Iron Galaxy developed the double pack.
Their use of RPG elements is what makes them stand out. In ToD, you can choose between a fighter, dwarf, cleric and elf who offer different play styles. For example, the fighter has the most health but can't use magic, while the elf casts offensive magic spells but has lower life. Exclusive to SoM are the magic user (low strength and health, but powerful magic) and thief (a speedy character who can pick locks and find traps). Characters also level up and equipping items boosts various stats.
While mashing the regular attack button is one way to get through hordes of enemies, proper use of arrows, hammers and other throwing weapons makes things easier. Special moves like aerial attacks and shield blocks involve specific button taps and analog stick movements -- just like on an arcade machine. I had no problem performing these on the controller.
Beating both of these games will set you back just a couple hours. Stages are short. After bashing around common enemies, there's usually some kind of boss fight like a dragon at the end of them. In terms of overall quality, ToD is a rougher game visually. I actually played that game last and it's a noticeable step back from the more polished SoM, which is expected since SoM's the sequel and released a few years later.
Replayability is a big part of these games since you can play as multiple characters with different move sets. Also, some stages have multiple paths, so you can always go back and attempt different areas.
Playing through these games alone is manageable -- thanks to the magic of unlimited continues on consoles. ToD and SoM were designed to eat all your hard-earned quarters, and it shows during many parts where swarms of enemies pummel you to death. Multiplayer is the way to go, and simply dropping in or out of a game online (when enough people are playing) is nice.
Unlockable content also gives extra motivation to play them over and over. Completing in-game challenges like defeating so many enemies and opening a certain amount of chests will earn you Vault Points, which can be spent to unlock things like concept art and, most importantly, House Rules. These rules change how the game is played, like making enemies and chests drop extra gold, or items that are equipped don't break. Enemy Rush adds a bigger challenge by starting the game with 30 seconds and you have to keep the timer from expiring by defeating enemies. Spend your points on House Rules first.
Another neat tidbit: You can level up your profile by gaining experience points -- maxing out at level 21. Dungeons & Dragons fans will appreciate that "epic" feature.
Capcom has released plenty of old-school games recently, giving veteran gamers a chance to relive the old days and beginners an easy opportunity to finally play the classics. For $14.99, "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" may be a little pricey for the overall content, but if you really love these beat 'em ups, it's worth checking out.
3 stars out of 4
The Xbox Live Arcade version of "Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara" was supplied by Capcom for this review. It is also available on PlayStation Network, Wii U and Steam.
Jeff Hoard writes about video games for The Oakland Press. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHoard921. His blog is www.yay4videogames.blogspot.com.