3D Dot Game Heroes Review
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On 05/19/2010 at 08:02 PM by Chessa DiMola
An amazing homage to the classic 8-Bit Zelda.
For those who grew up in the NES or SNES era this game is a must play, though there is plenty to appeal to all gamers.
With the beginning of the 3D era of video games, the 2D titles that many of us grew up with became a thing of the past. However in recent times with the popularity surge of digital games and services such as WiiWare, XBLA, and PSN, gamers old and young have been reintroduced to their gaming roots. This year Atlus decided to take that one step further with their latest title, 3D Dot Game Heroes; a 3D 8-Bit style game that plays like a classic overhead 2D title.
It's hard not to notice right away the glaring similarities between 3D Dot Game Heroes and the original Legend of Zelda for the NES. From enemies to level design and storyline to sidequests, this title could easily fit into the Zelda lineup.
As the story goes, generations ago a hero trapped a terrible evil inside of an orb using the power of six magical orbs . Now in the present time the evil Dark Bishop Fuelle has stolen the orb and plans to use it to take over the world. Thus, players assume the role of the reincarnated hero (in one of many different character forms) and traverse the world searching for the six orbs.
Honestly, I've missed the days of exploring expansive 2D environments, and thus felt right at home with 3D Dot Game Heroes. The landscape is complex and wonderfully arranged, keeping players intrigued by strategically placing visible chests, and keeping areas in sight but out of reach. As they traverse the landscape, players will constantly be trying to remember where they saw that bombable wall or hookshot…err, wire rod point earlier on.
In each of the locations players will encounter a temple, labeled similarly to those in Zelda such as Water, Fire, Forest, etc. Moving throughout each of the temples should feel oddly familiar to anyone of the 8-Bit era and may even conjure up some déjà vu. In addition to fighting off a variety of enemies in each room players will notice that the game takes many of the classic puzzle schemes found in the original Zelda to a whole new level. For example, block sliding puzzles found in one of the earlier dungeons are much more complex and intricate than ever seen in a Zelda title before, and provides for a welcome and entertaining departure from combat.
Now anyone who grew up in the era of 8-Bit games can likely attest to the fact that games were much harder when we were growing up. There were no infinite lives or rechargeable health - if you died, you started back at the beginning. Thankfully, 3D Dot Game Heroes doesn't go to that extreme, but if you die within a temple you will start back at the beginning, however all of the progress you made within will not have been in vain. As such, this makes navigating the increasingly challenging temples less frustrating, especially later on as they become much harder.
Generally within each dungeon, players will discover a new item, which allows them not only to finish the dungeon and gain access to new locations, but discover hidden areas. Something I found very interesting was that the items found within each temple are generally useless when it comes to fighting the boss battles. This is obviously a departure from the typical Zelda formula, but one that works within the context of the game.
Speaking of items, a variety of different weapons and items are available to find and purchase throughout the title. The swords are the highlight within the game, and there are dozens for players to collect. Unlike Link’s trusty sword, the hero’s sword in 3D Dot Game Heroes is grossly oversized with full health, spanning nearly half of the screen lengthwise and a quarter of it wide. Although there are plenty of normal swords to collect, players may find humor in finding some of the more obscure ones including a fish and a baseball bat. Every sword has unique attributes which may be upgraded, depending on whether players want more power, length, width, etc. Players will have to do plenty of scouring for these objects as most are acquired through sidequesting; one of my favorite aspects about 3D Dot Game Heroes and, unsurprisingly, the classic 2D Zelda titles.
What always made Zelda so appealing to me was that players had the option of customizing their own experience. If they wanted it to be linear, they could simply jump from dungeon to dungeon. But for obsessive compulsive people like me who love to collect stuff, well, 3D Dot Game Heroes does a great job satisfying that desire, as well. There are dozens of sidequests ranging from delivering items to town folk, to playing an in-game Tower Defense game (which by the way, is incredibly impressive). With all there is to do, I find it hard to believe that anyone could possibly get bored.
One of the greatest aspects about 3D Dot Game Heroes is that the title does not take itself too seriously. It's obvious that the developers knew they were basically copying Zelda ounce for ounce, and they don't go to too much trouble to hide it. Classic Zelda references can be found throughout, from a woman found in town stating that the character definitely has a good light inside of him, but isn't "the hero" to a moblin-like creature in a cave who states, "It’s a secret to everyone" and grants the player 100G. For Demon's Souls fans there are even plenty of hilarious references to the game, including a distraught girl begging you to trade games with her because the game about dragons is just too hard.
With all of the great aspects that I loved about 3D Dot Game Heroes, there were bound to be a few issues that bugged me. First of all, the game features some odd clipping issues causing players to get stuck on certain objects. Furthermore, at certain points my character did not respond to turning in a certain direction, while in others I had to walk away from a block a few times in order to get it to move.
Finally, there’s my largest complaint – due to the strict adherence to the Zelda formula, 3D Dot Game Heroes not only benefits from Zelda’s traits, but suffers from its flaws. For instance, anyone who played the original Zelda will know that when entering a new room within a dungeon you must take a step into the room before you can swing your sword; an annoyance present in 3D Dot Game Heroes I wasn't expecting, which, needless to say, caused me to lose a few apples (I'm assuming apples were the closest things that looked like hearts that could be used for life units).
Regardless of its few flaws 3D Dot Game Heroes is still a fantastic game that is full of nostalgia. That said, I believe that younger gamers won’t appreciate much of what the title has to offer. Not only will they not understand many of the jokes inserted at the 2D generation’s expense, they probably won’t appreciate the art style, music, or gameplay featured.
However, for the average gamer 3D Dot Game Heroes will be a revisiting of the games that we grew up with and defined us as gamers. It's hard for me to separate the blinding similarities between 3D Dot Game Heroes and the classic Legend of Zelda. More than once I found the games to be so similar that I actually forgot I wasn't playing a mainline Zelda title. Though this fact may bother some, I find that 3D Dot Game Heroes stands more as homage to a game that changed the course of gaming history, rather than being a blatant rip off. If there's any game out there that could convince a Nintendo fan to invest in a PS3, 3D Dot Game Heroes is it.