Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara PS3 review – Ancient RPG is still worth your loot
One thing in particular here will make you exceedingly glad: you don’t have to pay for continues. By packaging together Shadow Over Mystara and Tower Of Doom, Capcom has updated two classic arcade side-scrollers into one lovingly conjoined Amusement Golem, but the difficulty remains troll-skin hard.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara PS3 review
Thankfully, instead of pumping away the pocket money you can experience this unusually deep arcade brawler from the deliciously free confines of your PS3. At first glance this is from the same muscular family as Final Fight. However, once you slip off that chainmail hauberk – careful now – Chronicles is the spiraling Underdark of side-scrolling fighters. Yes, you’re mainly bashing goblins with swords, but there are varying paths, random loot drops and alternate endings.
The characters here are all role-playing staples. The Thief is flighty with low HP; the Cleric a lantern-jawed healer; the Magic User – well, he uses magic. It might sound tired, but the aesthetics are spot on. Muscle and beards and curves and cloaks, all lovingly designed and pleasingly bright though the myriad render modes offered. As the newer game, Shadow Over Mystara even expands move sets with class-informed additions: for example, the Thief can backstab and steal. Combat is intuitive, and if you visualise quarter-circles when I write ‘Hadouken’, you’ll be right at home with the fighting.
Along the way you cross axes with every mythical creature in fantasy: dragons, manticores and chimeras turn up alongside D&D originals like the Beholder (basically a testicle laden with eyes). The sheer variety of grunts – who all demand their own strategies – stops this from becoming a left-to-right trudge. There is one caveat. Despite the positives Chronicles is an aged beast, and it does suffer from the occasional wobble: painful, coin-chomping difficulty spikes, odd pacing and wispy collision detection. Sometimes irritating, sometimes enjoyably eccentric. It’s the rich, mad uncle of fantasy brawlers.
For an elderly game it looks sleek enough, and a further twist of modernity is added thanks to the House Rules: unlockable modifiers that alter the foundations of the game with things like Vampirism, timed levels and Survival mode. They rarely feel like a massive overhaul, but manage to drag you back after the main quests.
All this is rather nice, but it doesn’t overshadow the best bit about Chronicles: it still feels fun. There’s the odd control issue – specifically fumbling menus and lumpen blocking – but it doesn’t detract from a game that’s like peering into the scrying pool to a distant, glorious past. Those of us old enough to remember the smoke-and-sweat miasma of arcades will dive in with nostalgic abandon. Those that don’t? It’s time to level up. Time may have dulled Chronicles Of Mystara’s blades somewhat, but this grizzled warrior still remains a surprising, raucous, lovingly updated loot-fest.