How often do you think back to the golden age of video games and long for the top down action that was The Legend of Zelda or the wandering of maps that Dragon Age brought to you on your NES? Short of either hooking up your classic system to your fancy new TV, or some other unscrupulous method — playing these games was tough to accomplish. Sadly as we age, nostalgia also seems to polish the games in our past and set them on pedestals which, generally speaking, upon revisiting don’t quite shine as much as we once thought. Remember the Teenage Ninja Turtles game? All memories are golden, but playing again is a rage-inducing experience. From Software in all their glory decided to essentially copy the formula of Zelda and apply some new graphical style in a “new” game called 3D Dot Game Heroes, with a healthy dose of From Software’s trademarked ass-kicking sauce to keep you playing late into the night.
Nostalgia is definitely the name of the game here, anyone who spent any amount of time gaming in the 1980s will appreciate what From Software put out here. The game is a near perfect homage to the genre, and I actually have a feeling that the younger generation of gamers may not actually ‘get’ what this game is trying to do. It is very frustrating at times thanks to a near useless map, very vague directions (the temple is east), and a save system that punishes you for dying in the game. It’s these frustrations that make it a fantastic throwback to the gaming days of yore — and quite possibly, the same things that will turn off gamers of a certain generation thanks to almost zero handholding.
The story itself is almost inconsequential: you must collect six orbs from six temples and return them to the sages, who incidentally look exactly like pretty much any other character in the game. Along the way you’ll traverse desert, water, fire and forests while most likely getting lost along the way to your next goal. Scattered throughout the game are small towns featuring inns, stores and other in game characters where you can get side quests, some of which can be quite lengthy if you opt to do them. Expect the game to take non-completionists about 15-20 hours of gameplay.
Unlike Zelda, 3D Dot Game Heroes features more than a single sword and shield, and each sword you end up carrying can be upgraded to make it more powerful. But the power isn’t all there is, some swords you can make longer, wider or add a spin move too. One useful upgrade that shouldn’t be missed in the pierce option — what this allows is your sword can move through trees or other blocking items, which is very useful when dashing with your sword extended. It’s also a nice plus because you can swing your sword with the thumbstick after it’s extended. This allows your attack to cover a range of locations rather than just straight in front of your chosen character.
Another direct homage to the classic titles this is channeling is the unlocking of other weapons and useful items along the way. Early in the game you’ll notice logs standing vertically in some locations you naturally cannot get to — but by the end of the third temple you’ll have access to something which will allow you to bridge some gaps. In essence, the classic formula of something in your way being cleared by a recently found item is here in full force.
We’ve all seen the graphical style of this game and more than likely have dreamt about what kind of character to create. The pre-fabricated selections are great and range from a Funky Santa Clause to a shark, which is pretty indicative of just how tongue in cheek this title is. Unfortunately, the trade demo I was playing with didn’t have the option to import characters from other players — but I am willing to bet that some amazing creations are out there to enhance your game. In a very interesting move, the title makes use of the tilt-shift camera technique to trick your mind into thinking that items in the game are miniaturized. I thought this might be a little tiring on the eyes to look at, but even after endless hours of playing I still got a kick out of the art style, especially when emerging from a darkened dungeon into the sunlight.
The audio also is something that’s a direct throwback to the NES days with simple tones put to a new, but overwhelmingly familiar tune. If you don’t smile when opening treasure chests or wandering the over world then perhaps you should get your nostalgic meter refilled.
Scattered throughout the game you will meet characters who have some mini-games that you can play. These are nice little diversions from the standard game and really do help out in adding some time to the gameplay because they are actually pretty fun. Ranging from a race through a course at dash speeds to an Arkanoid/Breakout clone to a tower defense game — these little side games feel right at home within the 3D Dot world of Dotnia.
Is this game for everyone? Definitely not, but the intended audience will really get a kick out of revisiting a classic game without possibly tarnishing any memories that they have of that game. It’s like the time I went back and played Pit Fighter because I remembered it being awesome — and all I ended up was $1.00 poorer and all the fun memories I did have were washed away and I was left with self-doubt in all my other gaming memories. With it’s fun graphical style, throwback audio and near perfect parody/imitation of a classic series, From Software deserves some high praise for 3D Dot Game Heroes.
Click the following to buy 3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3 from Amazon.com.
- Score: 8.5
Platform reviewed: PlayStation 3
— Jeff Paramchuck