Released in 1996 as a sequel to the equally impressive Tower of Doom, Shadows Over Mystara is a surprisngly in-depth fusion of side-scrolling beat ’em up and action RPG set within the D&D universe. I still can’t imagine people standing/sitting at an arcade cabinet for 90 minutes, but it’s a thoroughly compelling experience, particularly when played with friends!
Players must choose a character class and fight their way through legions of monsters on an epic quest across the land. There’s so much to see in this game that it’s impossible to cover everything in a single video, so I might revisit this and do another play-through with a different character at some point.
While the game is very much a side-scrolling brawler, Capcom combined the fighting action with a smattering of rules, locations and characters from the D&D rulebook. It’s far from a mindless button-masher either, the heros each have special moves, abilities, not to mention the ability to block and counter melee attacks with shields and protective spells.
For this play-through I opted to go with the Dwarf; he has great melee skills, one of the highest HP pools of all the heroes, plus his vertical attack is extremely effective against dragons. The only down-side is his complete lack of magic ability, although it’s not a huge disadvantage.
As you’d expect from Capcom and its CPS2 hardware, the presentation, visuals and animation are all stunning. It’s a beautiful game to look at, and one with extremely satifying beat ’em up gameplay. The difficulty ramps up drastically in the latter stages (no doubt designed to relieve adventurers of a few more silver pieces), but it’s still a great game in the CPS2 catalogue – highly recommended.