- D&D 2: Shadow Over Mystara -

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D&D 2: Shadow Over Mystara - April 14, '01 by -^Cro§Bow^-
Game:D&D 2: Shadow Over MystaraCompany:Capcom
Type:PlatformPlayers:1/4

Add a bit of might, a dash of magic, a pinch of agility, throw in a few really nasty monsters, scatter some treasure, and then have Capcom make it. What do you get? You get the recipe for one of the best Hack 'N' Slash games ever made. The first time I spotted a D&D game in the arcades...I almost laughed at the spectacle before me. Not really because of the way the game looked or played, but rather that anybody could conceive of making a game out of the most well known role-playing series of all time. Think about it. How do you turn a role playing series into an arcade game? After all, you can't make it a true RPG and expect the casual arcade gamer to play it for 40-60 hours to beat it can you? So you can imagine my surprise when I popped in the quarters, (note plural), and pressed, "Start".

D&D2 picks up where D&D1: Tower of Doom leaves off. Basically several years have passed and your adventurers decide to strike out in search of danger and treasure once again. Little do they know what they shall discover… It may not be a very engrossing plot, but then this is an arcade game based on role-playing elements. As it turns out the plot thickens more and more as you battle your way through hordes of various monsters and traps collecting treasure along the way.

The game play in D&D2 is really unlike any other arcade game I have played in the hack 'n' slash genre. For this reason alone the biggest part of this review will be devoted to the game play alone. To begin with, you have the option of selecting the character class you wish to adventure with. Choices include being a Fighter, Mage, Dwarf, Elf, Cleric, and Thief. Choosing whom to be will be up to you and your preference of skills. Yes, the different classes have different abilities within the game. As an example many of the treasure chests that you encounter along the game are trapped. Once opened you only have a second or two to get out of the way of the deadly trap waiting to spring. If you play the game as the Thief you do not worry about springing the traps, nor do you need to find keys for the chests that are locked. The Cleric has the cool ability to turn undead, a popular spell to use for disposing of skeletons, zombies and the like. The Magic user has the ability of casting not only magic but also has increased speed and agility above the others, (Plus the Mage's spells kick serious butt and look cool to boot!). Each class is also lacking in skills compared to the others to balance their abilities equally. Fighters are strong and powerful and can take a beating...but they cannot cast magic. The Mage can cast those mighty spells but is unable to wield certain weapons.

Another great aspect of the game is the ability to choose the paths you will take along the way. There are several key points in the plotline where the adventurers will be presented with a choice of where they want to go. Those decisions dictate what lies ahead to come and really adds to the replay value. There are also numerous secrets hidden within the game. Secrets include the finding of hidden rooms and levels filled with treasure and bonuses. Other secrets are actually more complex such as the one involving how you enter your name at the end of the first wave on level one. One secret I found interesting was the ability to change your character when continuing a game. There are actually two characters per class which you can choose between them by using the Player 1, Player 2, etc. keys during a continue. The second characters are exactly the same as the primary only they appear different, and usually start with different spells or weapons. Again this adds to the replay and makes the game even more interesting in deciding which character is best suited for which levels. Multiplayer is probably the greatest game play aspect of this game. The game is setup for as many as 4 players at once! As great a game as this is for the single player, there is nothing like teaming up with some friends to go on an all night bash fest! It really works best with multiplayer as everyone can select different classes and thereby have the power and strength of the fighter or dwarf while also having the powerful magic of the mage and cleric. Throw the thief in to team up with for agility, and the ability to steal from the monsters. Yes, multiplayer is how I see most gamers playing this game. The graphics in D&D2 are fantastic and fit right in with the action on screen. You will visit such wondrous places as dark forests and caves to fighting intense battles atop a giant war machine. There is a lot of variety in the backgrounds and you may catch yourself loosing a fight or two because you were busy looking at the fine details put into the backgrounds. Effects used in the game, use the CPS2 hardware to it's fullest. Great examples of this are the spell effects. Some spells do not produce much on screen such as magic missile. While others produce brilliant light shows that would make any club dancer feel at home. I sometimes found myself casting spells even when nothing was around to feel the wrath of the spell just to gawk at the graphics.

Also much attention to detail has been given to each of the monsters that you encounter. Each boss is also rather large, many taking up more than half the vertical height of the screen. Also each boss has an array of attacks independent of each other. These attacks from spells to basic smacking you around the screen are all very well animated and full of effects and color. Also many of the backgrounds have animation which can be anywhere from flickering torches to parallax scrolling clouds as is seen in one level. To say the least...D&D2 is a visual feast for the eyes and boasts some of the best graphics I have seen on CPS2hardware. The sound in D&D2 uses the standard Qsound setup. But that is not to say this is a bad thing, far from it as the sound in D&D2 is truly awesome to hear. Sounds are abundant throughout with constant low level background music that delivers full driving force when it is needed to the clash of steel against steel. Yes I have played other CPS2 games and D&D2 seems to have more sound than any I have heard. There are background ambient sounds, which add to the environment. Each monster you encounter also has the proper accompanying sounds like grunts, yells, and screams during their demise. The spells in D&D2 are also full of their own unique sounds. Such as the satisfying boom of the fireball, to the sizzle and crackle of the lightning spell. There is even haunting chants from the magic user and elementals when they conjure their devastating spells! The sound is full and there is much to hear in the world of D&D2. The controls are one area that I believe take some getting used to in the game. Whether you have a decent game pad like controller with programmable buttons or have to use the keyboard. You will find yourself having to remap the buttons and find a comfortable setup you can use. D&D2 like the older D&D1 uses the exact same button control. Basically you don't use any 6-button combos or anything fancy such as that. But then this isn't a fighting game so you don't need many. But that is where the problem lies. You only use 4 buttons in D&D2. The buttons control Attack, Jumping, Inventory/Spell selection, and finally the use of the selected inventory/spell item.

The idea of having the inventory is a really neat feature of the game and is one I do enjoy using. But the need to keep hitting the inventory/spell selection button to get the one I want is somewhat clumsy when in the heat of battle. It is difficult to be surrounded by enemies on all sides who also wield magic and there you are fumbling through the selection key to find the one you need. Then of course you have to actually invoke the selection with another key, all the while you're trying to dodge and jump out of the way of the monsters. It can get frustrating at times. Then again, maybe I just need to learn how to play better. Either way it isn't difficult to use...but the margin for making errors and hitting the wrong key at critical times is greatly increased. It is a minor frustration factor but one that I believe will irk the average player.

I can say that in D&D2 they have improved the inventory selection itself by representing the items as icons, which rotate around your character rather than a text box that you have to look away from the action for to read. Items in the game also do not seem to be immediately evident as to their use. For instance many times you will pick up a magic wand or some other such item. One might think that you physically select the wand and then use it as a weapon. However, when such objects are picked up they actually will add a magic spell to your inventory list to be used. Some items will take effect immediately and increase your stats like speed or damage dealt. Performance is another area that needs to be discussed, as this will vary from machine to machine. Currently the game can only be played in some CPS2 emulators. Either way, the game does play smooth for the most part. I wasn't able to check out multiplayer in any emulator at the time of this writing so I cannot speak for speed regarding that aspect of play. But for me on my lil ole Celery 300A at 450mhz with a Geforce256 SDR and 192mb of Ram, I can honestly say that in Nebula the game played smooth for me. Only slowdowns encountered were when using the Direct3D sound option in Nebula. However, without the sound API being used in 3D the game still kicks some serious sound out. Slight slowdowns from here and there aside the game does still play very well and for this type of game, a player doesn't really need a constant 60fps to dish out the damage to all the baddies and still win the day.

Besides the clumsy control interface and slight performance issues, I think that D&D2 is one of the best games in the Hack 'n' Slash genre that I have ever played. There are many other factors in the games favor. The graphics are sharp and colorful. The soundtrack music should be on a CD in my car to listen too. And the game has a great replay value with the multiplayer and variety of secrets in the game. Golden Axe may have started it all, but D&D2 takes it to new levels in the style that only a great Capcom game can do. Please enjoy this wonderful game and remember to watch where you point your fireball spells.
Graphics
10
10
Sound
Play Control
7
8
Challenge
Replay Value
10
8
Performance

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