It’s been a while since we brought you Xbox Live Arcade news, other than announcing the Ascend: New Gods closed beta signups and that fun little Zombie Driver HD interview and contest we held last month. But XBLA games remain a passion of mine, and our Xbox 360-owning readers who have embraced digital downloads likely feel much the same.
Okay, GDC starts on Monday but a little consumer gaming event called PAX East is taking place right now. And on the first day of the show, a little publisher called Capcom made a couple of announcements that had pretty much the whole console gaming world abuzz. This summer, Capcom will release both a remake of NES platforming favorite Ducktales as well as a collection of the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games, both for XBLA and other digital platforms.
Read onto find out why folks in the know are so stoked for these titles!
A little Ducktales history
Games based on children’s shows or licensed properties in general tend to be subpar at best – with a few exceptions. Back in the NES days, one of those exceptions was Capcom’s Ducktales platformer, based on the Disney cartoon series of the same name. The game made use of the Mega Man engine (a very strong foundation) but really played like its own thing.
Players took on the role of Scrooge McDuck, the richest duck in the world, as he battled the Beagle Boys and scoured the Earth and beyond for treasure. Instead of just jumping on enemies to defeat them as in other genre entries, players could both attack and reach new heights by using Scrooge’s cane as a pogo stick.
From a technical standpoint, Ducktales impressed with colorful and detailed graphics that easily captured the charm of the show. And the soundtrack is commonly regarded as one of the most memorable in the entire NES library.
In all the XBLA lineup, I can’t think of one title that is strictly a remake of an NES game (as opposed to an arcade game). Nobody expected Ducktales would be getting the remake treatment for current consoles, especially since the property belongs to Disney and would need to be relicensed. And yet Capcom has done just that, hiring Wayforward – makers of last year’s fantastic brawler Double Dragon: Neon – to update the game for modern audiences.
Ducktales Remastered is the same basic game that fans remember, but with a lovely new coat of paint. The environments are now rendered in 3D (while retaining a 2D perspective) while the characters have been beautifully redrawn. The soundtrack will be remixed by Jake Kaufman, who did a bang-up job on the Double Dragon: Neon soundtrack. The original cartoon voice actors (even Scrooge’s!) will provide all-new voice overs. There will be new areas to explore such as Scrooge’s Money Bin, and updated controls to boot.
In short, Ducktales Remastered looks like an amazing take on a beloved classic. The XBLA version is due sometime this summer for the price of 1200 MS Points ($15).
Arcades and Dragons
Only slightly less surprising than Ducktales Remastered is this collection of two classic Capcom arcade games: Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and its sequel Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara, dating back to 1994 and 1996. The sole previous console release was a good but less-than-perfect collection for the Sega Saturn that never made it out of Japan. I’ve long regretted failing to import that one!
Now my frown has turned upside down because Capcom is packing both games in a new XBLA collection called Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. This deluxe collection comes from Iron Galaxy, the studio who ported the upcoming Ms. Splosion Man for Windows Phone as well as XBLA games Street Fighter III, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, and Darkstalkers Resurrection for Capcom.
Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom is a 4-player fantasy-themed beat-em-up which can be viewed as the precursor to Castle Crashers, Dungeon Fighter Live, and many other similar games. It offers played four authentic D & D classes to choose from: Fighter, Dwarf, Cleric, and Elf. The second game adds a Thief and Mage to the mix. All level up from gaining XP, have special moves suited to their classes, and can carry and use items in their inventory – fairly advanced stuff for arcade brawlers.
These two games remain sought-after classics for several reasons. The smattering of actual D & D rules and equipment created an unexpectedly authentic atmosphere. Lending to that atmosphere is some of Capcom’s best pixel art, with highly animated characters and gigantic boss monsters. Both games also capture a sense of exploration thanks to their numerous branching paths. These paths, combined with the different character classes, instilled replay value far beyond other beat-em-ups of the time.
Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
While Iron Galaxy hasn’t fully remade the Dungeons & Dragons arcade games in the same way as Ducktales Remastered, this new collection still boasts an impressive array of features. Most important is the cooperative multiplayer. The collection supports drop-in, drop-out co-op for up to four players (the Saturn version was only 2-player) both locally and online.
The online multiplayer makes use of GGPO netcode, widely regarded as the most lag-free way of networking fighting games. The new house rules options will allow for an especially customizable multiplayer experience. Taking on the forces of chaos with a team of friends over Xbox Live should be quite a treat!
Like Street Fighter III and Iron Galaxy’s subsequent Capcom ports, Chronicles of Mystara adds a Challenge system on top of the existing arcade games. These provide optional goals such as killing X number of enemies or collecting Y amount of gold – think of them as mini Achievements. Completing them rewards you with coins that can be spent on various unlockables, including some lovely concept art.
The new Character Visualizer feature promises to track of how often players pick each character, encouraging replay with seldom-used heroes. And naturally, the game will have several advanced viewing options to make the games look better on HD displays. You can even surround the display with the genuine arcade borders, which is too cool.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara has a more concrete release date of June, which means it should come out right around E3 time. It will cost 1200 MS Points ($15) – far less than the rare Saturn game goes for on eBay. Fans of fantasy and beat-em-ups won’t want to miss it!
More Capcom news
Capcom revealed a few more choice bits of info at PAX East. First, they are working on a new Mega Man game! Mega Man (known as Rockman in Japan) is one of Capcom’s most enduring franchises. Unfortunately the company’s Japanese leadership has largely failed to capitalize on that in the years since Mega Man 10 released on XBLA, going so far as to cancel the extremely promising Mega Man Universe crossover game. We don’t know anything else about the new title other than it’s in development, but that’s still a step in the right direction for the once proud series.
Finally, Capcom will be releasing a new update for the popular Street Fighter IV fighting game. The update will definitely tweak character balance, but that’s all we know. Many fans are hoping it will also add the four new Street Fighter characters from Street Fighter vs. Tekken, but that could only amount to wishful thinking.
By the way, if you’re wondering about future Windows Phone support from Capcom… We’re still trying (and trying and trying) to pry the details out of Capcom’s PR team, but haven’t met with much success yet. Let’s hope KenKen won’t be their last Windows Phone release!