Before the Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights series, there was Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara. A warm memory shared amongst my peers were days spent engaging these titles in arcades, Chuck E. Cheese, and Pizza Hut. Since the good ol' days, there hasn't been a home port for either of these titles, that was until Capcom and Iron Galaxy decided to take a breather from re-releasing fighting classics.
As with any other beat 'em up from their time, it is required that you have at least one other player to optimize the adventures. Shadow, being the later installment is obviously an upgraded version of Tower with more characters and shinier graphics. However, the two share their signature feature of multiple choice scenarios where players can vote for the next unique stage - facilitating replay value to traverse options not chosen in prior playthroughs.
As another installment of Capcom's HD re-releases, the game provides challenge cards scrolling on the side where their completion, along with general playthroughs, yield Vault Points. These can be spent towards cheats, concept art and old posters from the golden '90s. In addition, there's also the option to change the visuals but, perhaps speaking in bias as a fighting gamer, the view isn't so pertinent in the long run.
If you don't have anyone to game with side-by-side, the netcode is on point allowing for a smooth online experience. Going at it alone however is a non-stop struggle ad nauseam against overwhelming odds no matter which difficulty you choose, despite having infinite continues.
Endless second chances is perhaps the biggest hot topic amongst beat 'em up fans, as despite a number of games doing well to have them, such a feature undermines the quality of others when death no longer becomes consequential. Those bummed with the result of the HD re-release of the classic X-Men arcade game may remember that the infinite continues allowed players to abuse crowd controlling powers to their heart's (dis)content. This fortunately doesn't happen so much with Tower, but Shadow's higher headcount of magic users can steal the show time and time again with their screen halting spells. One can always opt not to play in this fashion, but the temptation at times can be heavy, especially against bosses.
Admittedly, both games have not aged well over the years which is why you don't see their names popping up in any beat 'em up fans' top list (even if you do, they only take up the bottom spots). Modern gamers may find their storytelling convoluted and nonsensical regardless of taking into account the fact that, no matter what the era, there's only so much story you can cram into an arcade game. Even with friends, the gameplay can get repetitive and the infinite continues unwittingly exposes the fact that both games won't take up even an hour of anyone's time.
With its excellent netcode, Chronicles of Mystara is a great addition to anyone's collection of co-op choices to pass the time. Older gamers, such as myself, can appreciate the nostalgia brought about by seeing how certain 2D art and graphics can still stand the test of time. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of its repetitive gameplay and excessively difficult spots for single players - designed originally to sap loose change from its players. Along with the need to implement unlimited continues to satisfy modern standards, with random but impactful results, the subject of why and how beat 'em ups are endangered in following flight simulators to the dead genre grave is demonstrated (you'd think by now developers would introduce it as an option). Even still, the adventures into Mystara is great to have around as a spare for kicking back with friends and family. Beyond that, try not to expect too much out of it.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Network.
|» A nostalgic good time|
|» Flawless netcode|
|» Solid replay value|
|» Dated gameplay|
|» Short titles|
|» Infinite continues isn't always a good thing|