Back before Capcom invested in multi-million dollar sequels and popular franchises, it thrived on making multiplayer beat-em-ups like Alien vs. Predator and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. Capcom really stumbled upon a great idea with its Dungeons and Dragons arcade games, combining the joy of fighting alongside your friends with D&D role-playing elements to form two great classics in the process. Nowadays it's tough to find either game unless you imported the Sega Saturn version a long while back, but Capcom will soon rectify this with the release of the Dungeons & Dragons Collection: Chronicles of Mystara on digital platforms this summer.
The package features both Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, which came out in 1993 and 1996 respectively. All the original arcade action has been kept intact, but a few more features are being added by the devoted development team at Iron Galaxy, who also worked on the home releases of Street Fighter III: Online Edition and the recently released Darkstalkers Resurrection.
At the start you'll be able to choose from four different warriors (six in Shadow Over Mystara) and then set out on a number of quests, eliminating goblins and other enemies while collecting goods to help improve your character. This is where the role playing element comes in, as you can level them up and make them stronger – which is kind of a necessity considering the tougher bosses that await you later in each game.
Like its previous developments, Iron Galaxy is also inputting challenges into both Tower and Shadow, keeping track of how you're doing on them through a scroll bar on the side of the screen. So if you meet a particular number of enemies killed or use special abilities, you'll be promptly rewarded as a result, either through Achievements/Trophies or in-game items to make you stronger.
Another interesting feature is the new "house rules" system that lets you change up the way you play. For instance, you can change up mechanics either by going through a time attack and making your progress based on how much money you have left in game (if you go broke, you lose a life), or playing the standard way with a set number of lives and a typical health meter decreased with each hit. It's an interesting take on the typical beat-em-up rules and is well worth trying out.
The gameplay itself is tried-and-true classic Capcom beat-em-up action. You'll slash away at enemies while collecting the money they drop and occasionally unleash special attacks on stronger foes. The more the merrier, as the game supports up to four players either locally or through online services. The game is set up in drop-in/drop-out fashion, so buddies can join you at any time if you need it or leave in case they need to go do something else. The multiplayer is being supported through Iron Galaxy's GGPO set-up, like its other games, so you can expect nothing but peak performance when others join you in battle.
You'll also be able to compete with others through online leaderboards, so you can see who scores the best in each round and shoot to do better with each new run through. This adds a great deal to the game, along with the deep role-playing aspects and cool little D&D-related surprises that await fans who give it a try.
There aren't that many differences between the versions, as the Xbox Live and PSN editions will be virtually identical with their features and presentation. For the Wii U version, Iron Galaxy is implementing some neat touch-screen controls. You'll be able to use touch-screen management in order to unleash certain spells or level up, instead of having to go into a sub-menu. One small setback is that only one person will have access to the GamePad while others will have to play with traditional Wii remotes or the Wii U Pro Controller.
Capcom has paid a great deal of attention to its classics over the years, most recently with the announcement of DuckTales Remastered and its Capcom Arcade Cabinet virtual collection. But Dungeons & Dragons Collection: Chronicles of Mystara holds a special place in many hearts because of its multiplayer set-up and its care for the license with the deep role-playing parts that lie within. If you never played it before, your opportunity will be coming this June when it releases for Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, PC/Steam and Wii U eShop. It's definitely looking like magic.