Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara
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Developer(s) Capcom
Publisher(s) Capcom
Composer(s) Masato Koda
Platform(s) Arcade, Sega Saturn
Release date(s) 1996 (arcade)
1999 (Sega Saturn)
Genre(s) Beat 'em up/RPG
Mode(s) Up to 4 players (cooperative)
Rating(s) SEGA Rating: Suitable for All Ages
Arcade system CP System II/JAMMA+

Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara is an arcade game developed and published by Capcom in 1996 as a sequel to Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom. It was also released on the Sega Saturn, packaged with Tower of Doom, under the title Dungeons & Dragons Collection. The game is set in the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting of Mystara. It was one of the last 2-D arcade side-scrollers created by Capcom; only Battle Circuit (1997) came after Shadow over Mystara.



After defeating the Arch Lich Deimos, the heroes continued on their journey through the Broken Lands of Glantri after realising that Deimos is only part of a greater evil plan, and he was in fact being used by a mysterious sorceress named Synn. Synn, who appears to be a young woman but commands incredibly powerful magical abilities, has been scheming to control the Kingdom of Glantri and conquer the humanoids of the Republic of Darokin. But now that Deimos has been defeated, Synn vowed to punish the land that she desired for.

It is only at the game's end does the player discover that Synn is in fact a centuries-old red dragon, bent on harnessing the mystical forces of the lands she's conquered, in order to awaken a creature of even more devastating physical prowess than herself - known and described only as "The Fiend".


Combining the side-scrolling gameplay of a beat 'em up with some aspects found in a computer role-playing game, Shadow over Mystara has many game mechanics not commonly found in arcade games. While things as simple as item collection, finding and equipping new gear and earning new spells as the player gains experience is an old idea in console games, it is a rare find at the arcades. Players can wield a large variety of weapons and armor, although this selection is limited by the character the players chooses. There is also an extensive assortment of magical and hidden items in the game, many of which are completely unknown to exist to the typical arcade gamer. This, along with the addition of multiple endings and forking paths, gives the game an extreme amount of re-playability and has led to its cult following among the fans of the genre.


The character select screen

In addition to the original four characters found in Tower of Doom, the Cleric, Dwarf, Elf and Fighter, Shadow of Mystara adds a Thief and a Magic-User to the selection. Furthermore, with the inclusion of two separate versions of each character's sprite set, the game allows up to two players to select the same character (in Tower of Doom each of the characters could only be selected once), effectively giving the game twelve "different" characters to choose from. The two Clerics and two Magic Users also have subtle differences within their spell books.

  • Cleric: The Cleric's main role is to be the party's healer and buffer, but he is also a formidable warrior, possessing the best rushing attack in the game. He also has the ability to turn undead, instantly destroying skeletons and ghouls, and can cast from a large library of clerical spells that can heal, strengthen allies, and blind enemies. In line with classic Dungeons & Dragons rules he cannot wield any weapon that is bladed; however, he can wield a spiked morningstar from which he gains new special attacks.
  • Dwarf: More hardy than even the Fighter, the Dwarf has the most hit points in the game, as well as being able to deal the most physical damage in a short amount of time. The Dwarf is a difficult character to learn as his strengths lie in his special attacks rather than his normal attacks; he also has the ability to bash opened treasure chests to reveal extra gold and treasure.
  • Elf: The Elf is a female fighter-mage, combining the offense of a fighter with the spells of a magic-user, both wielded with equal ease. Although her capabilities in such are less powerful than that of the Fighter and Magic User (respectively), she remains a well-rounded and useful character. Her disadvantages are her low constitution and defense, and short melee weapon reach. Much like the Dwarf, she reaches her maximum level fairly early in the game, which gives her an early advantage but just as well halts her progression abruptly.
  • Fighter: The Fighter is a melee character with an excellent moveset, high endurance and the best armor class, making him suitable for beginners and experts alike. He can wield nearly every weapon in the game, including the two-handed sword, and is the only character with the ability to dual-wield with a short sword in his offhand. The Sword of Legends item in the game is named after the highest ranking Fighter in the high scores.
  • Magic-User: The Magic-User is a master of devastating spells but is physically the weakest character in the game; as such, he is quick to die when played by novices due to his low constitution and relatively weak melee abilities. To offset his low amount of health, the Magic-User has a useful teleportation move which allows him to dodge all physical attacks (and can be used to perform elaborate and damaging combos by experienced players), along with a spell that grants him temporary invulnerability. The Magic-User is a difficult, but rewarding, character to use that requires previous knowledge of the game and effective management of his spells. His offensive spells are greatly enhanced by the Staff of Wizardry, arguably making him the most powerful character in the game.
  • Thief: The female Thief is a dexterous character, with many unique acrobatic skills, that can double jump, wall jump, back flip, and leap across the screen. She has the abilities to pick locks, detect traps, pickpocket enemies, and even backstab enemies for severe damage. She also has an unlimited supply of rocks to sling with and utilizes flasks of burning oil in some of her special attacks. However, she suffers defensively due to her low constitution and lack of a shield.

Players, upon completion of their first stage, are prompted to enter a character name. Unlike most arcade games which only allow a person to enter three letters, Shadow over Mystara has space for six. For the unimaginative, the game provides a default name for each of the characters; the default name is also automatically used if the player tries to submit a blank name or use vulgarity.


A team of heroes stand ready to take on the dark elf Tel'Arin

There are four buttons: Attack, Jump, Select (brings up a small inventory ring around the character allowing the player to choose what item is set in the Use slot) and Use. The Cleric, Elf and Magic-User also have two extra rings for their spells, with the Jump button used to switch from ring to ring. While the game uses the same kick harness as the previous game, the Select and Use buttons are reversed.

Shadow over Mystara also introduced a selection of special moves which are executed by moving the joystick and tapping the buttons in certain combinations, in a way similar to the Street Fighter series. The characters (except for the Magic-User) have a Dashing Attack as well as a Rising Attack which can be used to combo monsters or even juggle them in the air. Most characters (again, with the exception of the Magic-User and also Cleric, who has turning undead) also have a Megacrush, a move common to nearly all of Capcom side-scrollers, which damages all enemies standing close enough to the character but in turn also damaging the player themselves.

Treasure on the ground is picked up by standing near it and pressing the Attack button. Due to this feature, characters that stand too close to loot while fighting will instead bend down and retrieve the nearby item. It was very difficult to fight monsters in room full of treasure in the original Tower of Doom, and Capcom addressed these complaints with the addition of sliding. This maneuver allows players to automatically pick up any treasure and equipment a hero slides over, quickly clearing the area of items.


The game offers a small selection of arcane magic, available for the Magic-User and Elf, and divine magic, available to the Cleric. Instead of an MP system, characters use D&D's Vancian magic system where a certain amount of each spell ready to cast. Extra uses of the spells can be picked up off the ground, represented graphically as scrolls of paper, or occasionally recharged after certain boss fights. When a spell is cast the entire game is momentarily paused during which the spell effect is played out (some spells can be controlled during this time).

Players, as they fight their way through each level, will come across a huge assortment of treasure. Treasure is found in chests, stolen from monsters, dropped from dead enemies and bosses, or even found simply lying on the ground. Most treasure is gold and silver, which is used to buy simple items in shops (see below), or precious gems, which add to a heroes experience points. Other treasure include weapons and equipment.

Every character starts with their armor (the second slot) already filled, specific to their character, and remains unchanged the entire game. The character's helmet (the first slot) and shield (the fifth slot) are the other two items that lend to a character's defensive ability. Most characters also begin with a shield, except the Magic-User and Thief, who cannot use shields. While magical items in traditional D&D rules are practically invulnerable or tough, the magical items in Shadow over Mystara are very fragile. Magical boots (slot three), gauntlets (slot four), and rings (slot six) are all destroyed after the player is damaged a few times. The eighth slot is used for miscellaneous items, such as the "Skin of the Displacer Beast" or the "Eye of the Beholder"; many bosses drop rare items such as these and they either grant special abilities or can be traded in for special magical equipment. There are also many unique hidden items (for example, hidden near the end of the game is a treasure chest which contains the Staff of Wizardry when opened by the Magic-User: if the Magic-User wields the staff during the last boss Synn and there are at least three players with a combined total of over 1 million experience points, the Staff will glow and the team will be able to use the powerful Final Strike attack).

In between many stages the players find themselves inside small town stores where they can restock on common items such as arrows, burning oils, throwing daggers and healing potions. Players can sell items for gold and also trade special items found during boss battles with shopkeepers (by clicking on the shopkeepers head) to earn unique magical items. The players can also come across a special gnome village where the townfolk beg to be saved from a chimera (the gnomes, unlike traditional Dungeons & Dragons gnomes, are very minuscule, standing about a foot tall).


Shadow over Mystara contains a system which allows the player to name your character. Abusing this system using methods involving typing a space as the first character of the name, followed by a long string of repeated letters, cause the game to become incredibly glitched, giving the players powerful items in the beginning of the game. This exploit also has a nasty side effect of causing the game to have an incredible amount of visual bugs (flickering sprites, missing sprites and mistakes in the text) and often causes the game to reboot, or worse, to freeze up. Arcade owners, unaware that the players themselves were the cause of the troubles, would often shut down the machine for repair or simply remove the game completely. Gamers on the Internet, aware of these consequences, would often refuse to post instructions on how to activate the glitch. Revision 2 of the game prevented the use of this bug.

A less dangerous glitch, known commonly as "Highlander Mode", allows the Magic-User and Thief to become more or less immune to all damage. Players must simply swap their default headgear to use the exploit—any Magic-User wearing a Hood (the Thief's default hat) or any Thief that wears a Magician's Hat (the Magic-User's starting hat) cannot be killed from any standard damage in the game (the character will be reduced to 1 hit point but will not be killed). Some examples of non-standard damage that can still drop the player below 1 hit point are bite attacks, breath weapons, treasure chests thrown by allies, and spells.This bug was never addressed in the arcade.


After the characters destroy the final boss, each member of the group is treated to a short epilogue detailing his or her future exploits. Endings are titled with a simple code: the first letter of the character class followed by the number of the ending. Therefore the Cleric's second ending is called "C-2", the Fighter's best ending is named "F-1", and so on. There are four separate endings per character class and the hero earns an ending based on multiple factors that are specific to the character's class above ?-3 endings. With the exception of the Dwarf and Cleric, characters can receive a ?-3 ending if they've collected at least 3000 SP. All character classes have a message based on having struck the final blow to the final boss, but it's not always their ?-1 ending. Several classes have endings based on beating the game while wielding a weapon or simply having it in their inventory, including the Battle Axe, the Sling, or the Sword of Legend, among others. Higher numbered endings can be achieved without meeting the requirements for lower numbered endings.


D&D Collection CD cover

In 1999, Capcom released both D&D arcade games as a two-disc compilation for the Sega Saturn called Dungeons & Dragons Collection in Japan only. Although, graphically, the games are basically identical to their arcade counterparts, due to the limitations of the Saturn there is a maximum of two players instead of the original four. Furthermore, there are minor modifications to many areas of gameplay, such as changes in spell damage and the removal of certain software bugs.

In January 2003, MCB Interactive released a PC port.[1]


In 2005, IGN picked Shadow over Mystara as one of the top 10 co-op games.[2] In 2011, GameSpy ranked it #50 on their list of the top arcade games, calling it "one of the most purely entertaining titles ever released for any platform".[3] As of 2011, the arcade version of the game holds a high average score of 8.9 (review ratings) and 8.8 (user ratings) at GameFAQs.

See also


External links


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