Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, a package containing ports of two Capcom-made D&D arcade games available for download right now, was a true labor of love. It wouldn't have happened, as producer Kazuhiro Tsuchiya told Famitsu magazine, without users in Japan clamoring for it in the survey responses they sent to the publisher over the years. It also wouldn't have happened without the support the two games (Tower of Doom and Shadow over Mystara) had inhouse — to the point where a group of Capcom programmers had the games up and running on consoles before they actually had permission to use the D&D license.
"The D&D series is licensed from the table RPG, of course," Tsuchiya said, "but other D&D game products have come out overseas as well. It's difficult for the licensor to use the same brand for different titles, and so we haven't had a chance to port it despite the requests we get from fans. Things didn't come together until fairly recently and so we didn't have a lot of time to handle development, but we still wanted more than just a straight port."
So Tsuchiya called in Kenji Kataoka, a Capcom designer who was actually the director on the original Shadow over Mystara arcade game back in 1996. "Myself and the programmers were able to do what we wanted," said Kataoka, who's also serving as director on the Chronicles project. "The coders had ideas of their own, and most of the time they matched with mine. I had to think a little before I said yes to letting multiple players use the same character, though. I thought it would affect the game balance and story setting too much. Given that this is based on a table RPG, I thought it'd be weird if you had multiples of the same character onscreen. Still, I relented on that because it's what the fans want. If you're playing online and two people want to play as Crassus, you don't want to get in the way of that."
Kataoka's involvement helps to give Chronicles that veneer of authenticity that's always important with retro-game releases. For one thing, all the art assets and design stuff that's unlockable in the Vault wouldn't be there without his support — most of it is scanned from originals that Kataoka's kept at his house for nearly two decades.
"This is really neat stuff," Tsuchiya said. "It dates back to the era when we were still using dedicated word processors instead of PCs to create these documents. It's neat to see all the comments from our bosses at the time jotted down on the papers, and it's also valuable stuff because it gives people an idea into the process behind how a game designer thinks and how his work eventually grows into a full game."
"I don't know if budding game designers can learn anything from it today," Kataoka added, "but I think they can at least get a feeling of the passion that drove us and the things we wanted to brings to gamers. People have had to wait a while for this port to happen, but that time allowed us to put in all kinds of neat features. I think it's a pretty good deal."
Chronicles of Mystara is available for download now on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and Steam. A special retail package also goes on sale for the PS3 only in Japan tomorrow.