Capcom has resurrected two forgotten arcade classics that bear the prestigious Dungeons and Dragons branding -- conveniently just as everyone is getting in the mood for multiplayer hack-and-slash with Dragon's Crown.
I honestly shudder to think how many computer and video games have been released over the years bearing the "Dungeons and Dragons" name somewhere, but I must confess to being unfamiliar with the two official D&D arcade games until relatively recently. Still, now I can educate myself thanks to the recent release of them on PSN, Xbox Live Arcade Steam and, soon, Wii U eShop.
For those of you who, like me, had no idea that these games existed, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara comprises two four-player hack-and-slash action RPGs set in the Mystara campaign setting for D&D. Both Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara have been upgraded with new "high-definition graphics" (well, that weird blurry filter everyone seems to insist on putting on retro games these days), online play and customization features.
It's possible to play both games in their original arcade format, which features branching paths and multiple endings rather than a linear path to the finish line, but of greater interest is the House Rules function that allows players to choose various options to tweak the gameplay to their liking. The Vampirism option, for example, allows characters to earn health for every attack they land, while Lockpick causes all chests to be automatically open.
The two titles also feature a metagame tasking players with completing specific objectives for rewards that can be spent on unlocking new gameplay features, and there's also a Character Visualizer feature that tracks how often you, your friends and the community use the various different character types to see who is most popular or underused.
For some inexplicable reason, the PC version will only run on DirectX 11 (i.e. more recent graphics cards) at present, and a significant proportion of users have complained of installation issues via Steam, which hopefully Capcom are working on fixing even as you read this. The digital supersleuths at NeoGAF also discovered that the Japanese retail version of this collection has some additional tweaks and features over and above what is offered the digital version we're being offered in the West -- most notably, the ability for the whole party to play as the same character, and further visual customization options. The reason for the differences, apparently, are that the retail version and the digital release have been handled by different teams -- the digital version has been developed by Iron Galaxy, while the Japanese retail version has been developed by Capcom itself, including members of the original arcade team.
These issues aside, reception of the new ports seems to have been mostly positive so far, so if you're hungry to beat up some fantasy monsters before Dragon's Crown and its pendulous breasts hit the scene at the beginning of August, this might be a good option to tide you over.