Arcade games like Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara weren’t exactly intended for modern displays, being quite low in resolution and in the old standard 4:3 screen ratio. This presents a challenge for developers: how should this problem be fixed? In this case, the solution is in the players’ hands. The display can be letterboxed (with gem/achievement information on either side of the game screen), zoomed in, stretched to fit, and more. You can choose to keep the gorgeous art as is, or apply filters to make the game look even better. Arcade purists will appreciate the toggle for scan lines as well as the arcade cabinet view. There is a level of attention to detail in the display options that many other games could certainly learn from.
In the arcades, both of the Dungeons & Dragons games included co-op for up to four players. Chronicles of Mystara does the same. Arcade mode is the local co-op mode, and is pretty much just what it sounds like: you can choose either Tower of Doom or Shadows over Mystara and play from beginning to end. Players can drop in and out as they like. There is no limit to the amount of continues you have, though the game does track how many credits you use, for bragging rights purposes.
Online co-op has a few more options, including a “house rules” feature that lets the host determine what power ups will be allowed. Level selection and difficulty can be tweaked when playing online, as well. I was unable to test lag or other issues with online co-op with the early review copy, but from what I can determine, there is no combo co-op, where two or more local players can play in an online game. This is a perplexing decision, and its a shame that one of Chronicles of Mystara’s few flaws is such a disappointing one. Perhaps combo co-op will be patched in later; we can only hope.
As the next console generation approaches, online game services like XBLA and PSN are delivering some of their best. Chronicles of Mystara is a nearly perfect package of two stellar co-op classics. The lack of combo co-op is the only serious flaw in the game. As a huge fan of the games, I'd have been thrilled with a full on HD remake, but this is still an excellent representation. Chronicles of Mystara is a true thrill to play, whether you are a fan of classic brawlers or a newer gamer looking for a great dungeon crawl or two.
This review is based on a copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game, provided by the publisher.
The Co-Op Experience: Up to four players can journey together, either locally or online. Online co-op uses GGPO netcode for a low-latency experience.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.