D&D For The Statistically Impaired.
Roll 2D10 To Save Versus Nostalgia
With Dungeons & Dragons being the granddaddy of all fantasy RPGs, it should come as no surprise that someone enterprising would eventually try to pervert its essence. In the land of arcade games, circa 1993, that perversion came via Capcom and Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom followed three years later by Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara. These games, once only available in a 1999 Sega Saturn collection, have returned thanks to the miracle of downloadable content and Capcom’s incessant mining of its own past glories. The results are about what you’d expect.
Break Out $15 Worth Of Quarters
As with many arcade games of the past, the D&D games are essentially unfair, remarkably difficult games designed to part players from their money in the span of a few minutes, so as to plunk in more change to continue playing. This is a far cry from the generous checkpoints and regenerating health modern players enjoy today, but this collection is a product of a different time.
The graphics have been cleaned up a bit from the early 90s arcade days, though Capcom has seen fit to retain the 4:3 aspect ratio of the arcade original, throwing in some status bars on the sides to keep players apprised of their progress for new, arbitrary in-game challenges like killing “X” amount of enemies and other laundry lists. For fans of the originals, the games, obviously, have never looked as good as they do now.
As far as the games themselves go, these are still the side-scrolling brawlers with a very, VERY RPG-lite element that gamers may remember from their time in the arcade during the 90s. It’s still basically go from left to right, bashing everything that comes in sight, using up some consumable weapons/healing items here and there, and occasionally being forced to make a choice as to which route to take when the path splits. Shadow Over Mystara, being a sequel, obviously feels like the more robust to the two, with more characters and slightly more comprehensive RPG mechanics. Both of them offer a fairly simplistic—and unforgiving—system of combat that is essentially button mashing combined with some jumping and special attacks. Both of them also offer drop-in/drop-out co-op with up to four players either locally or online, as well as leaderboard functionality for those that are still thirsting for the thrill of holding the high score, albeit on a global rather than neighborhood level.
Aside from the nostalgia factor, it’s hard to recommend this collection to contemporary gamers with no context. It is what it is; a beat ‘em up designed to gobble quarters, and as such, it offers little in the way of the depth or sophistication of games in the 21
century. It’s another curiosity from a simpler era, when it was all about just hitting things with some friends, and on that score, the game certainly delivers. For those old enough to remember this game, the asking price of $15 will pay for itself if you try to play through both and keep track of how many continues you use up, then adjust the quarter consumption for inflation.
For younger gamers curious about the play-styles of yesteryear, when the design philosophy was more about killing players as quickly as possible to encourage more spending, this will be an eye opening experience. For those that remember pumping one quarter after another into the many Capcom and Konami beat ‘em up machines of times past, this is another winning conversion. Now if we could just get Captain Commando and/or Alien vs. Predator, my collection of nostalgic, college quarter munchers would be complete.