Flashback Friday is a weekly column that focuses on fond recollections in RPGs. Please be suggested that spoilers in regards to the collection in query could also be current and won’t essentially be marked.
RPGs have by no means featured closely within the arcades. Positive, there’s a handful like Golvellius, however they’re a uncommon breed. That’s not stunning, given the design necessities of a quarter-muncher. It needs to be punchy, regularly participating, and in a position to eat your cash not less than each couple of minutes. That’s merely not a part of the recipe for a full course meal of swords, sorcery, and scripted dialogue.
Enter Dungeons and Dragons: Tower of Doom.
Capcom, absolute arcade overachievers of the 90s, cooked up a brawler-come-RPG that borrowed simply sufficient from its tabletop namesake whereas retaining issues quick and frantic by way of the fisticuffs components of Ultimate Struggle.
The primary time I encountered Tower of Doom, it was at a Cineplex Odeon—considered one of Canada’s main theatre chains. It was the early 2000s and the sport was thought-about “previous” even by then, however I used to be simply captivated by a shiny brawler. I’d seen related video games like Knights of the Spherical and a bootleg of Sengoku by then, so I assumed it was in the identical vein.
Think about my shock when the sport had gadgets, a leveling system, and outlets! Positive, different arcade beat ’em ups had related, whether or not it was Golden Axe or Double Dragon III, however this was all the things in a single place. It helped I had additionally not too long ago been launched to Dungeons & Dragons and was desirous to play a sprightly elf.
A Quick-Lived Romance
I used to be not good because the elf. Dwarf is the place it’s at.
That didn’t cease me from making an attempt, nevertheless. I chewed by way of a $5 after which a $10 in tokens, making my approach to the struggle with a drow elf on a flying ship with dragons concerned earlier than it was time to line up for the film. I don’t bear in mind what we ended up seeing, however Tower of Doom caught in my thoughts. I used to be again subsequent week, not for a film, however for the sport, and went down exhausting on $20.
The following week, the sport was gone. It sucked, exhausting. I’d get better in fact, enjoying the X-Males 6-player cupboard they’d arrange, however I missed Tower of Doom.
I’d encounter it once more in passing at my native billiards corridor some years later, but it surely was gone from there in a few weeks as properly. Nowhere actually appeared to hold on to the title, which was a crying disgrace seeing because it was leagues forward of its easier-to-find colleagues like The Simpsons or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Earlier than these pitchforks come out, let me be clear: I love The Simpsons and TMNT arcade video games, however they’ve some extreme limitations and unfair quarter-munching designs that make me put them down greater than I decide them up. The identical is true of most brawlers from that period, being that they typically labored on related engines reskinned for no matter franchise Capcom, Konami, or Information East had licensed that yr. A couple of exceptions like The Punisher or Alien vs. Predator existed, however they positively weren’t the rule.
Tower of Doom and its sequel, Shadow over Mystara, have been fairly complicated video games for his or her time and format. Branching paths, expertise factors, outlets, secret passages, auxiliary weapons, the variety of participant roles, and a wide range of abilities and magic spells made for a wealthy layer cake of gameplay, topped with the creamy icing of a strong soundtrack, the fondant of compelling visuals, and the cherry that was muffled, corny voice samples. [Editor’s Note: And now I’m hungry.]
In time, the sport was lastly launched for Xbox 360 by way of LIVE Arcade and has since arrived on PCs by way of the Steam compilation, Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. Replaying each titles in my first condominium as an grownup with pal at my aspect was a deal with. Whereas they don’t maintain fairly the identical magic they as soon as did, they nonetheless handle to impress me. I’ve gone again to truly play among the marketing campaign supply materials they have been based mostly on, and it’s stunning simply how a lot of this materials that Capcom used to tell their video games. These are the video games I take into consideration once I mirror on basic D&D, and infrequently what I take advantage of as an aesthetic foundation when crafting my very own campaigns and characters.
They’re Golden Axe, they’re Alien vs. Predator. They’re River Metropolis Ransom, they’re Legend of Oasis. They’re Diablo, they usually’re Dungeons & Dragons. A cheerful intersection of the entire above, maybe by no means to be replicated in fairly the identical method once more.