You’ll Never Get That Musty “Old Dungeon” Smell Out
“Ooh,” I thought. “This should be fun! A high fantasy side-scrolling beat ’em up in the style of Golden Axe, retro graphics and everything. Can’t wait to try it out!“
Well, I’m allowed to be wrong sometimes too, you know.
Sure, Chronicles of Mystara certainly looks and feels like the coin-op arcade titles from the ’90s that it was based on, Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara. Well, it should – after all, it’s a direct port combining both of these titles. And while I’m a fan of porting games in the same graphic and sound fidelity that they originally appeared in (or at least including a straight-up port when releasing a remastered version), Chronicles of Mystara doesn’t so much fall apart because it shows its age but because I would be a whole lot more invested if I had to actually line up my quarter on the machine to make sure the quest didn’t falter at each of my (numerous) deaths.
The challenge is certainly there. Unlike more modern takes on this classic genre, like Castle Crashers and Charlie Murder, these games weren’t designed to be “beatable” but to make you slide quarter after quarter of your limited allowance into the slot to keep going, and it shows. But to make the game more appealing for a home console, the challenge would definitely have to be tuned down quite a bit; as it stands, I simply figured out that I could die over and over, just seconds apart, and still be rewarded by making a slow and steady progress. At home, I’d rather be encouraged to hone my skills and become better at the game, rather than act like a walking meat shield with no regard for proper technique.
If all I have to do is push a button to get unlimited, free continues, it takes away a big hunk of the coin-eating appeal of these games.
A few things were kind of neat, if I have to find something to be positive about. For one, at certain points in the story, you are presented with a choice of where to go next; do you continue on your way or make a detour to help the villagers who are being molested by some pesky goblins? Do you want to take the treacherous shortcut through the swamps or the exposed trek across the plains? Also, Shadow over Mystara, the second (though by no means superior or more enjoyable) of the two campaigns did offer a wealth of character classes to choose from. Though to take advantage of these extras, one would have to replay the game a few more times. Yeah, no…
Maybe I could understand the unfiltered coin-op version being kept intact if there were a big demand for Tower of Doom or Shadow over Mystara two decades after their initial release, but was there really anybody lobbying for this game to finally, FINALLY come to their living room? I think not.