Review by The Manx

"It's not so bad"

Let me say that I've never played Dungeons and Dragons. But since I've played a lot of other medieval RPGs I figured I could handle what these two arcade adaptations would throw at me. And I was right, but they still manage to be pretty fun for beat 'em up fans looking for a little innovation.

Shadow over Mystara is set about a year after the end of the previous D&D arcade game. Two new characters have joined the party of adventurers from the last game; the thief and the magic user. Like the characters already extant, they have their own specialties: the thief can spot traps and that sort of thing, and the magic user has a relatively large amount of attack spells at his command. Each character in this game also has two looks, which can be flipped between by pressing the player 1/player 2 button to get back in the game while continuing. It doesn't change how they play, but it's there if you're tired of looking at the same sprite from the last game.

Naturally, evil is afoot in the land once again, and since the party is larger and more advanced than the last game, the enemies they fight are stronger than before. As you battle monsters, you level up and get a longer life bar and after every level there's the same trip to a general store to buy arrows, daggers, fire bombs and the like with the money you earned killing goblins. And as before you can chat up the shopkeeper to get some info and sometimes, special items. You can pick up special items during the levels as well, like magic staves that power up certain kinds of spells, but since I'm not a D&D buff it took me a while to realize what all the fancy rings and whatnot did.

The graphics are slightly above par from most other beat 'em up games of this era. Each character is distinct, even when you start messing with their different costumes.

The sound isn't so bad, but nothing stuck in my mind from playing Shadow over Mystara either. No catchy tunes like the riverboat battle from the previous game, and nothing distinctive about the cries of the various monsters you'll fight or villagers crying out for ''Help!'' over and over. The heroes' catchphrases were sometimes amusing, however. Like the headline of the review, which the thief says after getting up without a scratch from being totally immolated.

The plot advances a little too quickly for me in this game, though. Tower of Doom took its time building up the story gradually. But in Shadow over Mystara, after like one level you get hit over the head with being handed the fate of the land and delivering it from the evil tyrant seeking to spread his dark reign.

We have a decent RPG/Beat-'em-up hybrid here, but when it comes down to it I'll probably always like the original more, despite the glamming up of the game in Shadow over Mystara.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/19/04

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