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Hands-on Preview: Chronicles of Mystara is surprisingly involved for a 1990s brawler

Last time I had a chance to check out Chronicles of Mystara, the collection of Capcom’s arcade Dungeons & Dragons brawlers from the mid-90s, I was a bit overwhelmed. With a full suite of four players on a crowded show floor at PAX East it was tricky to get a handle on the madness. Recently I had the chance to sample more of each of the two games and dig into the additional features Iron Galaxy has added. I can safely say Chronicles of Mystara is looking to be a fine collection and a great game for fans and newcomers alike.

If Guardian Heroes was the post-modern brawler and Castle Crashers was the revival, Capcom’s Dungeons & Dragons games were basically the brawler genre’s swan song. Released in 1993 (Tower of Doom) and 1996 (Shadow over Mystara), they feature RPG mechanics like leveling up, item management, and branching paths. While they’re both quarter-munching arcade games, they have a surprising amount of depth.

Chronicles of Mystara

Clearly Capcom was already on their way to evolving the genre back then, but then brawlers fell out of style. It’s funny to think today that 2D genres were dying out for a while, but it was a reality in the late 90s and early 00s. Now, thanks to smaller downloadable titles and independent development pretty much any genre gets a shot. That said, Chronicles of Mystara may be a relic of the 90s, but the additional mechanics make it feel surprisingly modern -- something worth checking out whether or not you’re familiar with the original arcade game.

Along with the original games speaking for themselves, Iron Galaxy has added plenty of features. Like their previous HD remakes, the game features a host of visual options from smoothing filters to viewing modes that look like an arcade machine. Along with that, a variety of challenges are tracked along the left side of the screen. These challenges range from defeating certain enemies to using particular weapons and attacks. Completing these challenges earn you coins for unlocking extra content like new gameplay modes and concept art.

The game tracks stats to an almost unnecessary degree. Each time you complete a playthrough the game breaks down all the items you collected, with the goal being to eventually collect every item. It even tracks what percentage you use each character, breaking it all down on a handy bar at the top of the main menu. Excessive? Perhaps, but the extra effort Iron Galaxy puts in is appreciated.

Chronicles of Mystara

While Chronicles of Mystara still retains its quarter-munching style (with infinite quarters), it does players some favors with a level select in each game. You’ll have to get to the levels to unlock them, but at least the option is there for those who are tired of replaying the first level over and over. You’ll also be able to jump online and play with up to three other players, though I was sad to see that you can’t bring local players into online games.

For fans of these games, Chronicles of Mystara is a probably a no-brainer. As a newbie to this classic co-op beat ‘em up series, I’m hopeful that this is a game that will be fun for nostalgic fans and modern gamers alike. I’m looking forward to digging into the full game.

Due out June 19th on XBLA, PSN, Wii U, and PC, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara will run you $15 or 1200 Microsoft points. Stay tuned for our review, coming soon.

If you like to read the latest movie reviews, or random thoughts about whatever is going on in gaming lately, follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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