It does the heart a lot of good when you see a 90’s arcade game being successfully ported to consoles. These ports really help familiarizing the younger gaming generation to what the arcade culture was all about! Well, Iron Galaxy deserves kudos for providing a very robust version of two of the most popular games of 90’s, namely Tower of Doom and Mist over Mystara. Playing the game on the console, I couldn’t help but take a trip down the memory lane! I vividly recall bunking classes and going to the nearby arcade with my lunch money to indulge for hours at the Tower of Doom machine.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is the absolute pinnacle of the side scrolling beat-em-up genre, and with the remake, developers have done a good job of bringing this classic to current generation consoles. However, the game only caters to those who enjoy old school beat-em-ups. Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara is fairly easy to get into mainly, thanks to its simple yet effective four buttons control scheme. However, some of the problems have carried over from original games i.e. the attack button is also used to pick up loot, which can cause some problems, especially when you are surrounded by enemies and your character starts to gather loot instead of fighting. Visually, Tower of Doom compared to today’s mega budget and resource intensive games, looks bland and the characters just don’t have that immersive tinge to them. Chronicles of Mystara however has received some loving from Iron Galaxy and can be played in its original format of the 90’s. If going down the memory lane isn’t your thing, Iron Galaxy has the next best option! Since, this is an HD port, you can smoothen the graphics to give it a more modernistic touch. It’s like having the best of both worlds at your disposal.
I don’t think even Capcom realized that they were making games that would transcend the mere label of beat em up side scrollers, because of including RPG elements. These aren’t your typical button mashers with the depth of a kiddie pool. No sir! What you get is elements like comprehensive level progression, optional equipment which doesn’t go poof on you when least expected and my favorite of all supply shops. There are action based consequences and multiple ways to an objective, something that games of 90’s weren’t known for. The premise of the game is pretty simplistic though. There’s a typical bad guy threatening the world, you assemble a bunch of ragtag crew of fighters that fight their way through the bad guy’s minions and help people along the way. At the end of their journey, there’s an epic confrontation with the boss. Defeating the boss would save the world and order will be restored to chaos. The original games were intended for arcade gaming and hence were intentionally made insanely difficult to coax coins out of players. Thankfully, the port now allows for a difficulty setting to be set. Players would have at their disposal four classes to choose from! Fighter, Dwarf, Cleric and Elf all of whom come with their distinctive abilities, traits, advantages and disadvantages. There’s no character customization, but you can conveniently overlook that little detail considering game’s dated origin, though you get to name your character which has some tangible effect on skill tree and load out. Chronicles of Mystara offers another incentive to the game by offering two extra and new classes called The Thief and Magic User. Due attention has been given to make the classes differ from the original roster, as they have distinctively different powers and abilities. I had a blast putting together a team and trying to balance it by taking into consideration the abilities of the classes and which ones to include and which to leave out.
The button control scheme is quite basic when it comes to Tower of Doom. It consists of four buttons each affixed with a certain action. It can get a bit repetitive but the sequel Chronicles of Mystara improves on it by including attacks that require specific rotation and movement reminiscent of another popular fighting game that was making waves back then, though this also results in some nuisance like the loot and attack button mix up, as mentioned earlier. The AI of the game is fairly decent and keeps throwing enemies at you which can become monotonous after sometime, but the beauty of these games is in their replayability. You can always switch characters and explore their move sets in detail and vanquish enemies in a totally varied manner.
Like today’s games having their own elaborate and custom produced music and soundtracks enhancing the overall experience, these two titles have the staple arcade sound of the day. This entails a couple of tracks playing throughout the entirety of the game, your characters having pathetic timing of letting lose cheesy catch phrases and the enemies emitting the same sound over and over. But, I gladly overlooked all that because of the amount of share fun I was having reliving the entire experience!
Unlike the arcade games where you gave it your all, because dying would mean coughing up another coin, the HD ports allow for unlimited number of continues. Now I am not complaining because I died plenty of times (you will too so wipe that smirk off your face), but having unlimited number of continues at my disposal made me kind of languid in my approach and somewhat lessened the thrill. It would’ve been ideal if Iron Galaxy would’ve incorporated some sort of limited number of continues, exhausting which you’d have to play with a certain handicap or something.
The asking price for the game is $15 which is not too bad when I look back and recall that amount of coins I must’ve blown on reaching the end boss alone (killing the end boss is another story altogether). Plus, you’d be getting two awesome titles for the cost of one.
It stroked my nostalgia and made me teary eyed when I reminisced about the good memories associated with these titles. Even after all these years and being exposed to modern games, which would leave these titles eating their dust, I still enjoyed playing them. The classic gameplay of hack n slash arcade style manages to remain as immersive as it was back during the heydays of arcade gaming. The game does have shortcomings like, too few enemy types, limited game play and sometimes fussy controls.
I would personally give the game a solid 7.8 out of 10. It might not be the cup of tea for every gamer out there but I would encourage people who’ve never come across the arcade versions to at least give it a full hearted try. The co-op is up to four players and I guarantee you’ll have a blast bashing in the skulls of baddies and competing with your buddies for loot (even if there’s a generous amount of it to go around).